FOX 34 E-bike Optimised Fork First Impressions

Why do I need an e-specific fork? 

As we’ve noted in other reviews, when you’re riding an e-bike you tend to find yourself smashing through the terrain, rather than floating over it. FOX noticed that a lot of e-bikes were rolling onto the trails with 32mm-legged forks that were under-gunned for the kind of abuse they’re likely to face. The Trek Powerfly we’ve got on test is a classic example, coming stock with a slender RockShox Recon, so we’ve taken the opportunity to test the FOX 34 e-bike fork to give us the confidence to wallop the trails at full e-speed!

We’ve fitted the FOX 34 E-bike fork to a Trek Powerfly, the perfect candidate for this addition.

How is an e-bike optimised fork different to a normal FOX fork? 

No batteries were harmed in the making of this fork. The e-bike specific nature of these new FOX forks relates to the way they’re constructed, not any electronic internals.

It’s really a matter of more beef. There’s extra material in the fork crown and the walls of the stanchions are thicker, so you’re getting a fork that’s much stiffer overall and better equipped to handle the heavy loads imposed by a speeding e-bike.

You’d struggle to spot the difference between this e-bike fork and a regular 34, but there’s more material in the crown and fork legs have thick walls.

Because of the extra wall thickness of the fork legs, there’s less room for the air spring assembly, so a FOX 34 e-bike fork actually uses the air spring out of a FOX 32. Similarly, a FOX 36 e-bike fork runs the air spring from a regular FOX 34 (with the latest super plush EVOL tech – read about it here). The lower legs are the same as a regular FOX 34 fork.

Because of the increased wall thickness of the legs, the 34 fork actually uses the air spring assembly out of a 32 fork. It still has the latest EVOL tech you’ll find in other FOX 2018 forks.

What about the damper? 

On forks with running FIT4 damper, the unit is identical to a standard FOX – the wide range of low-speed compression adjustment on the FIT4 damper can happily accommodate an e-bike’s extra mass. However, e-bike forks with the cheaper GRIP damper get a slightly different damper tune that’s a little stiffer than that found in a standard GRIP damper.

The FIT 4 damper on our fork is the same as a standard FOX 34 – it has a wide range of low-speed compression adjustment that helps tame the extra mass and wallow of an e-bike.

Setup so far?

As mentioned above, we’ve popped these on a Trek Powerfly. There’s a recommended pressure and rebound guide on the back of the fork, but following the guide felt too soft for our liking. In our experience so far, because e-bikes are much heavier, a softer suspension setup just ends up taking all the liveliness out of the ride and the bike can feel super wallowy to throw around. We ended up running about 15psi more than the chart recommended, and so far we’ve been running the fork’s high-speed compression adjuster in its middle setting for more support.

Can I run these on my normal bike?

Sure, why not? We think loads of riders would appreciate the extra stiffness. The only difference externally between this fork and a regular FOX is the sticker telling you it’s optimised for e.

E-bike optimised forks are available in loads of configurations: FOX 34 in 27.5 or 29, in both Performance and Factory guises, 110-150mm travel options; or FOX 36 in Factory only, with 130-170mm travel.

Tested: SD Components Dynamic Volume Chamber

What is the SD Components DVC?

The SD Components DVC is an Australian designed and made piece of kit, designed to improve the performance of your fork by giving you more control over the spring curve. At present, it’ll fit RockShox Pike, Lyrik, BoXXer and 2018 Revelation forks, along with the FOX 36 too.

It replaces the token/spacer system found in the forks listed above with a sealed, secondary air chamber, the pressure of which can be adjusted externally with a shock pump.

Fitting it is as simple as unthreading the old top cap, and threading in the DVC using the supplied laser-cut stainless steel tool. You adjust the main air spring via the valve number 1, while valve number 2 controls the progressivity.

Remove the old top cap, pop in the DVC. Easy!

What’s the idea here?

You’re likely familiar with the token or spacer system found in most new RockShox and FOX forks, where adding or removing spacers changes the fork’s air spring volume and therefore its progressiveness. The DVC takes this to another level, allowing you to make precise tweaks to the spring curve.

The DVC comes with a neat stainless steel pin spanner to install the kit.

The DVC isn’t just about providing ease of adjustment – it provides more flexibility over the fork’s performance, allowing greater independent control over the beginning and end-stroke.

The pressure in the main air chamber dictates the fork’s sag and the performance for the first half of the stroke, the pressure in the second chamber controls the level of mid-stroke support and the bottom-out resistance. Fine tuning the pressures of the two chambers allows you to really alter the fork’s feel.

One valve for the main air chamber, one for the secondary.

Why is it superior to a spacer system?

With a spacer system, you’re physically changing the volume of the main air spring, and as such any spacer changes, therefore, do necessarily have an impact on the fork’s initial bump performance. It’s a fairly rudimentary system really.

The Bottomless Tokens look pretty basic in comparison.

With the DVC, the volume of the main air spring is not impacted, no matter what pressure you have in the second air chamber. The second chamber only comes into play once an impact causes the pressure in the main air spring to exceed the pressure in the secondary chamber. As such, you’ve got genuinely independent control over these two aspects of the fork’s performance (beginning and end-stroke).

What did you fit it to?

We ran the DVC in a 170mm-travel RockShox Lyrik on the front of our Commencal Meta AM test bike. There was about a 20g weight penalty compared to the original Lyrik top cap with two Bottomless Tokens fitted.

One point worth noting is that the two valves are pretty prominent. On our bike, there were no clearance issues between the valves and the down tube, but on some bikes, with chunky, straight down tubes (like the new Treks) this could potentially be an issue.

How did it go?

Superb. Over the course of a few rides, we made fine adjustments, experimenting with small changes to the two chambers till we hit the sweet spot we liked. We wanted to maximise traction, so for a 65kg rider, we ended up with a main air spring pressure of only 43psi and with a touch over 80psi in the secondary chamber.

This netted a ridiculously smooth initial stroke, but with great support and bottom out resistance. With such a low pressure in the main air spring, the small bump performance was brilliant, giving a notably grippier front end in loose conditions.

If we’d wanted a stiffer mid-stroke, we could add a little pressure to the main air chamber. If a more linear feel was what we were after, dropping a few psi out of the second chamber would be the answer. We can see how useful this item would be for really heavy or very lightweight riders too, people who often struggle to get the setup they’re after.

So is it worth investing?

At $260, the DVC is not a cheap item, especially considering the stock RockShox/FOX volume spacer system works pretty effectively as it stands. The other consideration is that most people will find a fork setup that works for them and then rarely vary it.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of people out there who love to tweak, twiddle and fiddle, trying to get the absolute best out of their suspension, and the DVC definitely makes this process both easier and more precise. Enduro or downhill racers who are looking for the edge and who find themselves faced with changing conditions will certainly fall into this category.

Upcoming Review: FOX Float DPS Factory Shock

We’re putting the RockShox Deluxe RTC3 and FOX Float DPS Factory head to head, using the same bike as a testing platform, our long-term test bike – Norco Sight. We’re not going to get into too much tech, we just want to know how two different shocks feel on the trail, how easy they are to use and that’s about it.

Two new shocks for 2018, the RockShox Deluxe RCT3 and FOX Float DPS, both from the top of their class.

First up is the FOX, an all-new shock for 2018 with an improved construction and damping tune, we’ve already had a great test with the new shock on a Scott Spark where we swapped out a 2017 shock with the 2018 model and quickly went back to the singletrack to feel the difference.

Hear our impressions on testing a 2017 and 2018 FOX fork and shock back to back here: FOX 2018 testing.


FOX DPS, what?

The DPS shock is for the short-mid travel segment, compact and lightweight. The new construction drops weight and parts from the 2017 model, we weighed it 10g lighter than the RockShox.

The Factory model is the top of the line, with the lustrous Kashima coating and all the adjustments.


What now?

We’ve weighed it, fitted it, and have begun the setup process. We’ll send the RockShox RCT3 off to SRAM for a refresh service as it’s been fitted to the Norco for a while now, and then we’ll go back to back laps of a test circuit swapping the shocks back and forth.


What about long travel shocks, and forks, too?

Up the front, we have a new FOX 34 29 fork and await a new Rockshox Pike to compare, and our bigger long-term test bike is primed for a FOX vs RockShox hitout too, to the tune of; FOX 36 vs Lyrik and Float DHX vs Super Deluxe. The burly 160/170mm travel Commencal Meta AM 4.2 will be the test sled.

We have the FOX 34 fork on test too, get ready for a RockShox vs FOX bounce-off!

Check out the new FOX fork here, it’s super slick; 2018 FOX Float 34 29.

We’re looking forward to it! So, stay tuned.

Upcoming Review: FOX Factory Series 34 FLOAT 29

In the battle of bike parts, a good old fork-off is the ultimate showdown, front suspension is an area of huge technological development, and can serve as a beneficial upgrade to an older model bike. So, what better than to put the two big guns together in the busy segment of trail riding, the RockShox Pike vs FOX 34. It’s ON!

Ahead of the full review, let’s take a look at the FOX 34 before we fit it to our Norco Sight.


Why Pike vs 34?

These two make up for the lions share of the market, sure there are other great options from brands like DVO, Manitou, Formula, Suntour, DT Swiss, Cane Creek, Girvin (ok, maybe not Girvin), but we want to cut it back to big guns of bounce.

FOX Factory Series 34 FLOAT 29, the top of the line.
You can’t beat that lustrous glow of the Kashima coated legs, it’s damn classy and gives the bike a high end appearance.

Looking back at the last five or so years, the Pike and 34 have both had their ups and downs with questionable damping, creaking crowns, faulty air springs etc, but 2018 would have to be the closest they’ll be to their best, even Stevens.


What’s new with the FOX 34?

It’s all in the fine tuning of the air spring and damper that lifts the 2018 FOX 34 that little bit higher, while the chassis remains unchanged. The EVOL air spring has a larger negative spring, and the damper is tweaked to suit the change.

The new EVOL air spring aims to be more sensitive than the 2017 version.
The new 2018 FOX forks have a tuning guide on the back of the leg, RockShox have been doing that for years. Yay!

We know this as earlier this year we took part in a very valuable testing session with FOX where we swapped out current 2017 internals for 2018 ones and tested them all back to back with very interesting results.

Check that out here: FOX 2018 fork and shock testing.

For more specs and options of the 34 range, FOX site has it all.


What bike will we fit the RockShox Pike and FOX 34 to?

The Norco Sight 9.2 long-term test bike is our test sled of choice for the trail bike fork shootout, 140mm travel, regular offset, Boost 110mm spacing, and 29″ wheels.

The Norco Sight will be fitted with both forks, for back-to-back testing.

Stay tuned for the full review!

Testing New 2018 FOX Suspension

We recently took part in a very interesting testing event with the crew from FOX, where the aim was to get a better understanding of what is new from FOX in the 2018 range. While it may seem that the new season doesn’t bring massive change to the fork and shock range, it’s the small details of the air spring and damper that was the focus.

A 2017 model bike received the 2018 treatment, it’s all about the internals and small details for FOX this season.
Three FOX team members, clipboards, pens and a shock pump. It’s getting serious!
FOX’s big gun – Eamonn Cleere knows a thing or two about tuning suspension; we picked his brains until he could take it no more… Sorry, Eamonn!

So, what is new in 2018?

The headline item is the introduction of the EVOL air spring system to the FOX 36, which we already took a look at here. And larger negative air springs in the EVOL system, and a new damper to suit. EVOL was introduced last year with the new DPS Float shocks, which we tested in-depth on a Yeti SB5 – read our Float DPS shock review here. Other new tweaks include a lighter weight EVOL air can for DPS shocks which also loses a seal to decrease unwanted friction.

The new DPS shock with its one-piece air can. A lighter unit, and smoother in operation.

What’s EVOL all about? 

EVOL is a snazzy abbreviation of Extra Volume, in reference to the increased volume of the negative air spring found in EVOL forks and shocks. What does it mean on the trail? The most noticeable benefit is a reduction in breakaway friction i.e. it takes less force to get the fork moving, meaning less shock is transferred to the rider.

There’s only so much space inside a fork, so if you’re increasing the negative air spring volume, you’re taking that space away from something else. In the case of the forks, the trade-off is a smaller positive air spring, smaller air volumes have more progressive curves. So to bring things back in line the damper in the other fork leg needed to reflect the increase in spring curve with a tune that would suit it.

Testing time!

Oh gee, didn’t we feel special on this one day, like a real top pro rider! We had many FOX technicians from FOX Australian crew, and FOX guru big wig Eamonn Cleere (FOX Europe technical manager, Europe Asia/Pacific.) and Damon Chen (Technical support Asia/Pacific.) at our disposal.

We arrived with a test bike equipped with 2017 FOX suspension on our bikes, and the aim was to ride the bike on a short testing loop and upgrade the fork and shock in stages and adjust the settings with the FOX technicians like we’re on the team. Greg Minnaar would have been envious.

For the test, we brought along the Scott Spark 900 with a 120mm travel FOX 34 with Fit 4 damper up front, and the FOX Nude EVOL DPS rear shock out the back, a bike we know well and have spent quite some time on in its stock spec.

Test lap #1 – 2017 standard.

Before heading out for our first lap the crew took note of the important settings; air pressure, rebound and compression, tyre pressure, etc, and off we went. The bike performed as we expected and were familiar with.

First lap on the stock suspension.
Note taking, back to school for us.

Test lap #2 – New spring.

In went the new air spring, suspension sags were measured and off we went. The fork didn’t feel particularly great with the new spring fitted, to say the least. As we warmed up on the trail, we were riding faster with more aggression and found ourselves blowing through the fork travel far too quickly and riding low in the last third of the travel too much. 

New vs. old – the MY18 air spring has a larger negative air volume (space around and above the black rubber) for increased sensitivity.

The new air spring has greater negative air volume, and hence the positive chamber is smaller, so in theory, it should have felt too firm and harsh, but our experiences were that it felt harsh and too soft. It was back to camp to install the damper to match the spring.

Test lap #3 – New damper fitted to match the new air spring.

In went the new damper designed to match the new air spring, and we were back on the trails in the blink of an eye. And presto! The bike was feeling great, the fork’s action was incredibly smooth and very supple, the change was slight but as the timeframes between the changes were so short, and on the same trail, we were able to discern the smallest of differences.

With the new spring and damper inside the fork, it was reacting faster to impacts and transferring less feedback to our hands. It felt softer, but there was the support and progression from a fork with higher air pressure.

Small improvements to the fork’s action made for a significant increase in performance on the trail.
The damper in the right-hand side of the leg.
Damon from FOX on the task of dialling in the suspension settings after each lap.

With the new spring and damper inside the fork, it was reacting faster to impacts and transferring less feedback to our hands. It felt softer, but there was the support and progression from a fork with higher air pressure.

On the climbs, the front wheel would track along with less disturbance, especially when out of the saddle and over the bars, pushing hard up ledges and over bumps the 120mm of travel felt very active to help maintain significant forward momentum.

Test lap #4 – Completing the picture with the new rear shock.

On the trail with the new shock, the rear suspension felt to be better matched to the fork regarding suppleness and feel; the bike was tracking along the trail excellently. While the Scott Spark wasn’t by any means old or worn out, the updated shock and fork internals made it feel super fresh and highly sophisticated.

A new EVOL DPS shock out the back, a more supple and sensitive unit than the one it replaces.
With the new shock fitted, things don’t look far different. Although the EVOL air can has no join near the shaft seal, requiring one less seal, resulting in a smoother operation.

The larger negative air spring let the shock access its travel faster with less force required to get it moving, it felt smooth, that’s for sure. It’s a lighter unit too, though that’s not something we would necessarily feel out on the trail.

So, new stuff is better than old stuff?

While we do wish we had a long travel bike on hand to feel more of the suspension in action, the 120mm Scott Spark we upgraded with the 2018 internals came away feeling a million bucks. It’s hard to put the experiences of testing suspension into words sometimes, and we risk repeating words like smooth, supple, supportive. While the FOX crew were on hand to help the installation process they weren’t there to tell us what to expect, though our feedback to them was generally what they would expect.

Stiction is suspension’s worst enemy, and for 2018 FOX have used larger negative air volumes and adapted the dampers to match, the outcome is a new level of suppleness. That suppleness translates to a very smooth ride, enhancing traction, keeping your bike in check when the terrain turns choppy.

So we should all rush out and buy the new stuff?

Well, while development of new stuff drives sales and makes the racers even faster, there’s plenty of people with current suspension forks and shocks happy enough not to replace them. FOX has come out with something very interesting globally, FFT – Fox Factory Tune. FFT will be a cheaper, and faster way to get the most out of your suspension.


Read about the FFT program here.

FOX has come out with something very interesting globally, FFT – Fox Factory Tune. FFT will be a cheaper, and faster way to get the most out of your suspension.


FFT, do this whole process from home, or through your bike shop.

FFT will give consumers a direct line to FOX for servicing, tuning and upgrading. Effectively anyone could do the same process we did here with existing FOX components and upgrade the internals to current spec and also request custom tuning to suit unique requirements.

FOX Australia Introduces FFT – FOX Factory Tuning – Program

The program will provide a cheaper alternative to buying a new fork to have the latest technology.

Launching globally, the program will allow the consumer to communicate directly with FOX technicians to tune their existing parts and make upgrades instead of purchasing entirely new forks or shocks. By providing feedback to FOX, you’ll be able to emulate the process that we experienced first hand at our 2018 FOX Test Event.

What’s new with the 2018 FOX range?

Improvements to the air spring and dampers are the big changes for 2018, have a look at what all that means here: FOX 2018.

What can FFT provide?

Want the new EVOL air spring and 2018 spec damper inside your 2016 model fork? Don’t buy an entirely new fork, ship it off to FOX and update its guts instead. Want the neat new lockout lever in place of the clunky old system? Want a firmer tune in your fork or shock? Done.

While forks are relatively straightforward, rear shocks are more specific to each bike. FOX has been working overtime on collecting data from bike manufacturers to gain data on the settings required for each bike, so when the FFT program rolls out, you’ll be able to just specify the bike and year model to match the rear shock. No more measuring eye-to-eye lengths or stroke lengths, they’ll have it all in the system.

Upgrade your shock or just the internals.

Can my local suspension service centre or bike shop do this?

FOX will only provide FFT, that means in Australia through the FOX distributors SOLA in Sydney, and the plan is to set a centre up in Perth to help with lead times for WA customers too. With FOX managing the process entirely, there will be a warranty covering the process and genuine FOX parts used.

The 2018 air spring and damper upgrades to our 2017 spec bike made it feel very high end.

A bike store will also be able to handle the process for you too, with the same channel of communication available to them. That’ll come in handy if the consumer wishes to accompany the job with other maintenance or to handle the task of removing and fitting the fork or shock.

What year model FOX fork and shock can be upgraded?

FFT program can upgrade all 2016 and 2017 shocks to 2018 specs (DPS and X2 shocks – DPX2 are already and only 2018 – Float X not is part of the program but can still be tuned to customer requirements).

How much, and when?

FOX Australia are still finalising the pricing and launch date; we’ll be back with those details as they come available.

Trek’s New RE:aktiv Thru Shaft Shock

Trek has unveiled RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft, an all-new suspension design that improves response time and efficiency. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is the latest development from the brand’s partnership with Penske Racing Shocks, the global leader in custom motorsport suspension design, which began in 2014 to push bicycle suspension capabilities. The first collaboration resulted in RE:aktiv—a mountain bike suspension technology that responded to changes in terrain faster than any other shock on the market.

For RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft, Trek’s R & D team bucked the suspension status quo and developed a superior new design from the ground up. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft eliminates the internal floating piston (IFP) that compensates for oil displacement in traditional dampers and the associated lag along with it.

As the IFP moves in a traditional damper, its seal causes a stick/slip effect that reduces responsiveness. RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft uses a damper rod that runs the entire length of the shock, eliminating oil displacement and the associated stick/slip effect caused by the seal necessary in a traditional damper.

The bottom line: the new design eliminates the need for an internal floating piston, the primary cause of lag. It provides unprecedented responsiveness—even when inputs occur in quick succession, as often happens while charging through short sections of trail littered with rocks and roots.

With extra-firm low-speed compression damping; supple and controlled high-speed compression damping; and a seamless transition between the two, RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft improves the all-terrain responsiveness that is RE:aktiv’s calling card. It responds to every input on the trail, delivering a seamless trail experience even as riders push their limits on technical terrain.

RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft is available on select Trek trail bikes, including Slash 9.8, Slash 9.7, Remedy 9.8, Remedy 9.8 Women’s, Fuel EX 9.9, and their respective carbon frameset options. These models can be viewed at trekbikes.com

FOX’s New Shock, the DPX2

Easily accessed adjusters.

This shock is aiming to combine the user friendly three-position compression adjustment of the DPS shock with the low-pressure damper design found the Float x2, a shock that has excellent damping control but which lacks truly relevant on-the-fly adjustability.

Performance series DPX2 shocks will get the usual Open, Medium and Firm damping mode, while the Factory version also scores 10-click compression adjustment of the Open mode for more precise tuning.

The shorter reservoir should help clear water bottles in tight frames.

Compared to the Float X, the dimensions of the top eyelet are smaller and the reservoir a little shorter, which should help it clear water bottles in tighter frames, a common issue when trying to squeeze a piggy-back shock in. The adjusters, particularly the rebound adjuster, are much easier to access too (tuning the rebound was a nightmare on the Float X).

The latest iteration of the EVOL air can.

We absolutely loved the performance of the DPS shock and the new EVOL air can when it was released a couple of years back (read our full review here), so it’s great to see that tech incorporated into a high volume air shock format.

Retail pricing of the new shock in Australia will be $829, with availability from mid-July 2017.

 

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!

Flow’s First Bite: Fox Proframe Helmet

We headed to Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula, to try out the Proframe at the helmet’s local launch. A steamy 31-degree day meant we had the ideal conditions to put the claims of breathability to the test.

Fox's Ross Wilkinson introduces the Proframe.
Fox’s Ross Wilkinson introduces the Proframe.

Fox Proframe helmet-8692

Who is it meant for?

Obviously the Enduro race crowd are one target market for this helmet, but Fox are hoping to cast a wider net than just the race scene. If you ride trails that regularly terrify you, or you’re simply a very good crasher, then Fox are hoping this helmet appeals, even if your riding involves plenty of climbing.

Fox aren’t trying to position this helmet as an item for downhillers – they have their Rampage helmet for that market. That said, we can’t see any reason why you couldn’t use this for downhill too. Downhillers get hot too, right?

Fox Proframe helmet-8815

How light is it?

Our medium sized Proframe tips the scales at 755g, which is around 400g less than our already light Fox Rampage full face helmet (1178g). This doesn’t make the Proframe the lightest helmet in this class (the MET Parachute is about 100g lighter), but it’s still a big weight saving versus a normal full-face.

Big vents in the chin bar ensure the Proframe is Banana Friendly®.
Big vents in the chin bar ensure the Proframe is Banana Friendly®.

Open the windows and let some air in.

Weight is only part of the equation, and when it comes to wearability on a hot climb, the helmet’s venting and breathability are going to play a bigger role than the grams. The Proframe has 15 vents up front, and nine out the back. The chin bar doesn’t sit any further away from your face than a normal full face, but it has huge, gaping holes (wide enough to pass the banana eating test) to allow you to breathe easily.

From front on, you can see just how many vents the helmet has to suck air across your head.
From front on, you can see just how many vents the helmet has to suck air across your head. Modelling by Baxter Maiwald (agency enquiries welcome).

The visor isn’t adjustable, but is positioned to drive as much air as possible into the vents. There’s a bit of a compromise here in having no adjustability, as we did notice you could just see the visor when descending. It wasn’t enough to be a worry, but we could still see it.

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Kaia Ellis, razzing about on the trails of Red Hill.
Canyon Australia and Fox riders Kaia Ellis and Baxter Maiwald.
Canyon Australia and Fox riders Kaia Ellis and Baxter Maiwald.

Is that chin bar removable?

No. Despite the metal pins that appear to secure the chin bar, it’s fixed in place. The pins are just part of the reinforcement that allow this helmet to receive full downhill certification.

While the metal pin might lead you to think the chin bar can be detached, it's fixed in place.
While the metal pin might lead you to think the chin bar can be detached, it’s fixed in place.

What about strength? Can I faceplant with confidence?

Fox tell us that this helmet exceeds all the same standards as their Rampage full-face, so crash away! The more open vents of the chin bar might mean you get more gravel in your mouth, but your face should stay on.

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Tegan Molloy on the rooty, dusty Needles downhill run.

The actual EPS material has a dual density (Fox call it Varizorb) which is designed to spread impacts across a wider area. It’s also MIPS equipped, which is a bonus, so if you do hit the dirt, the MIPS arrangement (which allows the helmet’s shell to slide slightly, independently of the liner) should ensure less rotational force makes its way to your melon.

Fox Proframe helmet-8838

Honestly, how is it to actually pedal in?

No bullshit here, this helmet was way, way nicer to climb in than we expected. We rode the Proframe on a properly hot day, over 30 degrees, and it totally outshone our expectations. We could breathe much more easily than in a traditional full-face, and there was an impressive amount of airflow to our face – we had none of that claustrophobic clamminess that can be part of pedalling about in a full-face helmet. Only on the top of head, where there is less venting, did we feel a bit hot.

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Of course an open-face is still going to be a little more pleasant, but the breathability and all-round wearability for climbing was really good, and we didn’t feel compelled to rip the helmet off at the top of each climb like we normally would if wearing a traditional full-face.

Aside from the slight intrusion of the visor at the very top of our field of vision, overall visibility in the helmet is top notch. You can also hear everything properly, you don’t ride around in a muffled cocoon of silence of full-face silence, which is both more social and less disorientating.

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What else?

Well, the Proframe is the first full-face we’ve seen that doesn’t look kooky if you ride wearing sunglasses and not goggles! There’s even channels in the padding to accomodate sunglasses arms comfortably. The chin strap buckle is nice too, using a magnetic clasp, which can be undone with one hand.

With its open, vented look, the Proframe actually works well with sunnies, whereas a normal full face tends to look a bit funky.
With its open, vented look, the Proframe actually works well with sunnies, whereas a normal full face tends to look a bit funky.

Each helmet also comes with two sets of pads of different thicknesses, so you can easily tweak the fit if you find it a little tight or loose in certain areas. There are a massive six different colours to choose from too. Six!

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Couldn’t you just use a normal full face and take the cheek pads out for climbing?

Yes, but your head would be a damn sight hotter.  The extra weight of a normal full-face is considerable, and the breathability of the Proframe is leagues ahead of any normal full-face out there. Plus, who wants the hassle of pulling out cheek pads? This is a much better option.

Would we recommend it?

Yes! The Proframe has a lot of appeal. It looks great, is comfy, and very safe. We’ve only had an hour or so of trail time in the Proframe so far, but that was more than enough to assess that it lives up to its claims of excellent breathability.

The Fox Australia crew.
The Fox Australia crew.

FOX Transfer Dropper Post: Flow’s First Bite

Yes! The wait is over. This one has been a long time coming, but given the notorious reliability issues with dropper posts (they’re very difficult to engineer by all accounts), we’re happy that FOX have taken the time needed to get it right.

FOX have successfully made the humble dropper post look quite alluring. Damn fine looking!
FOX have successfully made the humble dropper post look quite alluring. Damn fine looking!

It looks sensational, especially in the Kashima coated version we have here, with excellent build quality. The twin-bolt post head is very Thomson-esque and the finish is perfect.

How is it different to the old FOX D.O.S.S. post?

In just about every way. The DOSS was externally routed only and had a two-step height adjustment (1-inch drop, and fully dropped), while the Transfer comes in both internally or externally routed options and has infinite adjustment. The rate of return on the new post is also a lot more mellow than the DOSS, which rocketed back up.

The lever is significantly smaller too – the old DOSS post looked like you had two tyre levers strapped to your bar, which was a real gripe for a lot of users.

The under bar remote lever is perfectly ergonomic. About 100000 more so than the old one.
The under bar remote lever is perfectly ergonomic. About 100000 more so than the old one.

One thing we hope hasn’t changed is the reliability, because the old DOSS post was one of the most bombproof posts on the market.

So it’s cable actuated, not hydraulic?

Correct, and we’d rate that as a positive. Sure, a hydraulic system doesn’t suffer from contamination in the same way as a cable, but we’ve spent way too much time bleeding the hydraulic lines on RockShox Reverb posts for our liking!

Does it come in all the usual sizes?

There are three drop options (100, 125 and 150mm) and two diameters (30.9 and 31.6) available, which will suit most bikes. Ours is the 150mm drop, it’ll be going in our Canyon Strive test bike.

Internal only?

Both, the Transfer still caters for bikes without internal cable routing provisions by offering an externally actuated version. But the cable fixes to the lower section of the post not underneath the clamp like the DOSS, so the cable doesn’t move when the post goes up and down.

The 150mm drop
The longest Transfer, 150mm drop.

I need to purchase the lever separately?

Yes. If you run a front shifter, you’ll need the shifter compatible version which puts the lever above the bar, or there’s a 1x specific lever (which we’re testing) that puts the lever in prime position under the bar.

 

How does it stack up in terms of price and weight?

We weighed the Transfer is at 535g for the 150mm post, plus 50g for the lever and cable, so it’s comparable to a RockShox Reverb and a little lighter than a KS Integra.

There are two price points for the Transfer, depending on whether you want the Factory versions with the gold low-friction Kashima coat or not. You’ll pay $527 for the Factory post, or $459 for the Performance post, plus another $72 for the lever. The Kashima finish is the only difference between the two posts.

FOX's low friction Kashima coating, adds dollars, reduces drag, looks amazing.
FOX’s low friction Kashima coating, adds dollars, reduces drag, looks amazing.

Is it a pain to fit?

Not at all. The cable has a quick release mechanism that makes it quite easy to install and remove the post, and the lever has a degree of adjustability so you can get the position where you want it easily. Because it’s a cable system too, the only tools you need are some cable cutters and an Allen key. In comparison to a KS post for example which has the cable end at the lever requires careful adjustment and trial error at the seatpost end, far more involved than the way FOX has approached the setup procedure.

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Quick and easy fitting too.

Would you recommend it?

Based on our first impressions, 100%. Despite the weight and somewhat clunky lever of the old FOX DOSS post, it has always been one our favourites, and the new Transfer looks to a huge improvement on what was already a good product. The weight and pricing are on par with the competition, and we love the look, so hopefully that same reliability of the DOSS carries through to the Transfer to round out the package.

Tested: FOX 32 SC

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Cross country courses are becoming more technically challenging, you simply can’t make a light fork without addressing performance any longer.

Well those days are over, put behind you the fear of attempting to steer a bike down a trail with two pieces of wet spaghetti as fork legs, the two big names of suspension have seriously upped the stakes in the weight game. RockShox and FOX both released new versions of their flagship short travel race forks, within a few grams of each other but vastly different in their unique ways of achieving low weight.

Testing the new Scott Spark RC with the FOX SC fork. Photo - Martin Bisseg/Scott.
Testing the new Scott Spark RC with the FOX SC fork on the Lenzerheide World Cup track. Photo – Martin Bisseg/Scott.

What is it?

FOX have the edge over the top players in the suspension game with their new 32 Step Cast fork, the 100mm travel specific fork that uses a narrower crown bringing the 32mm diameter legs closer together. The Step Cast lower legs provide necessary clearance for the spokes and disc rotor, and the arch is heavily sculpted to still allow clearance for up to 2.3″ tyres.

The internals have also been re-worked to drop a few precious grams, this fork must have kept the engineers at FOX very busy indeed!

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No your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, the 29er version of the fork looks even taller due to the narrow shape.

-15QR x 110 Boost and 15QR x 100 Kabolt axle options
-27.5” and 29” wheel options
-100mm travel
-FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper for improved control
-Lockout for increased efficiency
-Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
-Gloss Orange, Matte Black, Gloss White

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Check out that distinct Step Cast section of the lower leg, it provides clearance with the narrow legs for the disc rotor and spokes.

AUD RRP – $1449

For the details, construction and more click through to our initial impressions piece on the 32 SC fork here: Flow’s First Bite – FOX 32 Step Cast Fork.


Setup

Setting up a FOX fork is pretty simple, set your sag and then the rebound speed, tune the low speed compression and get riding.

FOX provide a pretty simple setup guide on their website to help find your base settings, find that one here.

The little black dial is low speed compression, in effect in 'open mode' on the blue dial.
The little black dial is low speed compression, in effect in ‘open mode’ on the blue dial.

Further suspension tuning in the way of volume spacers can be fitted to achieve a more progressive feel with increased bottom out resistance. We’ve done this with FOX 34 and 36 forks quite a bit, and is worth experimenting with to arrive at a setting you’re absolutely happy with.


The ride

With all this weight saving FOX also claimed to lose no performance on the trail in terms of steering and handling precision and suspension performance. That’s a bold statement, so we set out to discover for ourselves.

Choosing a stealth black Trek Procaliber 9.8 SL to fit the forks to was an excellent choice, the new carbon 29er is a real cross country race weapon, and so is the fork. Bouncing around at the trail head on the Trek with the FOX fork fitted our initial impressions were a little mixed, while the action felt buttery smooth straight away, the forks look diminutive from the riders point of view. The narrow crowns paired with the inherent long legs of a 29er fork just looked odd.

But like any good part if it works well, we’ll get used to the different appearance pretty quickly and we certainly did.

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Skinny!

On the trail the 32 SC fork felt like any of the Factory level FOX forks should, incredibly smooth and sensitive, controlled and supportive. The open mode adjustment of low speed compression is a feature we use a lot, a few clicks of the little black dial would hold the fork up in its stroke, resisting bouncing from our pedalling actions whilst remaining sensitive to any impact. And the three-stage lockout gives us a very useable adjustment for racing situations.

The damping feels highly sophisticated, when you’re really hammering along the minimal 100mm of travel feels a whole lot more than it should. Reacting to the slightest bump at any time, no matter if its at the top of the stoke or deep into the travel the fork still seems to be able to do its job of isolating the rider from the terrain.

In comparison to the regular 32 the air spring feels very linear and very plush, and with the right amount of sag set for your riding weight it is easy to use all of the travel. Heavier riders on rougher trails may want to experiment with fitting air volume spacers for a more progressive feel and add low speed compression to add support, but we’d certainly not recommend over-inflating the air spring to give a firmer ride before experimenting with these two tuning options first.

It’s all too often we feel a cross country racer’s bike setup super hard with loads of air pressure for a more ‘efficient’ ride. With the FIT 4 damper and its associated adjustments you’ll be able to set up the fork with your correct sag and attain the desired firmness and race-ready performance by tuning the compression adjustment. With the fork sagging at its correct height the bike will handle the way it is designed too, and you’ll still have a fork that doesn’t rob you of any efficiency.

That glorious Kashima coating, smoother than a hairy nipple on wax day.

With such a sensitive action we really found the Trek Procaliber to have traction in spades, putting loads of confidence in the front tyre as we leant it over in the turns, instead of skipping about over the choppy surfaces the suspension worked overtime in keeping the front wheel composed and in contact with the dirt. _LOW4520

It was the chassis rigidity and overall stiffness that really had us curious though, we have such faith in FOX’s Factory level forks in terms of suspension performance we were not surprised with its superb feel and support, but was this light fork going to feel too light when we rode it hard?

No, in all honesty we were not able to make any firm conclusion whether it is either less or more stiff than the regular FOX 32 fork. A lightweight 29er fork at 100mm from any brand will scare off the gravity crowd, but we were more than satisfied with the way this featherweight fork handled all twisting, diving and heavy braking we could throw its way.


How light? Here’s some 100mm 29er fork weight comparisons:

– FOX – 32 SC, 1360g

– RockShox – 2017 SID XX World Cup, 1366g

– DT Swiss – OPM O.D.L 100 RACE, 1485g

– SR Suntour – Axon Werx F-29, 1570g

– FOX – Float 32 100, 1615g

– Cannondale – Lefty 2.0 Carbon, 1600g

– RockShox – RS1, 1666g

– MRP – Loop SL, 1769g

– X Fusion – Slide RL2, 1814g


Verdict

FOX have nailed this one, successfully creating the lightest fork amongst the big players with excellent performance and sturdiness that would have traditionally been unheard of with such a light product.

For those looking to build a super light race bike, or there’s a bike with one as standard spec you can’t possibly go wrong with the 32 SC.
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Fresh Product: FOX Unveils All-New Transfer Seatpost

After what seems like an eternity, FOX unveil their new dropper post to replace the outgoing D.O.S.S. but we’re going to bet our bottom dollar that it’s going to be worth the wait.

The new Transfer is available now from Australian retail stockists and we have one coming to review, until then here’s the word from FOX.

Pricing looks to be around the $530 mark for the Factory (Kashima coating) and $459 for the Performance version. Add in one of the two remote levers for $70 and you’re good to drop.


What’s new?

The Transfer is a completely new post with plenty of options. Choose between internal and external cable routing, two remote lever options and three drop heights. The adjustability is infinite, unlike it’s predecessor’s three-stage drop heights.

The lever actuation is designed to modulate, letting you regulate the speed of its action so you can fine tune adjustments of make big changes in ride height quickly if needed.

Choose between two lever options too, under or over the bar. The new lever is tiny, gone is the long and bulky D.O.S.S. lever in favour of a nicely compact remote lever.

transfer-factory-kashima-internal
Transfer Factory Kashima Internal

 

remote-under-bar
The new under-bar remote lever.
remote-over-bar
Over-bar remote.

The Transfer post will also come in two series options, like the forks – Factory and Performance. Factory posts score the lustrous Kashima coating for a smoother operation.

Both versions come in the internal and externally routed versions.

transfer-factory-kashima-external
Transfer Factory Kashima External
transfer-performance-internal
Transfer Performance Internal

We’ll have our grubby mitts on one of these posts very soon, and with very high expectations from the suspension masters. Stay tuned for our review.

Tested: MRP Stage Fork

All MRP forks are hand-assembled in Grand Junction, Colorado using entirely metal internals and an extra large oil volume to give the Stage a whopping 200 hour service interval. MRP may be better known for their excellent chain guides, but after licensing the suspension brand White Brothers many years ago and more recently purchasing the Canadian rear shock manufacturers Elka, MRP have rebranding all their suspension components under the MRP moniker and they’ve been gaining momentum at a rapid rate with availability in Australia too.

The Stage comes in many flavours, from 140-170mm of travel, in both wheel sizes, attached with an Australian price tag of $1495 from your local bike shop. Built for the enduro and all-mountain crowd who might appreciate something a little different from the duopoly of FOX and RockShox, it uses 34mm diameter glossy black legs, a 15mm quick release axle, an understated matte black chassis with different colour graphic sticker kits supplied to individually match your ride. Weight is 1990g, a touch heavier than the comparable RockShox Pike and FOX 34.

Inside the Stage is what really matters, there’s magnets in the compression and rebound damping units and the external Ramp Up dial is super-trick.

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What adjustments

Air pressure setup is via a valve on the underside of the left leg, rebound speed dial on the other side, a compression/lockout dial up the top of the right leg but more interesting is the ‘ramp-up’ or air spring pressure adjustment on the upper left side.

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The Ramp Up adjustment gives you a level of accessible tune-ability that typically requires the use of tools and the installation of air volume spacers (like a RockShox Bottomless Tokens for example) but in this case the adjustment can even be made whilst riding.

By dialling in the adjuster the air spring will be reduced in size, and with a smaller air chamber comes a more progressive spring rate that will make it harder for the fork to bottom-out. Master the use of this in tandem with the air pressure and compression and you’ll really be able to make the most of the fork to your liking.

The little black button in the centre of the ramp-up dial is an air bleed valve, giving the rider quick and easy access to the spring by letting air out to reach the desired sag height. This is a nifty feature as the air valve is out of reach from the rider on the underside of the fork, and depressing it runs the risk of spurting out some of the lubricant fluid that resides in the air spring chamber.

But be sure to not accidentally press it during a ride, it doesn’t take much for all the air to be lost and you get a totally deflated feeling.

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Compression is a single adjustment controlled by a large sweaty hand and glove friendly 8-position dial on the top of the right leg. Where high end forks from RockShox or FOX have two independent and individually adjusted compression circuits, the Stage uses just one adjuster that manages its dual chamber air spring with a unique magnetic blow-off valve allowing the fork to react from fast impacts even when dialled in.


Getting set

Provided with the fork is a small cheat sheet card that’s crammed with setup advice and base settings to help with personalising the fork’s feel, and they’ve done a pretty good job with it indeed, we certainly found it quite accurate. Whilst the Stage is quite simple in terms of adjustability, it’s worth taking the time to fully understand how the air pressure setup procedure works, and to follow the steps closely.

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First you inflate the air chamber higher than you need to, then manually extend the fork (by holding the wheel down and pulling up on the bars) to fill the negative air chamber. To set the desired sag you simply start with higher pressure and by pressing the little black air bleed button you let air out until the desired pressure is reached.

The Ramp Up adjustment can be tuned any time, and is quite obvious when played with. Our best advice would be to get out on the trail and ride a short 30 second section repeatedly with a different setting to find your match. We also found we could run slightly less pressure when counteracted with increased Ramp Up and a couple extra clicks of compression, for a plusher initial portion of travel.


On the trail

Once we were happy with the setup we hit the dirt to get a feel for it, it wasn’t until our second ride we felt entirely sure it was bedded-in and working as smoothly as it should. It needs a good bounce to get its juices flowing if it’s been sitting still for at least a couple days.

The Stage feels nice and supple and sensitive on the trail, reacting to the slightest impacts well. The chassis certainly felt amply rigid and stiff, we quickly got used to it on the front of our Trek Remedy and we began to ride it harder and harder with good confidence.

The first portion of travel is very supple and takes very little force to begin compression.

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Fine tuning the Ramp Up on the trail was as easy as changing gears, and remarkably effective. A few turns of the big silver dial makes the latter portion of the travel significantly harder to get to, and we found ourselves changing it a few times during each ride to suit the trail. With less Ramp Up the fork feels ultra supple and plush, suited to flatter terrain, but when the trails got steeper and impacts grew in force we’d benefit from dialling it in to help the fork ride higher in its travel, especially under front wheel braking.

The single compression dial was effective in cancelling out dive and bob on the climbs, even when cranked on there’s no harsh spiking if you happen to hit an unexpected impact. We lamented the lack of slow speed compression adjustments seperate to lockout though, we’re big fans of using plenty of compression to hold the fork up rather than a hard spring.

On the longer descents the Stage remained composed at all times and very predictable, you always knew where you were in the stroke, and never did a loud bottom out or harsh spike disrupt our flow.


How does it compare to the FOX 34 or RockShox Pike?

It’s a tall task taking on the big dogs of the industry, but in our opinion MRP do a pretty good job. In terms of value and long proposed maintenance interval maintenance the Stage is very impressive, and its on-the-fly Ramp Up adjustment has serious appeal to the type of rider who appreciates easy and obvious tuning.

Chassis stiffness is on-par, but weighs more than the competition. Wheel removal isn’t as simple as the FOX QR15 or RockShox Maxle, the MRP’s skewer system just takes some getting used to.

It’s the damping that sets the MRP apart from the best in the business. We’ve seen the FOX FIT 4 forks and RockShox forks with the Charger damper really take the support and control of mountain bike suspension to amazing levels, and new players DVO have also really stepped it up but we feel that the MRP Stage isn’t quite up there with the best. It simply lacks the mid-stroke support and rapid reaction to impacts while already into the travel. We spent plenty of time tinkering with all the adjustments to make the fork ride high in its travel, but never without sacrifice to bump sensitivity.


Verdict

Put an MRP stage on the front of your bike and you’ve got a premium piece of kit leading you into the trail, that won’t let you down. This quality product hand assembled in Colorado might not have the highest performing damper in the business, but it certainly stands out in terms of maintenance and ease of adjustment and never faltered once during our testing period.

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Flow’s First Bite: FOX 32 Step Cast Fork

The keen-eyed out there are right in thinking they’ve spotted this before – it’s already won races on the front of Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson’s bikes at the National Champs in Bright. Hard to miss the bright orange colour!

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The FOX 32 SC is an all-new 100mm travel fork (you can’t get it in any other travel variants). Using a narrower crown width and the Step Cast lower leg design, in the name of weight loss, the 29er fork drops a whopping 255g (225g for 27.5) over the comparable 2016 Float 32! That’s a tremendous weight saving. FOX claim it hasn’t come at the cost of any stiffness, but we’ll let the riding do the talking on that front when we put one to the test very soon.


Features:

-15QR x 110 Boost and 15QR x 100 Kabolt axle options
-27.5” and 29” wheel options
-100mm travel
-FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper for improved control
-Lockout for increased efficiency
-Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
-Gloss Orange, Matte Black, Gloss White

AUD RRP – $1449

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.36.59 PM
Three colour options.
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The narrow and heavily sculpted fork screams lightweight.

The Chassis: Put the SC for alongside a regular FOX 32 and you’ll see where the weight has been shaved.  The two most immediately notable differences are the narrower width of the fork, and the Step Cast design of the lower legs course. But just about all areas have come under the knife – the fork arch is much finer than the previous Float 32, and you can clearly see the tapering of the lowers from the bushing area towards the axle.

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Trim!
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Narrow crowns, quite dramatic to the eye.
Kabolt axle or 15 QR compatible.
Kabolt axle or 15 QR compatible.

Step Cast: With a narrower crown there still needed to be room for the spokes, hub and disc rotor, hence the step on the lower leg. The underside of the leg is also hollow.

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The lower legs of the SC fork.
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Creating space for the hub, spokes and rotor with the narrower stance.
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Like an ultra marathon runner’s cheekbones, there’s no unnecessary mass here.

The guts: The internals for the Factory model retain the FIT 4 damper with a 32 SC specific cartridge design. Adjustments remain with three position on-the-fly setting and the little black fine tune 22-click open mode adjuster too. A remote lockout lever is also available.

2017 will see the introduction of a new FIT GRIP three position damper is found on lower models (see diagram below).

With the SC fork still using the 32mm legs you’re still able to use the FOX air volume spacers to tune the progressiveness of the fork, a quick and simple operation we’ve done many times before with the 34 and 36 forks.

The damper is said to have a slightly lighter tune than the existing Float 100 forks too.

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Familiar dials up top, proven and popular FIT 4 damper and the air spring on the left side.
32-step-cast-cross-section
32 Step Cast cross section.
Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.27.22 PM
New three-position GRIP damper on lower priced Performance Series forks.

The 100mm 29er fork weight comparisons:

The 32 SC isn’t just a smidge lighter than the opposition, it’s a a LOT lighter, and all without the use of carbon too.

– FOX – 32 SC, 1360g

– DT Swiss – OPM O.D.L 100 RACE, 1485g

– RockShox – SID XX World Cup, 1485g

– SR Suntour – Axon Werx F-29, 1570g

– FOX – Float 32 100, 1615g

– Cannondale – Lefty 2.0 Carbon, 1600g

– RockShox – RS1, 1666g

– MRP – Loop SL, 1769g

– X Fusion – Slide RL2, 1814g

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Boost or non-Boost compatible.
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On the front of the stealth black Trek Procaliber, we’re ready to get our race on!
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Did we mention they are seriously good looking, too?

For more info – ridefox.com/32sc


 

Fresh Product: New FLEXAIR Gear From Fox Brings Motocross Revolution to MTB

The MTB team at Fox is excited to introduce the new FLEXAIR gear collection. FLEXAIR uses Fox Racing’s proven Trudri(c) and Trumotion(c) fabrics to create racewear that is lighter, more comfortable, more durable and offers more proven performance than any other product on the market.

FLEXAIR earned its stripes on the Supercross track, with 2015 champion Ryan Dungey running the gear, and revolutionising motocross kits in the process. The Fox R&D team then proved FLEXAIR’s value for downhill mountain biking by testing the gear throughout the 2015 UCI World Cup Downhill season with Fox MTB athletes, including champions Josh Bryceland and Steve Smith.Stevie Smith, Mark Wallace and Connor Fearon in Maui, Hawaii, USA

Stevie Smith in Maui, Hawaii, USACONNOR_FEARON_PGore Stevie Smith in Maui, Hawaii, USAWed Fox MTB Photo 2 Derrick BuschStevie Smith in Maui, Hawaii, USA Mark Wallace in Maui, Hawaii, USA LIFESTYLE_3DBusch

“Maintaining our position as the world’s number one brand in motocross means we’re constantly innovating,” said Mike Redding, Director of MTB Marketing at Fox, “and the gear we’re designing for the champions of the track gives us the opportunity to share cutting edge technology with mountain athletes.”

FLEXAIR will be available in downhill jerseys and shorts.

Long-Term Test Update: Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

The Remedy comes in two wheels sizes, we went for the 27.5 one, it sits in between the 120mm travel Fuel EX and 160mm travel Slash. A real all-rounder with a buttery smooth rear suspension and relaxed geometry, it’s the type of bike that strikes a good balance between long and short travel. Perfect for travelling in search of new trails, not afraid of the rougher trails, and still efficient enough to keep up with the cross country bandits.

Coincidentally it’s the same bike that National Enduro Champion Chris Panozzo rides, although his goes much faster. Check out his unique build and setup here: Panozzo bike check.

We’ve been tinkering and modifying the Remedy from its stock spec, with a current weight of 12.6kg let’s take a look at what’s been going on under the hood of the ‘Pine Lime Express’.

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Hauling on Delatite, Mt Buller.

Front Suspension: 

The FOX Float 36 fork with its beefy legs is an uncommon sight at only 140mm travel, typically we’d see this travel category dominated by the FOX 34, with the 36 found on 160-180mm travel bikes. Not a bad thong at all though, it’s one of the stiffest steering front ends around, you really can put your weight over the forks and push them so, so, so hard.

The fork’s sensitivity isn’t the greatest though, especially when the rear suspension is smoother than butter melted on a silk tablecloth. A known trade for bigger diameter legs is increased surface area which often translates to more stiction, and being a non-Kashima level the fork on this bike does feel a little wooden when compared to the FOX 34 we reviewed recently.

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With a couple Air Volume Spacers fitted helps the fork feel more progressive.

We’ve fitted two air reducers in the spring side to add progressiveness to the stroke, the little plastic spacers are easily fitted but not supplied with the bike, we sourced them from FOX and popped them in to tune to our liking.

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Full Floater, fully plush.

Rear Suspension: 

Anyone who’s spent time on the Trek suspension bikes that use the Full Floater linkage system will agree, it’s one of the most sensitive and supple designs out there. After many years of Trek’s tight relationship with FOX they’ve been able to achieve the desired air spring that makes these bikes really tick without the need for their now superseded DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) rear shocks, the new large volume EVOL air cans on 2016 FOX Float rear shocks is exceptional.

The Remedy’s rear suspension is a system that certainly does require you to use the blue lever on the shock to your benefit, not in a bad way at all, it’s just so plush if you leave it open for anything but the descents it feels a little soft underneath you. To it’s credit, Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv rear shock damper works so well in ‘trail mode’ that we spend most of our time in that middle setting, it’s still more sensitive to small impacts than your regular rear shock thanks to their unique damping system.

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Dwarfed by big mountains, Bright.

Shimano XTR and Di2:

The Remedy was lucky enough to be chosen for the ongoing review of Shimano’s super XTR Di2 electronic shifting and M9020 groupset. With the wheels and brakes also badged with the three letters that spell ‘oooooh, fancy’, the Trail series of XTR with its powerful brakes and wider rim wheels have been ridden hard.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more electronics in the future of mountain biking, Shimano are bound to trickle down the technology to lower price points like on the road cycling domain with Dura Ace and Ultegra, and SRAM mustn’t be far off with a mountain bike version of their wireless road cycling drivetrain, Red E-Tap. Electronics enable things to happen at speeds that are unachievable with hand, and wires can travel places gear cables cannot.

The shifting on this bike is exceptional, super precise and never have we needed to tune the gears, the battery lasts for months and on those trails where you are shifting gears under load nothing compares to the precision and consistency of XTR Di2.

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The Pine Lime Express, as we like to call it. Strikes a good balance between ‘trail’ and ‘all mountain’.
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Electrics, totally from the future.
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The wires travel inside the handlebar, tricky.

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While the Remedy doesn’t have any specific integration for the Di2 wires like some of the latest high end cross country bikes (Trek Top Fuel, Pivot Mach 4 etc) it’s turned out quite nicely. By using a couple of the rubber grommets and plugs that are supplied with the Trek road bikes specced with Di2 Ultegra or Dura Ace we’ve been able to make it look neat and secure.

One long wire travels from the rear derailleur through the chainstay and pops into view under the rear shock, then its back into the down tube where it exits alongside the rear brake and Reverb line before connecting to the computer. The battery is inside the fork steerer, made possible by the Pro Tharsis Di2 bar and stem.

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At home on Sydney’s iconic sandstone.

PRO Tharsis Trail Di2 cockpit: 

Nothing is neater than Di2 with internal wiring, and with Shimano’s component line working so close with Shimano on the dedicated cockpit, the result is the cleanest bike possible.

Click here to read our full review of the Tharsis Trail gear.

The Tharsis bar and stem take the Di2 to the next level, providing internal routing of the wire in through the bar and the battery inside the fork’s steer tube.

The bars were trimmed down from a whopping 800mm wide to 760mm.

C’mon that’s pretty darn neat, right?
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The wires travel into the stem and inside the bars.

Schwalbe Procore:

Schwalbe have successfully produced a very effective dual air chamber system for your wheels, in an effort to increase traction while reducing wheel damage and risk of flat tyres.

While it added 420g to the existing tubeless setup we had already, it’s been a super interesting test of an impressive product. We’ve been running between 10-14psi in the outer chamber and 75 in the inner chamber with great results.

We talk about Procore a lot, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, what bike it suits and what type of rider it will appeal to most. We’ll be delivering our conclusion soon!

Read our initial impressions and installation log here: Schwalbe Procore.

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The inner core of the Procore system, with 85 psi.
Finding traction in the loam of Derby.
Finding traction in the loam of Derby.
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The special valve can select and inflate the two air chambers by switching between them.
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It makes for a heavier wheel, but it has serious appeal and benefit.

Absolute Black Oval Chainring:

With an in depth review coming to Flow shortly, we’ve fitted Absolute Black Oval rings to both our Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 and the Remedy.

It’s odd to ride at first, with a slightly lumpy feeling pedal stroke that is quickly forgotten about during the ride, but with more oval rings becoming popular, the benefits in the theory were worth exploring.

The chainring uses a narrow/wide tooth profile, and it’s all very secure, no dropped chains at all. But the XTR cranks don’t exactly match the black chainring so it’d better be worth it, or it won’t be on for long.

The word from Oval is: “Our Oval chainrings work because a rider does not produce power evenly through a pedal stroke; they maximise the part of the stroke where power is produced and minimise resistance where it isn’t. Oval rings make the spin cycle a lot smoother and are easier on legs while climbing. Believe it (or not), but a round chainring doesn’t transfer torque to your rear wheel as smoothly as an Oval one. You will actually feel your stroke to be more “round” with an Oval shape than with a round chainring.” – Oval.

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Chilling in the green room, Derby.

Ergon GE1 Slim Grips:

Left and right specific, and angled towards the edge to give your hands the best position for wider handlebars, the GE1 Slim Grip from Ergon is a real favourite here.

And the colours match.

Ergon-Grip-6


Stay tuned for more sightings of this great bike on Australia’s latest and greatest trails for many more months to come.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Öhlins RXF34 Fork

Their distinctive gold and yellow rear shocks have been around for a while as stock items on big travel Specialized bikes, and for 2016 the collaboration between the Swedish suspension stars Öhlins and Specialized continues with the release of a new 29er trail fork – the RXF34 – soon to be available through Specialized dealers.

Öhlins are well-represented in the motorsport realm, famed for being the type of brand that don’t pay athletes to use their products but still see top Moto GP using their gear. Here’s a little more on the brand – Öhlins history.

There’s an air of ambiguity and respect around this brand due to their high reputation, hence we are floored to have one fork to review so let’s take a look at some of the unique features before fitting to our Specialized Camber 29er for a test run.

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Smart, understated and elegant, the RXF34 is an exquisite piece to look at.
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The subtle and smooth finish serves a refreshing take on a market dominated by RockShox and FOX.

From Specialized: “Partnering with a company like Öhlins – the world leader in motorsports suspension – means we get the pinnacle of shock design, tuned specifically for a Specialized bike, like a Demo or Enduro. These shocks have so much traction and control that they change the way you ride, while putting a bigger grin on your face – and a larger gap between you and your buddies. Over the past few years, Öhlins has been hard at work bringing their first trail fork to market, the RXF 34. The first trail fork to feature a twin-tube design, it has everything you love about their TTX rear shocks, only it now goes on the front of your bike.

We gave a helping hand to the development by testing and providing feedback on our Camber, Stumpjumper FSR, and Enduro platforms. The key to this amazing handling fork is having parallel and separated oil flow to control the pressure levels, ensuring initial smoothness while staying high in the travel with excellent bump absorption, traction, and stability – all hallmarks of the twin-tube design. The RXF also has three air chambers; two positive and one negative. This allows the shape of the spring force to be adjusted by the rider, such as increasing sensitivity without bottoming out.

Bringing it all together is a unique forged “unicrown” for the highest stiffness and tire control with less chassis flex. The result is a 34mm fork that’s more rigid than other brands’ 35mm forks, and it’s comparable with a 36mm fork.”


Features:

  • 120, 140 & 160mm travel options for 29-inch wheels
  • 34mm stanchion tubes
  • 15mm through axle
  • TTX Damping technology by Öhlins
  • Three air chamber system, two positive and one negative
  • External rebound adjustment
  • High and low speed external compression adjustment
  • Forged unicrown
  • Low friction seals and bushings

Highlights:

Chassis: The most striking feature of the chassis is the one-piece crown and steerer, not a common sight (X-Fusion are another MTB fork brand to do a similar one-piece assembly) and it’s said to offer comparable stiffness to a 36mm leg fork, even with its 34mm legs.

The RXF34 is 29er only at this stage but we bet a 27.5″ version won’t be too far off. The axle is 15mm with no quick release, rather it is secured via a 5mm allen key.

Fork weight is 2.07kg.

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The unicrown one piece aluminium crown and steerer.
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15mm axle fastened with a 5mm allen key.
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Batman would run these on his bike.
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Öhlins own sealing.

TTX Damping Technology: Since 2006 across all sorts of suspension products, Öhlins uses two individual tubes for each rebound and compression dampers to help reduce the oil pressure inside the fork. This is said to increase sensitivity whilst remaining supportive.

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Blue dial for low speed compression, black for high speed compression and on the bottom of the leg is the gold rebound dial.
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An air pressure guide located on the back of the fork leg.

Three air chamber spring control: The RXF34 uses three air chambers for a very tuneable ride feel. Two positive air chambers let you tune the progressiveness of the fork, similar to fitting a Bottomless Token into a RockShox fork.

Setup goes like this; start with inflating the main air chamber on top of the fork to your weight, and then inflate the third chamber on the bottom of the fork to your desired rate of progression and feel. Then you’re able to tune the two air chambers according to your bottom out preference and sensitivity.

High and low speed compression adjustments: There is external high and low speed compression adjustability, and rebound control.


We are yet to confirm Australian retail pricing, but if the USD $1150 is a guide they look to be in line with the top offerings from FOX, RockShox and DVO and available from Specialized dealers.

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The RXF34 is due to be fitted to our Specialized Camber 29 test bike soon.

 

Tested: DVO Diamond

The new kids on the block are off to a running start, DVO have successfully done the un-thinkable – taken on RockShox and FOX and delivered products that do a whole lot more that just hold their own in the most hotly contested realm of mountain bike parts, suspension.

DVO are a new Californian suspension company with seriously experienced and credentialed staff, their fresh approach to mountain bike suspension is really turning heads. After what seemed like an age of prototyping, their first product was released, the wildly desirable inverted downhill fork – the Emerald. DVO began with the downhill fork, sending a message to the MTB world that they are cutting their teeth in the Formula One of mountain bike racing; downhill racing. Their Jade coil-sprung rear shock and Diamond (someone there must love geology) single crown fork would then follow, released to eager hoards of suspension-savvy folks.

Brisbane-based suspension sales and servicing and custom tuning experts NSDynamics have picked up Australian distribution for DVO, a fitting relationship no doubt.

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The trademark colours of DVO – vibrant metallic green. Don’t worry, they also come in black.
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On the front of our Trek Remedy 27.5 9.8 in Derby, TAS.

On test we have the Diamond, the single crown enduro fork, travel is internally adjustable between 140-160mm, has 35mm diameter legs and a 15mm QR axle. The air sprung fork can be externally tuned easily in five ways, testament to the dedicated focus from DVO to offer professional level tuning at consumer level.

We chose the 150mm version for 27.5″ wheels, fitted it to our super-sweet Trek Remedy 27.5 9.8 and gave ’em hell.

DVO Diamond guard-5

[divider]Diamond Details[/divider]

– 27.5″ and 29″ wheel options.

– Black or green colour option (phew!).

– 15mm QR axle.

– Custom mudguard fender included.

– Air spring.

– Closed cartridge bladder system.

– On the fly low speed compression adjustment.

– High speed compression adjustment.

– OTT ‘off the top’ negative spring adjustment.

DVO Diamond-4
O.T.T. Sensitivity adjustment on the underside of the leg, unique to DVO.

[divider]Setup.[/divider]

Setting up the fork was super easy, and for the purpose of this review we followed each step of the online setup guides from the DVO website. With the recommended air pressure, rebound and compression settings done by the book we were very happy with the outcome. The base settings were ideal and made for a perfect starting point for fine tuning either side to our liking.

Each little adjustment you make is clearly noticeable, this is one fork that rewards the keen tuner. With a bit of trial and error it’s easy to find what works best, and if you have a good grasp of suspension fundamentals you can both benefit from and enjoy the process the excellent adjustments offer.

Once you have a good idea of how the fork feels out on the trail, you could take the setup even further and more technical with extra customising of the fork’s internals with assistance online. The DVO website is stacked with videos, step-by-step tutorials and it’s provided in a way that is all very clear to get your head around.

DVO Diamond-7
High and low speed compression adjustment on top of the right leg.

O.T.T. It’s this O.T.T. ‘off the top’ adjustment that sets the DVO Diamond apart from the overwhelming duopoly of RockShox and FOX. Especially handy for heavier riders, the O.T.T. is the allen key dial under the left side of the leg that will allow you to tune the ride height and sag via the negative air spring. Dialling it in will increase the softness and suppleness of the initial portion of the travel.

Typically with forks we use most the negative air spring would be factory set, and not adjustable like this. But be sure to have an understanding of what is going on with the O.T.T. adjustment, too much or too little will mess with the fork’s height.

DVO Diamond-18

We’ve become very familiar with the ‘token’ system used in the RockShox Pike and Fox 34 and 36 forks we’ve been using. The simple process of adding and removing plastic spacers from inside the fork to tune the progressiveness of the air spring has been widely accepted and understood, in the case of the DVO Diamond you can still do this, but it’s back to the old school way of adding a certain volume of oil to the air chamber.

That said, we were happy enough with how the air spring rate felt to not want to tweak air spring volumes. It’s aimed at the enduro crowd and is meant to be ridden hard and DVO seem to have nailed the right curves with this one.

[divider]Let’s ride.[/divider]

Let’s cut to the chase, these forks are bloody great.

We all know what a really nice fork feels like to push on and the Diamond’s are next level, their supremely supple action will provoke and endless quantity of ooohs and aaahs from anyone who asks to cop a feel. Straight out of the box, our experiences were always very positive, right until the day we reluctantly sent them back.

In a perfect world a good suspension fork should reduce fatigue (especially in the hands), maintain front wheel traction, break down harsh hits, resist wallowing or diving under brakes, ride high in its travel and recover from big impacts without rebounding uncontrollably.

Well, the Diamond gets top marks in all grades.

We were most impressed by the way the Diamond does such a magnificent job of being ultra-supple and sensitive, whilst remaining perfectly supportive. For instance you could be riding hard out of the saddle, really leaning over the bars with the forks compressed deep into its travel through a corner and it will still react rapidly to extra impacts. The damping feels incredibly effective.

DVO Diamond guard-2

Or you could be charging up a trail toward a set of rock ledges and the moment the front wheel makes contact it’s like the forks are ready for it, immediately absorbing the impact without a moment of stiction, binding or hesitation. When a fork can do this so well, less shock is transferred to your hands and your momentum is less interrupted by the terrain on the trail, keeping you up to speed without having to work hard for it.

With this fork on our bike we were riding our regular trails faster than before.

With a quick flick of the slow speed compression dial the fork will ride higher and resists any slow speed actions that you would deliver, like pedalling or lunging around over the bars during a climb. It took us a while to get right though, as it turns in the opposite direction to all forks we’ve had time on.

On the harder descents the Diamond really comes into its own. The chassis stiffness is ideal, not too stiff but never feeling flexy. With the fork feeling so sensitive we found ourselves cornering harder with increased confidence, it works so hard at keeping the front wheel in contact with the ground that the traction on hand is amazing.

Holding your line on off-camber and rocky surfaces was a snack with so much traction and control.

Flow-Nation-Derby-2015-152
Green room – Derby, Tasmania.

During our testing we learnt not to set up the Diamond like we would with a RockShox or FOX fork, it just didn’t work that way as they are really quite different. Our DVO fork – once setup how we liked – felt quite a lot softer than the others, but on the trail the damping would prevent it from bottoming out like we may have expected.

Same goes with the slow speed compression, a little bit goes a long way in reducing unwanted bobbing or diving.

DVO Diamond-3

DVO Diamond-12

[divider]Verdict.[/divider]

The Diamond certainly does live up to the hype. It’s a really impressive product that will reward a keen rider’s attention to tuning.

The way it reacts to impacts so effortlessly and rapidly will surely make you ride very fast with maintained momentum, and you’ll most certainly be able to hold your line on rough terrain very well.

So, is the Diamond better than a RockShox or a Fox fork? Tough question, during our test we did have an issue with the damper (a knocking feedback, rectified by a just a dab of grease, and the O.T.T. dial went a bit stiff on us) that was swiftly rectified by the guys at NSDynamics, and we had it back in a couple days. But otherwise our experiences were overwhelmingly positive.

They are really quite good value, albeit a little heavy.

We’d say that the Diamond we tested felt better than any stock fork we’ve ever ridden, but when compared to a perfectly maintained and meticulously adjusted fork from either RockShox or FOX it’s splitting hairs to differentiate.

Investing in a DVO Diamond for your bike is a seriously good idea, we’d buy one.

Flow’s First Bite: DVO Diamond fork

The world of mountain bike suspension has just about become a duopoly, with 90% of new bikes either specced with RockShox or FOX. We’re not bemoaning the quality of the current product one little bit, but it was cool a decade ago, back when Answer-Manitou and Marzocchi were competing head to head with RockShox and FOX.

**Updated – full review here: DVO Diamond review. 

DVO Diamond 6
Six position low-speed compression, with separate high-speed compression adjustment.

Clearly we’re not the only folk who think there is room in the mountain bike suspension market for more players, and we’ve seen a handful of more boutique manufacturer’s begin to nibble away at the dominance of the two largest brands. Companies like X-Fusion, Cane Creek, BOS, Elka and, the one we have on test here, DVO have already begun to attract more consumers, race results and market share.

DVO are the newest of these ‘alternative’ brands, and they’ve stormed onto the scene with some seriously credentialed staff, a great marketing approach and unique product. Their Emerald inverted downhill fork was their headlining first offering, but the new Diamond single-crown fork is where there’s the most potential for DVO to have some serious growth. With the brand now available in Australia through suspension tuning and service wizards NS Dynamics, we thought it was time to put the Diamond to the test. We’ll be running this fork on our new Trek Remedy 9.8 long-term test bike.

DVO Diamond 4
The Off The Top negative spring adjustment should allow you to get that initial part of stroke just perfect.

The Diamond is squarely pitched at the high-performance all-mountain/enduro market; with 35mm stanchions and 130-160mm travel (adjustable internally) it goes head-to-head with the RockShox Pike or FOX 36, both of which we’ve ridden extensively, which should give us a good benchmark for this fork’s performance.

DVO know they need to bring something unique to the table with the Diamond, and it offers an extensive but not unnecessarily complicated external tuning (with the option of internal tweaking via the shim stack).

DVO Diamond 3
The DVO Diamond is 15mm axle only.

There are independent high and low-speed compression adjusters, with the low-speed adjuster having a simple six positions so you can either set and forget, or easily toggle it on/off almost like a pedalling platform for climbing. Then there’s the Off The Top (OTT) negative spring adjustment which dictates the sensitivity of the initial stroke without impacting on the mid/end stroke. We think it’ll be ideal for maximising traction in loose, skatey conditions over summer without needing an overly-soft overall suspension feel. There’s also a cool integrated fender, which bolts to the fork arch and will keep crud away from the casting’s webbing and the fork seals.

DVO Diamond 2
A neat, bolt-on fender is included with the fork.

At 2136g on the Flow fruit shop scales, the Diamonds are heavier than their rivals, (around 100g more than the FOX 36 RC2, and almost 300g heavier than a Pike), but hopefully performance will trump grams. It’s also worth noting that you can get these forks in black too, if you’re not a fan of the signature green colour.

An in-depth review of the DVO Diamonds will be heading your way in the coming weeks, and we’ll make sure to keep you updated through our Instagram and Facebook too. This should be a great test!

Flow’s First Bite: 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5

The best travel companions are fun, interesting and relaxed. But when it comes to bikes and not people to travel with it pays to be light, smooth and versatile, right?

It’s our pleasure to introduce to you our new Pine Lime Express – the 2016 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5.

The second half of our Flow Nation fleet that joins the Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5, this 140mm travel carbon beauty is winning us over already after one week of enthusiastic ‘new bike frothing’ riding. We’ll be throwing this on the back of the car, and packing it in a box to fly and drive around as we feature our next season of must ride destinations.

Check out our Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 first impressions here: Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27.5.

We’ll be putting in a lot of miles on this rig, and it’ll be used to test a lot of parts but in the meantime let’s take a look at how it came out of the box.

Trek Remedy  26
Remedy 9.8 27.5 for $6099.

Where does it fit in? With 140mm travel and fairly modest geometry, the Remedy sits just below the realm of the super-slack ‘enduro race bike’. It’s aimed to be ridden hard, but also isn’t going to shy away from flatter terrain, so to put the Remedy in a category we’d call it a big all-mountain bike.

There’s a near mirror of this bike with 29″ wheels available, same price, nearly the same spec just with 29″ wheels. We went 27.5″ for the fun of it, sure the 29″ may be faster but we’re not racing anyone.

It’s a well thought out bike, with nice features like a thinner rear tyre for less weight and faster rolling, the Mino Link little reversible chip in the rocker arm for geometry adjustment and frame protection underneath the down tube an on the sides of the seat stays.

Trek Remedy  2

Trek Remedy  4

FOX and Shimano. It’s a FOX and Shimano show here (with a RockShox Reverb seatpost sneaking in there) and the new 11-speed Shimano XT gives the Remedy an enormous range of gears, via the new wide range cassette and double chainring setup. We can’t sing louder praise for this new groupset, hear our thoughts in our full review here: Shimano M8000 11-speed tested. 

The new XT is closer in performance to the premium Shimano XTR stuff than ever before, the brakes are so dialled and light under the finger and shifting is even more precise and solid to engage gears.

It does have a double chainring and front derailleur, we’ll be swapping to a single ring as we like the neater and less cluttered loop

A FOX 36 fork is not exactly a common sight on a bike of this travel amount, typically reserved for bigger 150mm+ bikes the big legged 36mm diameter legs look huge on the front of this bike and sitting down at 140mm travel its going to be amazingly stout when ploughed into rocks, woohooo! We reviewed the older version of the FOX 36 at 160mm on the front of a Norco Range, check that review out here. FOX 36 review. But with the new FIT 4 damper and a regular 15mm quick release axle, the new version is more user friendly and feels extra supple.

RE:aktiv: Out the back the FOX rear shock uses Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv with a 3-position damper. But the DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) dual air spring system has gone from the 2016 range due to the new FOX EVOL large volume air can giving the bike its targeted spring rate curves and suppleness.

We’ve ridden the RE:aktiv damper a few times, and it sure does remain active and supple whilst in trail and climb mode, breaking away the instant a bump hits the rear wheel. We find ourselves riding in the middle rear shock setting a lot, which keeps the shock riding high in its travel and with less wallowing, but thanks to the fancy damper it still takes a hit without spiking harshly.

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The FOX/Trek RE:aktiv damper keeps things firm yet sensitive.
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Chunky legs up front! A FOX 36 fork at only 140mm.

The other bits. Bontrager make up the majority of the cockpit components and the tyres. A big 2.4″ XR4 up front is a great sight, we’ve been huge fans of this exact tyre for a couple years now, the big volume and tacky tread wins us over every corner.

You could dress it up, or down. The Remedy is the bike we want for exploring new trails, it blurs the lines between an all-round trail bike and a hard hitting enduro machine with the ability to go either side really well.

If only the Remedy was available from their cool Project One custom paint job and spec program, this is a bike that we’d love to have as our own but we’d probably just select this colour and build with Shimano XTR Di2 anyhow… Did we say Di2? Stay tuned.

Happy New (Bike) Year: Here’s Our 2015 Top Five

With Eurobike done and dusted, just about every bike brand has now shown us their wares for the new season. But before we begin afresh, riding whatever wheel size it is this year, we thought we’d take a look at our personal five top mountain bike ‘things’ of the past 12 months. These are just our personal picks – what would you put on your list?


Shimano XT 11-speed:

XT-11-speed-6

It took a long time for Shimano to come up with an 11-speed mountain bike grouppo that was a viable contender for SRAM’s plethora of 1×11 drivetrains; SRAM had already released XX1, X01 and X1 before Shimano showed us their XTR 11-speed groupset. But not only was XTR mega bucks, it also topped out at with a 40-tooth cassette, which wasn’t low enough for many people to consider going 1×11.

And then, finally, came the XT version. Not only was it a shitload more affordable, but it also comes with a 11-42 cassette, which is a nice low granny gear. The use of a standard freehub body means it’s an easier upgrade to 11-speed too. Plus it works flawlessly too.

Read our full XT review here. 


 

Tasmania:

Ok, so Tassie has been around a lot longer than the last 12 months. But it’s only in recent times, thanks to the development of new trail centres, that we’ve been happy to call it Australia’s leading mountain bike state.

Tasmania-Flow-Nation-68
Riding the Juggernaut at Hollybank.

In particular, the amazing Blue Derby and Hollybank MTB parks, both not far from Launceston, really put Tassie at the forefront of Australian mountain biking. We were lucky enough to spend some time at both of these trail centres last year, and they blew us away. Since our visit, Blue Derby has undergone a whole stack of new trail building too, and we’re itching to get back.

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The Blue Derby trails are stunning.

But there’s far more to Tassie’s mountain bike scene than just these centres – Hobart has killer riding too, the west coast has some of the best adventure/back country trails going, and there’s a healthy race scene too (take the Hellfire Cup or Wildside for example).

It’s a little nugget of mountain bike awesomeness. Read more about Hollybank, Blue Derby and Hobart.


 

Crankworx Rotorua:

Crankworx’s first foray to the southern hemisphere was a huge success, in every regard, and Rotorua further cemented its status as one of the coolest mountain bike towns on the planet.

Crankworx-Slopestyle-52
Slopestyle at Crankworx Rotorua.

The courses were great, the town was totally buzzing, the locals got right behind it all and it all went smoothly! It was great to see how many Aussies made the trip over too, filling the forest trails in between the events and getting into it.

We’re bummed to hear that the Enduro World Series won’t be combined with Crankworx Rotorua next year, but apparently there will still be an enduro, just not an official part of the EWS. Given how much the riders seemed to froth on Rotorua, we’d imagine a healthy contingent of the world’d best riders will still be on hand.

The Enduro World Series down under.
The Enduro World Series down under.
Crankworx-Day-1.1-17
The local crowds came out in force for Crankworx Rotorua.

Regardless, we’ll be back next year, and if you’ve been thinking about a riding holiday to Rotorua, we think it’s the perfect time to do it.


 

FOX 34 and 36 forks and DPS EVOL shock:

FOX got their arses handed to them when RockShox released the Pike, but they’ve responded with a furious bout of development and the new 36 and 34 forks are the result. Put simply, the Factory versions of these two forks are mind-blowingly good.

Fox-36-First-Bite-8

The 36 is lighter than many of the old 32 forks we used to ride, but has proper downhill race-worthy performance, and the 34 is so sublimely smooth it seems to be predicting the terrain.

FOX-2016-14

While FOX have traditionally had the edge when it comes to rear shocks, they’ve been losing ground to RockShox in this arena, but the DPS EVOL shock should stem the bleeding. The new air can shape seems like such a simple change, but the improvement in small bump response in particular is so dramatic it’ll make your old shock feel like it’s filled with Selleys Space Invader.

Read our full review of the FOX 36 here, and our review of the 34 and DPS shock here.


 

Yeti SB5c:

For us, this was the standout bike of 2015 in a field of incredible contenders. We admit to having a soft spot for Yetis, but when you look raw performance alone (and ignore the stunning looks and fantastic heritage) this bike is a winner.

Yeti-SB5-C-16

Yes, it costs a million bucks and can’t fit a water bottle, but as a tool for slicing and dicing the trail, they don’t get any better. Just enough travel, delivered via a suspension system that is both efficient and plush, perfectly poised geometry, low weight, great versatility – this is a bike you can race at an EWS round one day then cross country on the next. In short, it embodies the kind of do-it-all performance that the best trail bikes shoot for.

Read our full Yeti SB5c review here. 


Also on the shortlist:

RedBull’s race coverage: It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve been glued to the computer too many Saturday and Sunday evenings to count this year!

Aussie young gun downhillers kicking arse: We get the feeling we’re about to see a return to that age of Aussie domination in downhill, with Andrew Crimmins, Connor Fearon and Dean Lucas all set to follow in the footsteps of Brosnan and Hill.

Cairns: Rad trails, crazy jungles and even crazier locals. The scene in Cairns just keeps on growing as it undergoes a huge revival. Bring on the 2016 World Cup!

Ibis 741 rims: These 35mm wide rims have been a revelation, transforming out trail bikes into grip seeking missiles!

 

 

Happy New (Bike) Year: Here's Our 2015 Top Five

Happy New Year! The bike industry has done the countdown, popped the cork and, with Rod Stewart’s rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the hi-fi, said goodbye to 2015.

With Eurobike done and dusted, just about every bike brand has now shown us their wares for the new season. But before we begin afresh, riding whatever wheel size it is this year, we thought we’d take a look at our personal five top mountain bike ‘things’ of the past 12 months. These are just our personal picks – what would you put on your list?


Shimano XT 11-speed:

XT-11-speed-6

It took a long time for Shimano to come up with an 11-speed mountain bike grouppo that was a viable contender for SRAM’s plethora of 1×11 drivetrains; SRAM had already released XX1, X01 and X1 before Shimano showed us their XTR 11-speed groupset. But not only was XTR mega bucks, it also topped out at with a 40-tooth cassette, which wasn’t low enough for many people to consider going 1×11.

And then, finally, came the XT version. Not only was it a shitload more affordable, but it also comes with a 11-42 cassette, which is a nice low granny gear. The use of a standard freehub body means it’s an easier upgrade to 11-speed too. Plus it works flawlessly too.

Read our full XT review here. 


 

Tasmania:

Ok, so Tassie has been around a lot longer than the last 12 months. But it’s only in recent times, thanks to the development of new trail centres, that we’ve been happy to call it Australia’s leading mountain bike state.

Tasmania-Flow-Nation-68
Riding the Juggernaut at Hollybank.

In particular, the amazing Blue Derby and Hollybank MTB parks, both not far from Launceston, really put Tassie at the forefront of Australian mountain biking. We were lucky enough to spend some time at both of these trail centres last year, and they blew us away. Since our visit, Blue Derby has undergone a whole stack of new trail building too, and we’re itching to get back.

Flow-Nation-Blue-Derby-19
The Blue Derby trails are stunning.

But there’s far more to Tassie’s mountain bike scene than just these centres – Hobart has killer riding too, the west coast has some of the best adventure/back country trails going, and there’s a healthy race scene too (take the Hellfire Cup or Wildside for example).

It’s a little nugget of mountain bike awesomeness. Read more about Hollybank, Blue Derby and Hobart.


 

Crankworx Rotorua:

Crankworx’s first foray to the southern hemisphere was a huge success, in every regard, and Rotorua further cemented its status as one of the coolest mountain bike towns on the planet.

Crankworx-Slopestyle-52
Slopestyle at Crankworx Rotorua.

The courses were great, the town was totally buzzing, the locals got right behind it all and it all went smoothly! It was great to see how many Aussies made the trip over too, filling the forest trails in between the events and getting into it.

We’re bummed to hear that the Enduro World Series won’t be combined with Crankworx Rotorua next year, but apparently there will still be an enduro, just not an official part of the EWS. Given how much the riders seemed to froth on Rotorua, we’d imagine a healthy contingent of the world’d best riders will still be on hand.

The Enduro World Series down under.
The Enduro World Series down under.
Crankworx-Day-1.1-17
The local crowds came out in force for Crankworx Rotorua.

Regardless, we’ll be back next year, and if you’ve been thinking about a riding holiday to Rotorua, we think it’s the perfect time to do it.


 

FOX 34 and 36 forks and DPS EVOL shock:

FOX got their arses handed to them when RockShox released the Pike, but they’ve responded with a furious bout of development and the new 36 and 34 forks are the result. Put simply, the Factory versions of these two forks are mind-blowingly good.

Fox-36-First-Bite-8

The 36 is lighter than many of the old 32 forks we used to ride, but has proper downhill race-worthy performance, and the 34 is so sublimely smooth it seems to be predicting the terrain.

FOX-2016-14

While FOX have traditionally had the edge when it comes to rear shocks, they’ve been losing ground to RockShox in this arena, but the DPS EVOL shock should stem the bleeding. The new air can shape seems like such a simple change, but the improvement in small bump response in particular is so dramatic it’ll make your old shock feel like it’s filled with Selleys Space Invader.

Read our full review of the FOX 36 here, and our review of the 34 and DPS shock here.


 

Yeti SB5c:

For us, this was the standout bike of 2015 in a field of incredible contenders. We admit to having a soft spot for Yetis, but when you look raw performance alone (and ignore the stunning looks and fantastic heritage) this bike is a winner.

Yeti-SB5-C-16

Yes, it costs a million bucks and can’t fit a water bottle, but as a tool for slicing and dicing the trail, they don’t get any better. Just enough travel, delivered via a suspension system that is both efficient and plush, perfectly poised geometry, low weight, great versatility – this is a bike you can race at an EWS round one day then cross country on the next. In short, it embodies the kind of do-it-all performance that the best trail bikes shoot for.

Read our full Yeti SB5c review here. 


Also on the shortlist:

RedBull’s race coverage: It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve been glued to the computer too many Saturday and Sunday evenings to count this year!

Aussie young gun downhillers kicking arse: We get the feeling we’re about to see a return to that age of Aussie domination in downhill, with Andrew Crimmins, Connor Fearon and Dean Lucas all set to follow in the footsteps of Brosnan and Hill.

Cairns: Rad trails, crazy jungles and even crazier locals. The scene in Cairns just keeps on growing as it undergoes a huge revival. Bring on the 2016 World Cup!

Ibis 741 rims: These 35mm wide rims have been a revelation, transforming out trail bikes into grip seeking missiles!

 

 

Fresh Product – FOX Suspension 2016 Highlights

FOX go all out for 2016, and their new lineup receives a solid dose of the technology trickle down treatment. With a focus on their new mantra ‘Own the Trail, Track or Mountain’ FOX aim to cater for the needs of all the growing areas of the sport.

The big forking news for 2016 is the new damper – FIT 4 found in ALL forks going forward (except 36, 381 and 40), we won’t see any more open cartridge dampers in favour of the new FIT 4. We’ve already spent some time on the FIT 4 damper inside the new FOX 34 fork as well as the new Float DPS rear shock – read our full review here. http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-2016-fox-34-fork-and-float-dps-shock/

FOX 2016 2 FOX 2016 13 FOX 2016 10

[divider]FIT 4 Explained[/divider]

The first major change is the new adjuster configuration; there are three main compression settings (much like CTD, with open, medium and firm), but there’s also a completely independent low-speed compression adjustment. The central black dial has 22 points of adjustment, giving you a much broader and precise range of control over low speed compression, similar to the 36’s RC2 damper.

The second big damper change that users will notice is an all new rebound assembly, which is designed keep the fork riding higher in its travel, particularly after big impacts. Beginning stroke rebound (i.e. for smaller impacts) can be set quite slow, for a more stable and planted ride feel. But on bigger impacts the fork will rebound more quickly to recover from heavy compressions, helping avoid getting bogged down deep in its travel. 

Finally, FOX have made some huge leaps in terms of service requirements for their forks. Through better sealing and more advanced lubricants (especially the new Gold Oil), service intervals are now 120 hours of riding, which is far cry more manageable than the 30-hour intervals of yesteryear!

All the rear shocks also receive some new features, with the DPS (Dual Position System) and EVOL (Extra Volume) in the popular Float series.

[divider]DPS and EVOL System Explained[/divider]

The EVOL  air sleeve will be retrofittable to older FOX shocks too. This is more than just an extra volume air can, as we’ve seen in the past. The EVOL air sleeve is all about increasing the volume of the shock’s negative air spring. This has a number of positive effects.

Firstly, there’s improved bump sensitivity in the initial parts of the stroke. Secondly, the EVOL air sleeve provides an overall flatter spring curve, with more support in the mid-stroke (helping alleviate that wallowing feeling that can afflict some longer-travel air sprung bikes). Finally, the EVOL air sleeve helps slow down the shock’s rebound as it nears full extension, which should reduce the likelihood of getting ‘bucked’ over the bars after heavy compressions, particularly off the lip of a jump.

There has also been a huge re-think of the shock’s damping, which has led to the new Dual Piston System design and the ditching of the Boost Valve system. Again, we’ll avoid teching you out too much here, and stick to what’s actually noticeable for the user.

While the external damping adjustments are the same (CTD lever, with three position Trail Adjust), the firmness of the lockout (or Climb mode) has been increased significantly. At the same time as making this setting firmer, the level of damping control provided once your blow through the lockout has also been improved. On Boost Valve shocks, there was often inadequate compression control once you’d pushed past the initial lockout platform, but this has been rectified. If, like many cross country racers, you like to run your shock in Climb mode a lot, this change will definitely be appreciated.

See the highlights from FOX below:


 FOX 34

ALL NEW 34 SERIES – for aggressive trail riders in a super lightweight package

New lightweight chassis

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Ideal travel options: 120-140mm 

•Weight: 34 27.5 160mm = 1746 g / 3.85 lb 219g / .48lb less than MY15 – 34 29 140mm = 1769 g / 3.9 lb 297g / .65lb less than MY15


2016 FOX 2

FOX 32

32 SERIES – Lightweight XC Series

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Ideal travel options: 80-100mm 

2016 FOX 1

FOX 34 27.5+

ALL NEW 34 27.5+ fork – built for larger tires and a sense of adventure

•Max tire size 3.25

Boost 15x110mm axle

New FLOAT air spring

New FIT4 damper

•Travel options: 120mm/140mm 

1af3cbbf-7a1d-43c0-a9d2-ad7e994e4b71

FOX 36

36 SERIES – Award-winning 36 lineup expanded

New FACTORY FIT4 damper and new 15QR axle option 

FACTORY FIT HSC/LSC (RC2) damper and convertible 15/20mm bolt-on axle option

Retains 36 FLOAT air spring with internal travel adjust via spacers

Updated RC2 damper tune and dual circuit rebound 

•Ideal travel options: 150-180mm 

2016 FOX 4

FOX 381

ALL NEW 36 831 – Designed for dual slalom and dirt jumping FACTORY FIT HSC/LSC (RC2) damper and convertible 15/20mm bolt-on axle option

Specific 36 831 FLOAT air spring

26” only

1-1/8” and 1.5 taper steer tube options

2016 FOX 3

FOX 40

40 SERIES – World Championship-winning design

New FLOAT air spring

Updated RC2 damper tune and dual circuit rebound 

Available in 27.5” and 26” 

2016 FOX 5

FOX Float DPS

ALL NEW FLOAT DPS – Our most capable inline shock ever

New full lockout and three on-the-fly settings: Open, Medium and Firm

New DPS damper 

New EVOL air sleeve option

FACTORY Series feature 3 clicks of low-speed compression adjust in the Open Mode.

2016 FOX 10

FOX Float X

FLOAT X – The Enduro World Series-winning Enduro and all-mountain shock

New EVOL air sleeve option

New damping tune with added compliance and control

FACTORY Series feature 3 clicks of low-speed compression adjust in the Open Mode.

2016 FOX 7

FOX Float X2

ALL NEW FLOAT X2 – Our highest performing air shock

New RVS technology for seamless damping transitions

New recirculating oil damper with independent high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping

•Main piston features two valves stacks that are reversible to change tune

2016 FOX 8

FOX Float DHX2

ALL NEW FLOAT DHX2 – World Championship- winning design

  • New RVS technology for seamless damping transitions
  • New recirculating oil damper with independent high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping
  • Main piston features two valves stacks that are reversible to change tune
  • New SLS (Super Lightweight Steel) spring option 

2016 FOX 6

 

Super Lightweight Steel (SLS) springs are lighter than titanium at more affordable prices

  • Proprietary surface treatment and stress relief process removes residual stresses from the spring, allowing them to withstand higher stresses
  • Each spring is optimize by using a smaller wire diameter and less coils, creating a lighter spring
  • Technology developed for highly stressed valve springs in drag racing cars
  • Fits all FOX coil shocks
  • Available in 25-pound increments
  • Sizes: 2.75” stoke – 300-550#, 3.0 stroke –300-525#, 3.5 stroke – 225-400#

Tested: Avanti Torrent CS 7.2

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

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

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

Avanti Torrent 18

[divider]Build[/divider]

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

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

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

Avanti Torrent 29

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

Avanti Torrent 11

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

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

Avanti Torrent 14

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

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

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

[divider]Spec[/divider]

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

Avanti Torrent 9

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

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

Avanti Torrent 23 Avanti Torrent 8

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

Avanti Torrent 32

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

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

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

Avanti Torrent 26 Avanti Torrent 6

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

Avanti Torrent 15 Avanti Torrent 7

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

Avanti Torrent 17

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

[divider]Ride[/divider]

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

Avanti Torrent 5

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

Avanti Torrent 13

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

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

Avanti Torrent 30

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

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

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

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

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

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

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

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

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

 

 

TESTED: 2016 FOX 34 fork and Float DPS shock

The hot new concept in the mountain biking for 2016 is…. trail riding! Yes, the kind of mountain biking that most of us do every day is exactly where we’re seeing the development focus across the industry, and this can only be a good thing.

FOX have aimed their heavy development artillery at two of the most important trail riding products in their line up; the 34 fork and the Float rear shock. We’ve been riding production versions of FOX’s 2016 34 and Float DPS shock for a few weeks now, and it feels good to be able to come clean with the details.

FOX 2016 22
34mm stanchions are just about all this fork has in common with its predecessor.
FOX 2016 14
The chubby waist immediately tell you that the new Float DPS / EVOL shock is a different beast to the previous Float CTD shock.

Putting it simply, these new products are shit hot. Ride transformingly good. Like you’ve taken the trail to a dry cleaner and asked ‘excuse me, but can you kindly press the living hell out of this, so the bumps disappear?’ But let’s take a look at what makes them work.


A couple of weeks ago FOX released their first tidbit of 2016 product info, with their new 27.5+ specific 34 fork. Hidden in amongst all the blabbing about new axle widths and the rise of fattish tyres (oh gawd) were a handful of references to new technologies that underpin the completely updated 34 fork.

When we say completely updated, we mean it. Barely a scrap of this fork is the same as its predecessor. Chassis, damper, air spring – all new. FOX have also done away with long-travel versions of the 32 fork. The 32 now tops out at 120mm-travel, with the 34 covering 120-160mm, and the 36 taking care of the 160-180mm segment. Clean, easy, makes sense.

FOX 2016 2

The new 34 is filthy light. A 150mm-travel version of the new 34 is lighter than an equivalent 32 series fork. Notably, it’s also a fair chunk lighter than a Rockshox Pike too. The biggest weight saving has been made in the air spring, with 90g shaved, by using an air negative spring, rather than the steel coil found on earlier versions – a change we saw pioneered on the 36 RC2 fork last year (read our full review here). The air spring is also more tuneable too, with volume spacers that can be fitted under the top cap to provide a more progressive or linear stroke. We’ve seen this concept on both the 36 and the RockShox Pike too, and it’s a useful feature for the more involved suspension tweakers.

FOX 2016 19
Hey there, Goldielegs.

The only downside to the new air spring is that the travel of the fork can’t be so easily adjusted. Previous versions could simply be spaced down, but the new 34 requires a different air spring assembly to change the travel.

34 air spring
The negative coil-spring assembly has been ditched for a lighter air assembly.
FOX 2016 6
In addition to three compressions modes (open, medium, firm) you can also adjust the low-speed compression setting in the open mode. Kinda like the RLC dampers from years ago! What do they say about fashion? It all comes back around.

Over on the damper side, the big news is that the CTD system has been axed in favour of the FIT4 damper. We could delve into a deep and brow-furrowing discussion of oil paths and damper shaft diameters here, but there are two main changes from a usability standpoint. The first is the new adjuster configuration; there are three main compression settings (much like CTD, with open, medium and firm), but there’s also a completely independent low-speed compression adjustment. The central black dial has 22 points of adjustment, giving you a much broader and precise range of control over low speed compression, similar to the 36’s RC2 damper.

FOX 2016 18
CTD is out, FIT4 is in.

The second big damper change that users will notice is an all new rebound assembly, which is designed keep the fork riding higher in its travel, particularly after big impacts. Beginning stroke rebound (i.e. for smaller impacts) can be set quite slow, for a more stable and planted ride feel. But on bigger impacts the fork will rebound more quickly to recover from heavy compressions, helping avoid getting bogged down deep in its travel.

FOX 2016 10

Finally, FOX have made some huge leaps in terms of service requirements for their forks. Through better sealing and more advanced lubricants (especially the new Gold Oil), service intervals are now 120 hours of riding, which is far cry more manageable than the 30-hour intervals of yesteryear!

FOX 2016 9
The extra volume of the negative air spring has a stack of benefits. We’re happy to hear the EVOL air sleeve can be retrofitted to older Float shocks too.

But it’s not just the front end that gets the love this year, and FOX have also made some big changes to the Float and Float X rear shocks too. Most obvious change is the new EVOL (extra volume) air sleeve, which will be retrofittable to older FOX shocks too. This is more than just an extra volume air can, as we’ve seen in the past. The EVOL air sleeve is all about increasing the volume of the shock’s negative air spring. This has a number of positive effects.

FOX 2016 16

Firstly, there’s improved bump sensitivity in the initial parts of the stroke. Secondly, the EVOL air sleeve provides an overall flatter spring curve, with more support in the mid-stroke (helping alleviate that wallowing feeling that can afflict some longer-travel air sprung bikes). Finally, the EVOL air sleeve helps slow down the shock’s rebound as it nears full extension, which should reduce the likelihood of getting ‘bucked’ over the bars after heavy compressions, particularly off the lip of a jump.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.51.58 pm
See, this graph proves it! The EVOL can flattens the spring curve, with a more supple beginning stroke, and more support in the mid-stroke.

 

There has also been a huge re-think of the shock’s damping, which has led to the new Dual Piston System design and the ditching of the Boost Valve system. Again, we’ll avoid teching you out too much here, and stick to what’s actually noticeable for the user.

While the external damping adjustments are the same (CTD lever, with three position Trail Adjust), the firmness of the lockout (or Climb mode) has been increased significantly. At the same time as making this setting firmer, the level of damping control provided once your blow through the lockout has also been improved. On Boost Valve shocks, there was often inadequate compression control once you’d pushed past the initial lockout platform, but this has been rectified. If, like many cross country racers, you like to run your shock in Climb mode a lot, this change will definitely be appreciated.

FOX 2016 7
There are still three main compression modes, with the middle setting have three levels of fine adjustment.

Ride time! Our 34 fork and DFP shock were fitted to a Yeti SB5. We selected this bike as our test beast, not just because it has been on our must-ride list for a while, but because its Switch Infinity suspension system was designed in conjunction with FOX. With 127mm rear travel, the SB5 can be run with a 130-160mm travel fork. Given the choice, we opted for a 140mm, to keep the bike more in the realm of a trail bike, and not push it into Enduro territory (Jared Graves has been racing an SB5 with a 160mm fork).

Following FOX’s setup guide, we ran 63psi in the fork, and set the rebound 9 clicks from fully closed. Ultimately we slowed the fork down even more, running it 7 clicks from full slow. We dialled in a few token clicks of low-speed compression too, though we’re not certain we really needed it. The shock was set up with just shy of 30% sag.

FOX 2016 12
A low-profile crown lets you get away with more travel up front (as is the trend nowadays), without jacking the bar height up too much.

Any brand new fork and shock will always feel good, but the way the wheels of our Yeti tracked the terrain from the very first ride was pretty insane. Both fork and shock are as close to frictionless as we’ve ever experienced – constantly in motion.

Interestingly, this responsiveness was probably appreciated even more in the shock than it was in the fork. On rolling and moderately rough terrain, the shock offered no discernible transition from compression to rebound either – it sounds ridiculous, but the sensation was hover-esque.

FOX 2016 8
The three position compression lever is as simple to use as ever.

We rarely find ourselves utilising the Climb mode on FOX rear shocks around our home trails, as they’re generally pretty rough. But what little experimentation we did certainly revealed a very firm level of lockout, so that should satisfy the hammerheads out there.

For suspension testing, the most challenging trail in our region is one that we affectionately call the ‘Milkshake’. It’s noted for having long, fast straights of rough sandstone, filled with holes that are just perfectly distanced to bottom out both fork and shock simultaneously. The kind of trail where you do a fair bit of teeth clenching and praying.

FOX 2016 1
Our favourite rocky testing ground.

It was here that the new 34 and DFP shock really shone, delivering the kind of stability you don’t normally expect for a bike with just 127mm of rear travel. We’re accustomed to that awful bucking feeling of running out of front travel right at the exact moment your rear shock starts to reach full extension, but our SB5 kept things bizarrely composed.

Yes, it’s a kick arse bike, but we feel a lot of credit must go the rebound control of both fork and shock. The way the fork quickly digs itself back out of trouble after a solid wallop, combined with the rear shock’s more gradual rebound as it nears full extension, gave us more confidence to wallop square edged hits. And the sheer smoothness and responsiveness of both fork and shock is pretty amazeballs too.

We can see a lot of riders opting to fit the EVOL can to their existing Float shocks, and the 34 fork is a huge improvement over the CTD equipped forks of the past couple of years. Obviously long-term testing will reveal more, but at this early stage FOX appear to have hit the trail-riding nail on the head with a freaking big hammer.

2016 FOX 27.5+ (Yes, 27.5 PLUS) Fork

FOX have warped the time-space continuum, revealing details of a new 2016 FOX 34 fork (and yes, it does feel like New Years Eve was just last week!) that telegraphs loud and clear just want the industry trends are going to be for 2016.

What are we talking about? Well, the keen eyed amongst you will have noticed that this is a 27.5+ fork – yes, 27.5 PLUS. If you haven’t heard of 27.5+ before, don’t think you’re behind the curve. The concept was unknown to us until a couple of weeks ago.


1af3cbbf-7a1d-43c0-a9d2-ad7e994e4b71

If you though the wheel size debate was resolved (or at least were hoping like hell that it had been!) then we have news for you. Another standard is on the way, and its name is 27.5+. Essentially 27.5+ swims in the murky waters between a 27.5 / 650B wheel, and a Fat Bike. It’s a 27.5″ rim, which rolls more like a 29er, thanks to the use of 3-inch’ish tyre. Cue forum meltdowns.

We’re going to withhold judgement until we ride one. We already understand the benefits of a large volume tyre on a 27.5″ rim (we’ve been using big rubber with wide Ibis rims on our Trek Fuel EX test bike for months) we do feel kind of befuddled about the necessity of new forks to support another standard.

While Rockshox have had the Bluto Fat Bike fork out for a long time, this is the first 27.5+ fork we’re aware of – read on for all the details. Points to note include a massively wide chassis, and a wider hub spacing (110mm).

 

Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+-2

Pages from Pages from FOX Factory 34 FLOAT 27.5+-3

 

 

 

Spanish Fluro Fever: Orbea Rallon X30 First Impressions

This radioactive number is best viewed in person, wearing sunglasses. The bike arrived on a glorious summer’s day, but the superb sunshine was outdone by the Orbea’s unique paint job, these photos don’t do the bike justice, it’s seriously flouro.

Orbea Rallon 14

Orbea are a Spanish brand that was founded in 1840, so the Rallon comes with nearly two centuries of manufacturing know-how. Despite this, Orbea have only been producing noteworthy mountain bikes in recent years, with their older models riding like mountain bikes designed by weight conscious roadies – not a great combination.

The new Rallon is a serious looking beast, packing a burly 160mm of travel at both ends. The alloy tubing looks chunky and durable, the pivots are similarly robust looking and the cabling down the centre of the downtube with minimal internal routing is a smart and maintenance friendly option. One design aspect we especially appreciate for a bike likely to be bashed around ride after ride is abundant frame protection, and the Rallon delivers with a long downtube guard ending just under the bottom bracket and a chainstay guard that protects both sides of the chain stay – a sign that lots of thought has gone into the specific intentions of the bike.

Orbea Rallon 3

The component spec for the most part is smart and sensible for the Rallon’s early 3000 dollar price point. The RaceFace/SLX drivetrain combo ensures both durability and reliability whilst the FOX front and rear suspension combo is a proven winner for quality suspension on a budget.

Here at Flow we can live without the Formula brakes- we’d take a set of bulletproof Shimanos any day- but we feel this component choice is a nod to the bikes European heritage.

Orbea Rallon 4

The Mavic en321 wheel set are on the heavy side on first impressions but the true test will be how they handle unloving testing through rough terrain. The 2×10 drivetrain, whilst seemingly out of favour with the majority of riders enchanted by the wonders of 1x, is in our opinion an excellent decision for the Rallon due to its weighty nature in comparison with more expensive, 1x equipped models.

Finally, the RaceFace cockpit is a winner- short and wide- exactly what todays All-Mountain riding requires.

Geometry wise, the Rallon is already telling us that it’s ready to rally the descents. Short 420mm stays should make it a rocket through the corners, but the long 1172mm wheelbase will offer stability at high speeds. The X30 comes with slightly more stability oriented geometry than the more expensive models, which is a good thing for the bikes target audience.

There is a simple geometry adjustment option via a reversible chip at the front shock mount, something we are fond of, should we choose to experiment with slackening or sharpening the bike’s angles. All in all though, the setup looks ready to shreddy!

Orbea Rallon 12

Orbea Rallon 15

Look out for a full review soon, we’re really looking forward to seeing how a more budget orientated all –mountain bike handles all of the technical riding Sydney has to offer!

Oh, it’s also available in black and white coloured frame, which may be a better option if you have extra sensitive eyeballs.

While you’re waiting, check out our previous review of one of Orbea’s XC rigs, the Occam 29. http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-orbea-occam-29-s50/

The King is Back: FOX 36 Float RC2 Review

Fox 36 Float RC2 6
Retro graphics just add to the appeal.

FOX knew they had to hit back hard this year with the relaunch of the 36; since the arrival of the RockShox Pike 18 months ago, riders had been leaving FOX in droves, clamouring to get a Pike onto the front of their all-mountain/enduro rig. It was time to stop the rot!

The vehicle FOX chose to launch their counter attack is the venerable 36 series. While there were other long-travel, single-crown forks before the 36 was released almost 10 years ago, it was this massive 36mm-legged beast from FOX that showed what was truly possible. For years, the 36 series set the standard of performance, stiffness, tuneability and versatility, and the fork’s status became legendary and legions of hardcore riders still regarded it as the leading single-crown fork… until the Pike arrived.

It’s no surprise that FOX want to reclaim their crown, and after a few weeks of riding the 2015 36 RC2, we think the King of All-Mountain might be back to regain his throne. Read our first impression of the FOX 36 here. 


FOX have thrown a lot of firepower at the 2015 36, and it really is an entirely new fork. Or we should say forks, plural, because there are variants galore, in 26, 27.5 or 29” wheel sizes, with Float or TALAS (travel adjustable) options, and travel from 140-170mm. Our test fork is a 160mm-travel Float RC2.

Fox 36 Float RC2 12
The new crown is slimmer, for a shorter axle-to-crown length, but has more overlap with the stanchions. FOX claim that creaking crowns are a thing of the past.

An obvious standout is the huge reduction in weight; the 36 Float now weighs about the same as the FOX 34 series (2.04kg for our fork) fork and is within 200g of an equivalent Pike. Not only is it lighter, but it’s also lower, with a the new crown assembly offering a shorter crown-to-axle length, so you can run a longer travel fork, without bumping up the ride height.

Other immediately noticeable differences include the absence of FOX’s CTD damper system, with an RC2 damper taking its place. This is a very good call. The CTD damper has never really found favour with the more high-performance end of the all-mountain market, where many riders come from a downhill background. It was felt that the CTD system lacked damping subtlety and control, and FOX have never managed to shake the stigma of their 2013 forks which were noticeably under-damped for hard impacts, forcing many riders to run their fork in the ‘Climb’ setting on descents in order to prevent the fork from diving. The new RC2 damper has external control of both high and low-speed compression, via big blue knobs, identical to the setup on the FOX 40 downhill fork.

Fox 36 Float RC2 9
The RC2 damper has independent high and low-speed compressions adjustment and offers greatly superior, incremental control when compared to a CTD damper.

There’s no quick-release axle system, instead FOX have gone for maximum stiffness, with a dedicated bolt-up axle system that uses a 5mm Allen key to lock your wheel in tight. Again, this is a wise call we feel – the stiffness of the 36 was one aspect that made this fork legendary, and it makes sense to reinforce this advantage. Ok, taking your wheel out is a pain, but it’s a trade-off that we can live with. The axle system can cleverly take 15mm or 20mm hubs too, with reducers to accommodate either setup.

Fox 36 Float RC2 10
No quick releases here. The 36’s axle is a true bolt-up system, just like on the FOX 40 downhill fork. Note the protective cover for the rebound knob too.

Less obvious changes are highlighted by an all-new air spring assembly, and FOX has ditched the steel negative spring of earlier forks, using a self-equalising air spring for the negative chamber. This change plays a key role in reducing the fork’s weight, as well as improving the fork’s performance, especially for riders at either end of the rider weight spectrum.

Fox 36 Float RC2 2
Glamorous in gold. The Kashima treated stanchions are part of the battle against friction.

Reducing friction was seen as a key battleground, and FOX have gone all-out to make the 36 as slippery as possible. Externally, the Kashima coated legs are now polished using a different process that apparently traps more oil particles in microscopic pores in the aluminium. Internally, two completely different styles of oil are now used for lubrication and damping purposes; the new Gold Oil fluid used for lubricating the lower legs/sliders is claimed to be more slippery than a jail house soap bar. A new seal head on the damper cartridge with reduced friction completes the package.

But how does it bloody well ride? We fitted our 36 Float to our Norco Range C7.2 long-term test bike, where it replaced a Pike RC. We were tempted to run the FOX at 170mm, but for the sake of a direct comparison with the Pike, we went for 160mm instead.

Norco Range 7.1 First Bite-1
Our Norco Range C7.2 long-term test bike, in its original format with a RockShox Pike.

Getting the fork setup for our weight was aided by FOX’s new recommended pressure guides, which are found on their website. You simply punch in the four digit code that’s marked on the fork, and the site will bring up the manuals, setup guide and such for your exact fork. For our 62kg test rider, the site recommended 58psi, and the sag and spring curve this pressure delivered felt 100% spot-on! If you did want to change the fork’s feel, FOX now gives you the option of fitting air volume reducers (just like you can do with their rear shocks, a similar system to the RockShox Bottomless Tokens). We followed FOX’s recommended mid-range settings for the high/low-speed compression too, and got down to it.

The notion of a bed-in period seems to be non-existent with the new 36; the almost complete absence of friction that this fork exhibits from the very outset is just amazing. From the first 100 metres of our very first ride, you could have sworn this fork already had 10 hours of riding on it, so good is the small bump response. It’s so supple, the displaced air from a passing magpie could make it move. This fork is as close to frictionless as we’ve ever felt in a single-crown fork, and because the chassis is so stiff, there’s never any hint of binding or increased friction when you start asking the tough questions.

Fox 36 Float RC2 7
The 36 won’t accept a 160mm front rotor – it’s a 180mm direct mount.

It didn’t take long to appreciate the benefits of a true low-speed compression damping system, rather than the CTD damper, either. Whereas the CTD system feels like a trade-off between bump response and support, a few clicks of low-speed compression made a huge difference, keeping the 36 supported under brakes, without losing any of its ridiculous bump response.

But it’s when things are really rough and rowdy that the 36 does its best work. Occasionally you ride a product that completely changes the way you see or ride a trail, and the 36 is one such product. It gave us a feeling that we’d normally only associate with a very well setup downhill bike; a sensation of having more time to react, as if the trail was coming at you 20% slower, when you’re actually riding faster than ever before. The feeling was that our front tyre was glued to the ground, affording us more braking traction and cornering bite, and the roughness of the terrain just did not translate to the bars, leaving us more relaxed and feeling more fluid on the bike.

Fox 36 Float RC2 3
Can you see the dropout reducers? Remove these guys and you can run the 36 with a 20mm front hub.

On our Norco, already a super stiff bike, the addition of the 36 just took it to the next level. Line choice became as irrelevant as an election promise. This fork simply does not flinch! That feeling of spiking, or twanging or imprecision… all gone. Basically, if you have the guts and the strength (or the cleat tension) to just run into something, the 36 will encourage you to do it. It’s like there’s a group of teenagers sitting by the side of the trail, heckling you until you try something really stupid.

So, is the 36 a better fork than the Pike? For general trail riding, the Pike has the edge with both weight and it’s more user-friendly in terms of damping controls, plus it has the Maxle quick-release system. But if the focus is on the descents, then we’d have to say that we’re in awe of the FOX 36, and we think it’s the new leader in this arena. The stiffness, the completely amazing smoothness, the way it gobbles up hits from the smallest pebble to the nastiest ledge drop – all these things and more make us very fond of the new 36. Welcome back, FOX.

Fox 36 Float RC2 13

 

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Polygon Collosus N9

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

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

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

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

Tested: Polygon Collosus DHX 

Tested: Polygon Recon 4 

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

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

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

Polygon Collosus 25

 

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

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

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

Whoa swoopy!
Whoa swoopy!

Polygon Collosus 8

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

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

 

Flow’s First Bite: GT Helion Carbon Pro

GT fans out there with a penchant for cross country trails now can have access to a short travel bike with the trick new suspension design that has been receiving praise all over our singletrack riddled planet.

**UPDATED – read our final review here.

We have reviewed the 150mm travel GT Force X and the ‘in the middle’ 130mm GT Sensor, now the stout 110mm travel GT Helion will be put through the Flow wringer.

GT Force X review: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-gt-force-x-expert-carbon/

GT Sensor Review: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-gt-sensor-carbon-team/

Using GT’s fairly new AOS suspension design (Angle Optimised Suspension) with its super high main pivot and independent bottom bracket linkage, the Helion aims to hold momentum as the rear wheel encounters impacts on the trail. Watch the video below for a clearer understanding of the theory.

GT Helion 1

 

 

When unwrapping the Helion from its packaging we were quite surprised how beefy the carbon tubing is, it’s a fatter than a goanna hanging around a public BBQ area. Especially out the back, the large chunks of carbon give us real confidence that although the Helion is a short travel dually, it’s not going to be afraid of going hard on the trails. Front to back, this thing is about as carbon as it gets.

The dead straight top tube and chain stay give the Helion a sharp and precise look, where some bike are curvy and twisted, this bike is sharp and square.

We also love the way the shock sits so low and centred in the frame. In fact, if you take a look at the designs of rear suspension bikes over the last 10 years, you’ll see a real trend of rear shocks getting lower and lower in the bike’s architecture. The benefits of keeping any weighty sections of the frame like suspension linkages and shocks down low does wonders for your centre of gravity when riding, the GT’s must be one of the lowest and centred out there.

At 11.6kg the Helion is pretty spot on, and the dollar figure is also quite fair for what you get in the way of parts. A set of the powerful and reliable Shimano XT brakes plus an XT shifter and derailleur combo means you’ll be shifting gears for a very long time.

GT Helion 21

In true GT fashion, there are some interesting parts from the lesser-known brands on this Helion. RaceFace take care of the cockpit with a flat and wide bar, and a sleek CNCd stem and seat post. The RaceFace cranks aren’t something we see too often, but most interestingly it’s fitted with their ‘narrow wide’ chainring that aims to achieve what SRAM’s X-Sync rings do – ultimate chain retention with just one ring. An e*thirteeen chain guide is fitted for absolute security, but we’re sure that it can run without for that super trendy, clean and quite look.

Single ring drivetrains and Shimano don’t normally mix as a Shimano cassette with an 11-36t range doesn’t give you much when the trails turn steep. So GT have hacked it for you, with a big 42 tooth e*thirteen sprocket fitted to the cassette out back, to give you one more gear in the lower range. It’s cool to see a major brand like GT speccing bikes this way, with real foresight into how many people upgrade their rides over time, just like they’ve done here as per original catalogue spec.

A 32 tooth ring up front keeps the gear range low-ish and we like that. Gearing low is always there smarter option, as you will remember the climbs where you run out of gears more that that rare moment when you’re spinning out down a fire trail or on the road.

GT Helion 33
The black e*thirteen sprocket gives a Shimano 10 speed cassette a super low gear. The 17 tooth sprocket in the middle of the stack is removed, and the e*thirteen one takes up the space at the low end.
GT Helion 13
Hacked for you. How many clever Shimano riders out there have an aftermarket single chain ring fitted like this one?

No dropper posts on this GT, but for a 110mm bike, that’s not such an unusual sight. Its low weight, and minimal travel suggests it’s aimed for the marathon races, or buff singletracks out there. Both the fork and shock have remote lockout controls, with one lever locking both ends out with one thumb actuation. Love them or hate them, remote lockouts when used to their potential can seriously add some pace to your ride. With the ability to quickly stiffen your suspension for sprint efforts, climbs or tarmac sections with one swift motion of your left thumb. Perhaps the fact that it’s a long way down to the rear shock, a shock-mounted lockout lever would be a bit of a stretch to reach on the fly.

Numbers wise, a 69.5 degree head angle means business at the shaper end of the scale, an our medium size frame has a 606mm top tube and a 438mm chain stay, so we’re expecting this long trucker to set singletrack climbs on fire and munch down the miles on long rides.

No front derialleur neatens thing, but does the remote lockout undo that?
No front derailleur neatens things, but does the remote lockout undo that?
GT Helion 17
It’s a great looking bike, but won’t be clean for very long.

It’s off to the trails for us with the ‘marathon meets macho’ Helion. Lets see how it fares with its unique mixture of marathon race inspired geometry and its slightly aggressive component choices. It’s bigger brothers, the GT Sensor and GT Force X were firm and efficient rides that were never afraid of taking a hard hit, so let’s see how this 110mm fella handles the trails.

Read full review here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/trail-testing-a-rocket-the-gt-helion-carbon-pro/

Tested: Merida One Twenty 7.900

Merida’s new trail bike, the One Twenty picks up some considerable revisions for 2015. This honest, no-frills ride skips all the mumbo jumbo marketing spiels, and delivers a fun and efficient ride, and for a very fair price.

This shiny blue Merida was our companion for a couple solid rides on the absolutely incredible trails of Alice Springs where the terrain around town is brimming with fun, scenic and challenging singletrack. Riding out in the red centre of our big continent is harsh on body and equipment, so if your bike is not up to the task you’ll know about it. Suffice to say, the Merida came out the other side with two big thumbs up.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 25
An honest and reliable trail bike, ready for anything.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Yep, as the name clearly suggests the One Twenty has 120mm of bounce out back, with a 130mm FOX fork leading the way up front. The number 7 denotes the 27.5″/650B wheel size, and this is all an attempt to simplify the names of the Merida models for 2015.

The aluminium welders had a field day with this one, there is plenty of neatly finished joints and shapes adorning the all-alloy frame, so there is no doubt the fans of the material or carbon skeptics will find their happy place with this one. New for 2015 is a completely re-designed rear suspension system. The big visible difference to its predecessor is the way the lower shock mount is of the same section of the frame as the chain stays, so when the rear shock compresses the whole shock shifts downwards. This is said to aid the process of tracking the desired suspension curve, for a supple but supportive ride.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 1

Merida One Twenty 7.900 18
The shock floats up and down as is compresses.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 27

A Shimano quick release rear axle holds the rear wheel in very nicely, and mirrors the fork’s super easy quick release axle system. When we see so many different axle systems on bikes these days, especially at the rear wheel, it’s nice to  find one that not only matches the quick release axles both front and rear, it’s also the easiest to use making wheel removal quick and painless.

The paintwork may be a little bit 90s with its sparkling dark blue, and the Merida decals not really attract many oohs and aahhs, but it’s clean and we like the way there isn’t 100 acronyms or fancy engineering names painted all over it.

 

Merida One Twenty 7.900 11
Sweeeeet.

With a refreshing lack of marketing gadgets and acronyms the Merida seems to skirt around the pressure to dazzle potential purchasers, instead they offer a bike with no proprietary suspension parts or specific components. Whether or not this was going to be a good or bad thing, we were to find out when the ride time came.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Merida took most of the Shimano XT on offer here, with a full kit of Shimano’s workhorse component group fitted to the One Twenty 7.900. We all know how much the mountain bike world loves a pair of Shimano XT brakes, more reliable than a Toyota Corolla and in this case with 180mm rotors, more powerful than a Toyota Hilux. Shifting is Shimano XT, too with a double chainring setup delivering 20 gear options in a huge range, wider than a 1×11 setup.

FSA handle the cockpit with a nicely finished handlebar in good width and a short stem for zippy handling. We were delighted to see the RockShox Reverb Stealth post fitted to a bike of this value, and the internally routed line for the seat post helps to reduce the already very cluttered bike. Mind you, our seat post wasn’t 100% bled properly, and whenever there is hydraulics involved, a quick fix is simply not that quick so we had to put up with a spongy feeling seat post during our testing period. We lamented the simplicity of a cable actuated seat post in Alice Springs.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 20
A RockShox Reverb push button lever controls the seat post, and the Shimano XT brake and shifter are integrated into one clamp on the bar.
Merida One Twenty 7.900 13
It may not a trendy single ring setup, rather a sensible and useable range that won’t leave you without enough gears in any situation.

FOX handle the suspension, front and back with both the fork and shock controlled remotely with one thumb lever. This will most certainly appeal to the rider who locks out their suspension a lot during climbs or on tarmac jaunts, but on the flip side it makes for a mighty busy bunch of cables up at the handlebars. With a bit of time and attention, you could certainly minimise the cable mess by trimming any excess length of cable down.

The stock wheels aren’t going to float if you drop them in the dam, they’re pretty weighty, but super tough and suit this bike’s sting vibe. There’s always going to be room for upgrades to a $4k bike, and perhaps a lighter set of wheels would be a good item for the Christmas gift list.

The real highlight of the One Twenty’s spec is the high level of gear you get for the bucks. The value in this one is high, and in true Merida style.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

It’s a calm and comfortable ride, with a nice and stretched out top tube to open up your position on the bike. With a fairly upright geometry you sit up and over the centre of the bike, creating a suitable body position for climbing and flowing through the singletrack. We quickly became comfortable on the Merida. After spending the days prior to testing on the Trek Fuel EX, the Merida felt a little firmer in the suspension tune and sharper/upright in it’s seating position.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 3
The Merida was a calm ride, settling into long open turns with a relaxed feeling.
Merida One Twenty 7.900 2
Running high tyre pressures to avoid pinch flats wasn’t ideal, so a proper tubeless conversion would be our first change.

We dropped the stem down as low as it could go on the fork steerer tube, but with the headset’s big cone shaped upper spacer, we couldn’t go as low as we would have liked to suit our aggressive riding style, but that’s an easy one to remedy with a raiding of a bike shop workshop parts box.

For a 120mm bike, the suspension felt super controlled and smooth with a firm feel that resisted wallowing and unwanted pedal bobbing. With a quick flick of the lever by your right thumb the FOX CTD (climb, trail and descend modes) fork and shock switches to Trail Mode, which is like a ‘half lock’, good for climbing or smoother trails. One more click to Climb Mode and both ends lock out almost like a rigid bike.

When the trails got faster and wilder we found the limits of the tyres, the tread pattern and compound were fine, it was because we couldn’t run low enough pressures at risk of a pinch flat on the super rocky trails of Alice Springs. If tubeless is not imperative to you, the tyres will be totally fine but we always strongly recommend a tubeless setup on any mountain bike.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 4
The 27.5″ wheels roll with a calm and confident manner.

Merida have matched the geometry to the suspension travel amount perfectly, when bigger travel bikes tend to be slacker and aimed at handling steeper terrain, and shorter travel bikes are for the cross country race track, this 120/130mm travel bike is all about just getting out on the trails and enjoying them in comfort and control.

The big range of gearing served up by the double chainring was a highlight, especially after riding a lot of bikes with SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain. This will appeal to the rider without years of riding in their legs, or steep climbs at their door. We found ourselves using gears in both the high and low range often, and after a few hours in the saddle those lower gears were a bloody blessing.

Merida One Twenty 7.900 1
Simple, solid and reliable.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

It’s not an overly flashy ride, with loads of over the top fancy talk, this Merida gets the job done in a calm and honest manner and we respect that. We flowed through the trails in Alice for hours on the One Twenty comfortably and carried great momentum up and down the steeper sections easily. We would have preferred to do away with the remote lockouts in favour of a less cluttered cockpit, but otherwise this well-handling bike is specced in a way that will have it last for years without any fuss or bother.

It’s pretty impressive how much you get for your dollars these days with an aluminium dual suspension bike from one of the biggest brands in the business, don’t look past this one as a genuine trail bike for summer and beyond.

Flow’s First Bite: FOX 36 Float 2015

The FOX 36 was the original high-performance, long-travel single crown fork. When FOX first brought this beast to market in 2005 its 36mm-legged chassis seemed absurdly chunky, like some kind of cartoon drawing of a fork. But the 36 weighed far less than its looks would indicate, and it soon became the gold standard for hardcore all-mountain riding.

Fox 36 First Bite-7

Since then, this segment of mountain biking has blown up like a gouty toe, and performance of long-travel single crown forks has increased at a ridiculous rate; lighter, stiffer, more control on both the climbs and descents. Rockshox launched a huge salvo in the war for all-mountain dominance in 2013 with the Pike (which we’ve reviewed here), right at the same time as FOX were copping a bit of a battering as some riders found their forks under-damped and occasionally suffering from stiction issues.

But FOX have rallied the troops and resurrected that original no-holds-barred ethos of the 36 for 2015. While we haven’t got our new test fork onto the trails yet, at a glance, we’d have to say the results of their efforts are pretty damn impressive.

Fox 36 First Bite-5
The 36 uses an RC2 damper, not a CTD. While the CTD is a great system for trail riding, FOX recognise that 36 riders are after a more sophisticated level of damping control, so the RC2 offers independent high/low-speed compression adjustment.

The new 36 really is new, there’s an awful lot to talk about with this fork, so we’ll save the full discussion of all the features for our final verdict. But what stands out to us is how far FOX have gone in their efforts to combat friction with the 36 – each and every 36 that rolls off the production line is fitted to a dyno that checks the fork for bushing friction. The fork also runs the new FOX Gold Oil lubricating fluid, which is claimed to reduce friction by 33%, and the damper seal head is now a very expensive, very slippery SKF number. The polishing process for the legs has been changed too.

Fox 36 First Bite-3
It’s possible to run the 36 with either a 15 or 20mm axle. Remove the silver inserts, fit the supplied 20mm axle and you’re ready to roll with even more stiffness.

The weight of this fork is another highlight, FOX have scraped every excess gram out of the lowers and our test fork weighs in at 2044g. Part of the weight saving comes from a new air spring assembly; rather than running a coil for the negative spring, the 36 uses a negative air spring which automatically equalises with the positive chamber. This arrangement should not only be lighter, but should deliver the best possible ride quality, no matter what the rider weight (unlike the coil spring, which was optimised for a 75kg rider).

Fox 36 First Bite-4
Further adding to the fork’s tunability are these air-spring spacers. Much like the Rockshox Bottomless Token system, adding spacers will increase how progressive the spring curve is.

The 36 is available in a pretty impressive range of configurations, with options for 26, 27.5 and 29″ wheels, travel adjustable TALAS formats, and in 160mm or 170mm versions. Worth noting too, is that travel can be internally adjusted with the Float versions of the fork, right down to 11omm. Interestingly, the 36 can be run with either a 15mm or 20mm axle – that’s a unique option we didn’t expect. Next up, we’ll be fitting this fork to our new Norco Range Carbon 7.2 long-term test bike. It’ll be replacing a Rockshox Pike, so making a head to head comparison of the performance should be easy.

Fox 36 First Bite-8

 

FOX to Release Limited Edition Stealth Forks

Standard FOX forks ain’t bad ass enough for you? Spent way too much money on black colour-matching your bike to ruin the look with brightly coloured decals? Are you Batman?

Then FOX has the forks for you!

Fox will be releasing a limited run of Stealth Factory Float forks for 2015. With black decals, black adjuster knobs and a black heart of coal, these forks are available in three models:

  •     32 FLOAT 29 100 FIT CTD w/Trail Adjust
  •     34 FLOAT 27.5 160 FIT CTD w/Trail Adjust
  •    40 FLOAT 26 203 FIT RC2

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Video: Lars Sternberg gets his braaaap on!

This is a vid for any of you out there who’ve made motorbike noises while you’re on the trails! Lars Sternberg rips apart some slippery, rooty, loamy wündertrails with his new FOX 36 leading the way.

We’re not sure where these trails are (maybe Washington state?) but, man, get us there. They remind us a lot of the trails in this vid with Luke Strobel too.

Tested: Giant Women’s Lust 27.5 2

Liv/Giant are clearly committed to women’s bike design and innovation. In 2014 they were the only brand to manufacture a comprehensive range of alloy and carbon bikes exclusively built around the 27.5” or 650B wheel size.

In 2015 we’ll see these products launched under the name Liv (without the Giant). This designates a confident and purposeful step toward a section of the market that’s thankfully getting the attention it deserves.

The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.
The comfort and capabilities of this bike give riders the confidence to build up to tackling new things.

The Giant Lust 27.5 2 is the latest in a growing number of women’s bike tests at Flow. With a minimal 100mm of front and rear suspension, it’s the obvious choice in the Liv/Giant range for women looking at making a serious jump into the world of mountain biking. It’s also an interesting opportunity to reflect on whether the Liv brand is heading in the right direction for the varying needs of female riders.

Test Giant Lust 36
Some riders will prefer the stability offered by larger wheels, or the different sizing and spec of bikes designed around them.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Our alloy test Lust features the same XC race geometry as the carbon Lust Advanced 27.5 0, but in a package that is $2,500 rather than $7K; a difference of quite a few dollars per gram, a ticket to Europe or a new Ikea kitchen (OK, maybe not the whole kitchen).

In comparison to the men’s counterpart, the Giant Anthem 27.5, the Lust geo has a few key changes to fem it up. These include a tighter wheelbase, lower standover, slightly shorter reach, and a taller head tube (the bit at the front of the bikes that the forks run through).

Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.
Most women will feel pretty comfortable and at one with this bike straight away, or with a lot less part swapping and set up issues than custom fitting an Anthem.

The idea behind these changes is that they reflect a generally shorter torso length in women, and add agility and confidence in smaller frame sizes. The Lust is only available in sizes XS-M. Giant have found a way to incorporate these features around their well-loved Maestro suspension and maintained enough clearance for a full size water bottle. Functionality through and through.

The ALUXX SL alloy frame uses the same ‘OverDrive 2’ head tube technology as Giant’s racier bikes. We can’t say we noticed the claimed extra stiffness or steering precision in a bike of this spec. What we did notice was that OverDrive2 system requires a stem with a different diameter to other popular bikes on the market. This means owners are more or less locked in to using Giant’s own stems.

We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.
We swapped the original 80mm stem for a 90mm one, which allowed us to get our weight further forward and improved handling in relation to our body shape.

While we appreciate that the Lust frame has a taller head tube to suit a broad number of women riders, we would have liked to be able to purchase a stem with a steeper angle to let longer torso-ed or racier minded users lower the height of the front end. Unfortunately Giant Australia don’t currently stock this. This forces local customers off-shore and into best guess set up scenarios, hopefully something that will change in the near future.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders.

Riders we met during the test period were consistently quick to comment on the value for money the playful looking Lust 2 offers in terms of the spec. It’s basically a no nonsense build drawing on technology that top level racers were peeing themselves to use about five years ago, assembled around the latest craze in wheel size. Wherever you stand in the wheel size debate it’s not hard to appreciate the benefits of 27.5 for smaller riders. They offer some of the extra rolling ability of 29” hoops, without the so-called disadvantages in cornering and acceleration. More than that, they allow for XS-M frame designs that promote a very nimble and responsive ride feel.

The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.
The 27.5 wheels make the bike sit higher off the ground than your standard 26er. A lower standover makes it easier to swing your leg over the frame to get started too.

At 13kgs this model isn’t particularly light and there’s obviously some weight that could be quickly shed by swapping out the Giant branded wheelset. But unlike a 29er at a similar price point, riders will be far less conscious of this weight slowing them down.

The Shimano and SRAM componentry are the other big brand names that turn heads on this blue and purple plaything. The 22×36 SRAM crankset offers slightly easier gearing than the 24×38 tooth chainrings you’ll see on the Anthem 27.2 2. The Shimano Deore Shadow Plus rear derailleur keeps everything quiet and secure at the rear. We never dropped a chain, nor did we wish for gears (or legs) we didn’t have.

Test Giant Lust 28
The Shimano brakes can be adjusted with a small allen key to fit small hands. Winner!

Test Giant Lust 12

Test Giant Lust 17

The Shimano brakes are in the identified-by-numerals-rather-than-words end of the range. We were surprised to discover that they weren’t very bitey when called into action. The positive side of this is that the brakes won’t grab too hard or fast, which can be irritating or disconcerting for developing riders. The negative is that once we got the bike up to speed we had to compensate for a lack of braking power by quickly exaggerating our body position to stop the bike shooting off into the bushes. This improved our riding dramatically, but if we were to buy this bike and ride it in this way regularly, we’d absolutely upgrade the brakes for increased control.

 Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.
Probably the best ‘stock’ grips we’ve used.

Other contact points were taken care of nicely. The 690mm bars and the 170mm crank length were spot on. The Giant women’s saddle was a good shape, although the soft parts were a bit too soft, making the structural parts feel a little hard.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be

Whether you’re carefully thinking about buying your first serious mountain bike, or a hardened dirt shredder curious about the latest technology and a shiny new ride, the first thing that stands out about this Lust is how comfortable and agile it feels. It blew us away at what can be achieved at this price point. Satisfaction is even higher in this regard due to an out-of-the-box build that is so spot on we hardly changed a thing.

Smooth trails, endless fun.
Smooth trails, endless fun.

The 27.5” wheels make the Lust so playful and responsive that we quickly zoned in on the trails and completely lost track of time, the way all good rides should be. In comparison to bigger wheels we never had that feeling of being on board too much bike or having to think too hard about cornering position.

The rear suspension makes this bike almost limitless in it’s appeal too. It’s comfortable, capable and adds versatility to the types of trails, events and experiences it’s owner could consider.

We found ourselves throwing the Lust at everything from lumpy rock gardens in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to all-day rides linking together the best bits of Canberra’s Centenary Trail as we made our way from one trail network (and coffee shop detour) to the next.

Test Giant Lust 46
Quick, agile and easy to move around on.
Test Giant Lust 47
The Lust felt most stable with our weight forward over the front wheel.

With it’s XC race geometry the Lust feels most stable with an aggressive riding position: elbows out and weight over the front wheel. As new riders pick up their confidence on the trails it will reward them instantly. It provides an addictive feeling of playfulness and is incredibly capable at speed. This made us want to climb every climb just to experience it again on some well-loved descents. On technical climbs we found it quite hard to keep the front wheel tracking where we wanted it too. We imagine this is partly due to pushing the extra weight of this model up the hill, and also to do with not setting the front end up in a way that suited our personal preference and riding style.

We spoke to a couple of riders who had ridden the Lust 2 as well as the carbon Lust Advanced 0 team race bike. They confirmed that the carbon model, despite sharing the same geometry, feels more balanced and is much easier to climb on. The flipside of buying a bike at a cheaper price point is it does show you why some riders won’t question paying extra to build on the great things a such bike allows.

Test Giant Lust 50

Given the absence of a better specced alloy Lust in the range the $3499 Lust Advanced 27.5 2, featuring a carbon frame, much better brakes and more manoeuvrable weight, is arguably better value that upgrading the alloy model one part at a time. It will be far more nimble on climbs and allow its pilot to push it harder on the descents. If you’re more interested in building your skills and discovering the trails, we’d recommend leaving this one largely unchanged. Ride it, crash it, replace the odd part that isn’t going to break the bank, have a blast, have a holiday and push your skills on more trails still.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

 The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change

Liv/Giant’s range goes far beyond chick specific gimmicks and covers the bases for a variety of rider types. The biggest confidence vote the Lust 27.5 2 provides in this respect is that there’s not much we’d want to change to make this bike feel ‘more right’, provided an agile XC ride feel is what you’re after. Those wanting the extra stability of a trail bike might want to cross their fingers and hope that 2015 sees the Intrigue hit our shores (this one is more like the 5” travel Trance).

For someone thinking of giving mountain biking a crack, or simply choosing between a hardtail and a dually, the biggest benefit of the Lust is that it provides its owner with endless options. It forces her to develop a good riding position, rewards a thirst to explore and try new things and it doesn’t need a super human knowledge of bike components to make it fit and perform the way it should. Most of all, it is such a pleasure to ride it will make her feel fit, skilful and strong as a by-product of having a great time outside.

Test Giant Lust 2

[tabgroup][tab title=”Rider Details” ]Kath Bicknell, 164cm, 56kg[/tab][tab title=”Changes Made” ]Tubeless conversion, Longer 90mm stem[/tab][/tabgroup]

Trek’s new Fuel 27.5 with Re:aktiv shock technology

YES! This is the bike we’d be hoping that Trek would release and right on time they’ve answered our prayers. Yesterday, Trek revealed that they would be adding another suite of 27.5-wheeled bikes to their range, with the trail-ripping Fuel series now available in mid-sized hoops. Flow followers may remember that we reviewed the Fuel EX 29 about 12 months ago; it was a weapon of a bike, but big wheels aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and we’re happy to see a more playful version of this bike back in the stable.

You can read and watch our full reviews of the Trek Fuel EX 26 and Fuel EX 29 here

The 120mm-travel Fuel 27.5 continues to be constructed around the same frame architecture as we’ve seen over the past few years from Trek, and they’ve gone all-in with a complete line of bikes, including three aluminium framed bikes and two carbon models. The range-topping 9.9 is not shown here, but will feature a Shimano XTR 1×11 drivetrain.

Fuel_EX_7_27_5
Fuel EX 27.5 7 – $2799
Fuel_EX_8_27_5
Fuel EX 27.5 8 – $3199
Fuel_EX_9_27_5
Fuel EX 27.5 9 – $4499
Fuel_EX_9_8_27_5_angle
The Fuel EX 27.5 9.8 #want – pricing TBC

 

Frame geometry for all models is listed below:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 7.51.22 am

But it’s not just the introduction of a new wheel size for the Fuel – Trek, already a leading innovator when it comes to mountain bike shock and suspension technologies, have partnered up with high-end automotive suspension company Penske Racing Shocks and FOX, to develop an all new damper. Called the Re:aktiv damper, it’s all about delivering better pedalling/climbing efficiency with a more seamless transition to bump absorption than other systems have been able to achieve.

In Trek’s own words: “Regressive damping had been utilized in Formula One racing and then moved over to Indy Car and NASCAR with much success. It provides a much firmer hold in straights and corners for incredible support, but when it hits a sudden obstacle, like the square angles encountered on technical trails, the shock’s hold instantly gives way to a plush, controlled progression. In short, the shock was smart enough to get out of its own way… fast. The result of the mountain bike application of this concept is RE:aktiv, which delivers on the unrealized potential of an inertia valve. And to date, regressive damping had never been used in mountain biking.”

“The unique thing about Penske and Trek is that we’ve really only scratched the surface,” said Penske Racing Shocks Director of Research and Development Bill Gartner. “Regressive technology helped with one compromise that was there in mountain biking but there’s a whole other world of technologies that may apply. Not only from Formula One but all the markets we work with.”

We’re very excited about this bike’s imminent arrival. As soon as they land in the country, you can bet a kidney on the fact we’ll have one in our grubby mitts to review!

 

Tested: Giant Glory 1

In 2011 Danny Hart won the UCI World Championships on the Giant Glory. However, at that time he was on a bike that was a little different from what us consumers could buy off the shop floor. “World Cup” angles, changed geometry and a slimmer weight was what Danny needed to get on the podium.

Lucky for us soon after Danny’s rainbow striped win Giant released the same bike to the world and the 2014 Glory’s have continued with that same winning formula. A slacker head angle, longer wheel base, lower bottom bracket, and lighter bike all add up to a package that’s world cup race ready.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-3

We took the Glory 1 to Thredbo for some testing to see if we could channel Danny Hart a little, and ride like a World Champion.

Build.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-4

The Glory 1 is based on the same Maestro suspension platform you’ll find on the entire Giant range however this beast gets 203mm/8″ of travel. This suspension design has been proven on their entire range and its liner spring curve means a nice even stroke. Maestro utilizes four pivot points and two linkages (upper and lower) that all work to create a single floating pivot point.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-2-2
The business end of the rear end. The Maestro suspension design has been with Giant since 2006.

The Glory 1 frame is made from Giant’s ALUXX SL aluminium and is essentially the same frame as the top of the line model. Giant have an extensive line of carbon bikes now however at this stage they have chosen not to include it in their downhill offerings. On the graphics and look side, there’s no missing that the bike is either a Giant or Glory as the styling and colours really mean you wear your brand with some pride.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C_1
There’s no hiding what bike you’re riding.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph Giant have stuck with the same new angles as released after Danny Hart’s World Championship win. The head angle is 63.5°, seat angle 61.8°, bottom bracket height at around 330mm, chain stay length 444.5mm and overall wheelbase 1211.5mm (on the size Medium). If you look at the stats of the older Glory you will see the wheelbase has really been extended from the bottom bracket to the front wheel – the from-centre measurement. This lets the bike stay playful at the rear but adds stability to the front to the bike.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 3.19.39 pm
The Glory angles.

There is no adjustability with the frame however a shortish head tubes means you have some flexibility in the set-up and can change the head angle a little.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-7
You can play with the head angle slightly by raising and lowering the forks and a smaller head tube lets you have that little bit of room to move.

The cable routing is neat but we’re a little puzzled with running the cables on the underside of the downtube. As downhilling tends to be a little more extreme we’d be a little concerned about damage to cables, especially brake cables.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-3-2
One little sharp rock could mean no rear brake.

Spec.

Any Giant is always excellent value for money and their OEM sometimes leaves you wondering off which truck did they steal the components. At $4299 off the rack, the Glory 1 is kitted out with a full Shimano Zee group set, FOX suspension and DT Swiss wheels.

The Zee is the more affordable cousin to the Shimano Saint and the biggest noticeable difference is the more “plastically” looking rear mech. Performance wise the Zee group worked really well. It shifted well and chain bounce and security was great with a clutch derailleur matched with a MRP G3 chain device.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-5
Zee cranks and chainring matched with the MRP G3 chainguide were a perfect combo.
WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C4
Even though the Zee has a little more plastic that the Saint it still did the job of shifting and holding the gears more than adequately.

The Zee brakes share the same twin-piston design as their more expensive cousin – Saint – and over all the Zee’s still did a good job. Thredbo has always known to be brutal on brakes and it’s really only going to be the top-of-the-line models that can handle it best. That being said, the Zee’s still had power at the end of the run, it’s just that you needed to pull them just that little harder and at no time did we ever feel like we didn’t have enough to stop us. Our experience with the Shimano Saint maybe has made us a little lazy in the braking department.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-9
Large 200mm front and 180omm rear rotors add up to some good stopping power.
WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C5
The twin-piston Zee’s worked well and with just a little power issues at the end of a long Thredbo run. Reach adjustment was simple and easy too.

You’re also treated to FOX front and rear, with an Performance series 40R fork and RC2 shock. These items don’t offer the same adjustability as the more expensive Factory series fork and or RC4 shock, but that’s a tradeoff we’re certain many will be willing to make. We found it took a little while to get the suspension dialled and we felt the rear of the bike a little under-sprung for our 72Kg tester.  Once set-up though the bike handled really well and most noticeably in corners, jumping through rock gardens and hitting the big jumps. You have to appreciate that the price point of this bike means a little less adjustability and you really need a few extra fork and shock springs to swap around to get that perfect performance.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C_2
The DHX RC2 give you low speed compression and rebound adjustment. If you need anything more then we suggest you choose a different spring. Our test bike had a 400lb spring.
WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-3-3
Overall the performance of the rear shock was good however the last few mm’s of travel were a little hard.
WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C3
The FOX 40 R Performance fork has only the two adjustments, preload (basically compresses the spring) and rebound. We recommend you (or your bike shop) take out the spring, re-apply some kind of shrink-wrap and put a bunch of lube on it.

The wheels are a mix of Giant hubs, DT hubs, and DT rims. We noted no problems with rims and they stayed straight during our testing period. The Schwable Magic Mary tyres were great when you were able to get them to dig into the soil, really great actually, and especially after a little bit of rain and ensuing hero soil. However we think they’re probably a little less suited to really hard-packed terrain as the knobs won’t be able to dig in and you can feel them move under cornerning.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C6
Good strong rims from DT Swiss matched with DT Swiss (rear) and Giant (front) hubs.
WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-10
The Magic Mary’s were excellent tyres and gripped best when able to really dig into the soil. Here they are after one day of runs.

The cockpit is comfortably equipped with a 750mm Giant Contact bar, Giant grips and Truvativ stem. We would have like the bars to be a tad wider and sorry Giant, you have to get a better grip designer, we ditched ours straight away.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_C7
The cockpit was comfortable and so was the Fi’zi:k Tundra saddle (although you hardly used it on a downhill bike).

Ride.

The Giant Glory comes with proven World Cup pedigree and the ride felt like a winning Danny Hart run. Fast, a bit loose, and ready to jump all over the place.

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WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-2

The strength of the Giant is its ability to move around the trail quickly as you pop in and out of corners and across rock gardens with ease.  It’s more a bike that prefers to be gently lifted and placed on the trail rather than ploughed through the rough stuff. Think of it as doubling through a rough section more than pointing and hoping. The Glory also felt better when ridden more centred on the bike with your body weight pretty much over the bottom bracket.

If you’re lacking a little confidence in your jumping then the Glory may be the bike for you.  We found it super easy to jump and at times we found ourselves jumping a little too far.  The Glory even made the big double at Thredbo feel like a breeze.

When bottoming out the Glory does feel a little harsh right at the end of its travel and you will hear it screaming back at you with a bit of a “thud”. There was never an issue with performance it was a little harder than the rest of the stroke. We think our Glory was under-sprung for us as we pushed the bike to that point a bit too often. A few turns to pre-load the spring would help this but that’s reality never a recommended way to adjust the suspension. A new spring would be the answer.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-3

The only real negative was the rattling spring in the FOX fork. It’s a common fault with the  lower spec. FOX 40 as the plastic wrap on the spring works its way down the length of the spring, thus enabling the spring to rattle inside the fork under low speed compression. It’s an easy fix though and we recommend you ditch the standard wrap and add a full length one of your own.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1

Verdict.

The Giant Glory 1 is a great downhill race machine – straight out of the box.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better value bike that has been race proven at the world level. It’s best ridden with a lighter more playful style and if you channel Danny Hart before you begin your run it will actually let you pull an amazing whip. Just fix the forks and you have a bike that’s quietly ready for anything.

WEB_TEST_Giant_Glory_1-1-2

Testing Stats

Location: Thredbo, NSW.
Conditions: Dry to a little moist. Cool with a high around 18 degrees.
Tester Weight: 72kgs.
Tester Height: 172cm.
Bike Size Tested: Medium.
Changes made: Grips.
Issues during test: Fox 40 spring rattle.

Tested: FOX Float X CTD w/Trail Adjust

Gravity enduro is so hot right now. So hot. But when it comes to suspension, all that hotness is the enemy! Heat build-up decreases suspension performance, and that’s one of the biggest challenges facing suspension manufacturers today; how can suspension be kept light and efficient enough for the climbs but still deliver the control and consistency needed for serious gravity enduro use?

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The Float X is FOX’s answer to this question. We’ve now run the Float X CTD with Trail Adjust on two bikes (a Yeti SB66c and a Giant Trance Advanced SX), over the course of almost eight months, and we’re convinced it’s a winner.

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Our long term test bike – Giant Trance Advanced SX

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The Float X may have the same bones as the regular Float shock, but the large piggyback reservoir clearly marks it as a different beast. The larger oil volume the piggyback affords is key; more oil equates to less heat, better damping performance and more control over long descents. There are other obvious external differences too, with the CTD lever located on the side of the shock reservoir, and the rebound adjuster in-line with the damping shaft.

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While we’re on the topic of the rebound adjuster – what the hell? We don’t know whose fingers the rebound adjust dial is designed for, but it’s practically impossible to adjust without an Allen key or small stick (a bloody stick!). Thankfully rebound is largely a set-and-forget element once you’ve established your baseline settings/pressures, but this aspect was very annoying during the first half a dozen rides when we were still making tweaks to the suspension setup.

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Teeny fingers, a stick or an allen key is the only way you’ll adjust the red coloured rebound dial.

So does it all work as planned? Can I get a ‘hell yeah’? If you’re accustomed to the feel of a regular Fox Float shock, you’ll immediately appreciate the on-trail differences of the Float X. For lack of a better term, the Float X just feels ‘plusher’, much more like a coil shock than the standard Float. On our Giant test bike in particular, the bottomless feel had us re-checking our suspension sag, convinced that we must be running things too soft, but it wasn’t the case –  the shock is just superbly smooth throughout the whole stroke.

The buttery responsiveness of the shock on small and medium sized hits is amazing. In our experience, FOX still has the edge over Rockshox when it comes to pure smoothness and suppleness. Whether it’s a product of better sealing tolerances, the new five-piece shock hardware, shaft coatings or lubricants, we’re not sure – we just know that the Float X has better small bump response than any Monarch Plus shock we’ve ridden.

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FOX’s five piece hardware in the shock’s mounts are a vast improvements over the DU bushes we’ve known for many years, reducing friction allowing the shock to pivot slightly when motioning.

When we pushed hard, the Float X always had the answer, and longer runs we didn’t notice any spiking or inconsistency that we’d usually associate with an air shock being taken beyond its limits. For us, the ultimate vindication of the Float X as a serious piece of descending equipment came when Jared Graves raced on this very shock at the Pietermarizburg World Champs… and almost bloody won.

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The CTD system is effective and easy to operate. With the lever on the side of the shock, it’s very easy to access. The three positions are clearly defined, and the Trail mode is a great compromise for adding some welcomed efficiency to a longer-travel bike. We did find that the lever could get a little jammed up in very sandy or dusty conditions though, so cleaning and lubing around the lever junction isn’t a bad idea occasionally.

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Would we consider upgrading from a standard Float shock to the Float X? That’s a tough one. The performance benefits are there, and the weight difference is minimal, so it’s really a matter of justifying the spend. From our standpoint, we’d probably be more inclined to look for the Float X as desirable feature when considering a new bike purchase, rather than dole out the cash to upgrade an existing bike.

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We’ll be running this shock for another six or so months and we’ll update this review should anything new and noteworthy emerge, but for now we’re very impressed!

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

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

Specialized S-Works Camber-3

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

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

Specialized S-Works Camber-4

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

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

Tested: Yeti SB75

We seem to be testing a lot of 27.5″ bikes all of a sudden, across a whole range of riding styles too. It’s almost like the old days when one wheel size did it all.

Many people have been hanging out expectantly, waiting to see what Yeti would do with 27.5″ wheels after this core Colorado-based brand arguably came to the mid-wheel market a year late. Some were betting on 27.5″ version of the SB66, but instead Yeti unveiled two new 27.5″ machines. One was a remake of the classic 575 (which we hope to test soon), the other is the gorgeous yellow machine you see here; the SB75.

Yeti SB75 test -3

The build:

The SB75 fills a hole left in the Yeti lineup by the departure of the ASR-5, a bike that was lauded for its meshing of cross-country weights and all-mountain aggression. Given the resounding praise the SB66 and SB95 bikes have garnered, it’s no surprise that the SB75 follows a similar line of development, built around the Switch suspension system.

Yeti SB75 test -4
Yay for the Yeti Man! Note the fat welds and stout tube profiles.

The geometry underpinnings are similar too; short stays out back, a longer travel fork (in this instance 140mm, compared to 125mm rear travel), a slack head angle and low bottom bracket. It’s that iconic Yeti feel once again.

We’ve been riding the SB66 Carbon for some time now, and while the basic frame architecture of the SB75 is similar, the aesthetics of the frame are very different. With welds bigger than your fingernails and broad, flat-topped tube shapes, it looks and feels very robust, rather than slippery and sleek. Weight-wise, there’s a bit of muscle in there, with our medium sized bike edging up just over 13.4kg, so no featherweight.

Post mount rear brake tabs and a Shimano made 142mm rear axle.
Post mount rear brake tabs and a Shimano made 142mm rear axle.

The frame bristles with well considered features (aside from the constraints around fitting a water bottle). Highlights include a threaded bottom bracket – this system is still the best in our humble opinion – and a Shimano-made 142mm rear axle. The cable routing is neat too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area, and there are provisions to run either internal or external cables for a dropper seat post.

Yeti SB75 test -9
The internal seat post cable goes in here, or there are guides for an external cable too.

When it comes to sizing, we were caught out a little by the SB75. The size medium measures up more like a size large when compared to other Yetis. For our 170cm-tall test rider, a medium would normally be spot on, but a size small would’ve been more appropriate. We ended up swapping out the 90mm stem for a 70mm. We also ran the stem flipped too, as the medium frame has a quite a tall head tube. For a medium frame, the seat tube length is considerable, at 19.5 inches. Again, check the size before you buy, as the long seat tube has the potential to cause dramas should you wish to run a dropper seat post. (Some dropper posts are super long, and tall seat tubes can sometimes mean it’s hard to get the seat low enough when the post is at full extension).

Ostensibly a size medium, our test SB75 is pretty big.
Ostensibly a size medium, our test SB75 is pretty big.

We’ve dwelled on the Switch suspension system in previous reviews (see here, and here) so we won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say its pedalling performance is a real highlight, it handles big impacts like nobody’s business and it’s super durable too. We did let all the air out of the shock and compress the suspension to observe the Switch system in operation; on this particular bike, the eccentric pivot really does not rotate very much at all, just a few degrees. This is interesting to note, as the Switch system on the SB66 has noticeably more rotation.

A Kashima FOX Float CTD Trail Adjust shock is the damper of choice for the SB75 frameset.
A Kashima FOX Float CTD Trail Adjust shock is the damper of choice for the SB75 frameset.

The Bits:

There are numerous build kits available for the SB75, with SRAM and Shimano options. Our bike ran an XT kit, using a premium FOX 34 CTD (Trail Adjust) fork, with Kashima coated legs an 140mm travel – SRAM kits come with a Rockshox Revelation fork. No matter which kit you choose, the frame runs a superb FOX Float CTD shock.

The Easton wheels are great - stiff and tubeless ready - but we did notice a bit of play in the rear hub.
The Easton wheels are great – stiff and tubeless ready – but we did notice a bit of play in the rear hub.

Easton provide the carbon Haven bar (a narrowish 710mm wide – we wouldn’t mind a tad more width) and Vice XLT wheelset. We noticed the tinniest amount of play in the rear hub; it wasn’t overly noticeable on the trail but giving the rear wheel a wiggle you could feel it. The rims are tubeless ready, as are the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres and so we ran them sans tubes.

If you're running a fixed (as opposed to a dropper) post, Thomson is the way to go. It's pretty cool to see this item come stock on the SB75.
If you’re running a fixed (as opposed to a dropper) post, Thomson is the way to go. It’s pretty cool to see this item come stock on the SB75.

A Thomson stem and seat post add a glamorous touch; it almost seems a pity to remove a Thomson post to install a dropper, but that’s what we’d do given the option. Shimano’s XT brakes and drivetrain can’t be topped for sheer reliability, and the 2×10 gearing with a 24/38 crankset is a sensible option for most riders.

The Ride:

Our first ride on the SB75 left us feeling a bit like a passenger – as we mentioned earlier, the medium frame is actually pretty big – so we quickly went away and fitted a slightly shorter stem. Instantly we felt 100% better on the bike and we could get down to the serious business of riding the arse off this Yeti.

The Cane Creek headset has a bit of height to it, on top of an already tall head tube, so we flipped the stem. Normally the SB75 runs a Thomson stem too, but we needed something a tad shorter for our tad short test rider.
The Cane Creek headset has a bit of height to it, on top of an already tall head tube, so we flipped the stem. Normally the SB75 runs a Thomson stem too, but we needed something a tad shorter for our tad short test rider.

In terms of how we’d position the SB75’s performance on the trail, it slots in fairly close to the SB66 in many regards. 125mm of travel doesn’t sound like much when you position the 75 alongside the current ranks of all-mountain bikes, but thanks in part to the 140mm fork with its 34mm stanchions, the SB75 can hold its own when things get rough. The flat out descending performance is not in the same league as the SB66, but neither would you expect it to be, due to the steeper head angle and shorter wheelbase. That said, with some larger rubber on board we reckon the downhill performance gap between the 75 and 66 wouldn’t be much at all.

The Switch. Any doubts we had about the durability of this system when it was announced have long since been alleviated.
The Switch. Any doubts we had about the durability of this system when it was announced have long since been alleviated.

As we’ve noted in past tests, the Switch suspension found on the SB series bikes is best when ridden hard. As such, we set both the fork and shock to Trail mode most of the time, giving up a little small bump compliance in order to deliver a ride that skimmed over the terrain and saved its legs for the bigger hits. Despite the different travel lengths between the fork and rear suspension, getting a balanced feel was easy. The fork ramps up quite hard near the end of its stroke, so it never felt as if it was diving, and the rear end is so capable it genuinely feels like there’s more than 125mm on offer.

The FOX 34 series fork is a massive boon to this bike. The extra couple of hundred grams is well worth the point-and-shoot confidence.
The FOX 34 series fork is a massive boon to this bike. The point-and-shoot confidence is well worth the couple of hundred gram weight penalty.

A low bottom bracket height makes the 75 a lot of fun in the corners, but some care is needed on technical climbs. We tagged the chain rings a number of times when climbing up rock ledges. Overall, we’d gladly take the stability benefits of the low bottom bracket height any day, even if it means the odd pedal or chain ring scrape. Overall climbing performance is pretty good. It’s not a mountain goat, not at this weight, but there’s no pedal induced bobbing, and forward drive is excellent.

We primarily left the fork and shock in the Trail setting, for a firmer, faster ride.
We primarily left the fork and shock in the Trail setting, for a firmer, faster ride.

On the medium sized frame, the tallish head tube has both positives and negatives; you do have to work harder to ensure the front end keeps biting, but you’re also filled with confidence to drop into chutes and roll-ins that would be intimidating should the front end be much lower. In terms of the riding position, it reminded us bit of the 575 of previous years – ultra comfortable.

Do the bigger wheels make a difference? That’s a hard call to make. On fast, pedally, flat sections of fire road, the 75 certainly seems to roll nicely and carry momentum well. However, whether or not this is the product of the wheel size or just an indicator of great suspension is hard to say!

Overall:

If you were a fan of the ASR-5, you’re going to love the new SB75. It retains that same hard-charging trail bike vibe, but incorporates greatly improved suspension, faster rolling wheels and a stiffer frameset too. For us, the weight is a slight niggle, so we’re hanging out for the inevitable carbon version of this bike.

Yeti SB75 test -2

If we had to choose between an SB75 and an SB66 for our day to day riding, it would be a very tough call to make. They’re both great bikes, with the 75 maintaining a slight edge in the versatility stakes, largely because its slightly steeper angles make it less of a handful on flatter trails. And then there’s the new 575 to consider too… We’ll have to give it a try too and pick our favourite.

 Test rider:
Chris Southwood. Height: 170cm. Weight: 63kg

FOX Recalls Selected 2013 Model 32 And 34 Evolution Series Forks

With 40 years of suspension innovation for a wide variety of vehicles and disciplines, FOX’s design, engineering, manufacturing, and rigorous quality control tests have allowed us to consistently meet and exceed the industry’s stringent performance testing standards.

The recalled forks comply with CPSC and European safety standards, but at FOX your satisfaction—and more importantly, your safety—is our first concern. While we’ve found that a very small percentage of the approximately 42,000 forks identified in the recall might fail under a set certain circumstances, we feel that the right thing to do is to upgrade all of them.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience and assure you that the damper upgrade will get you back on the trail safely.

IDENTIFYING YOUR 2013 EVOLUTION SERIES FORK

DO YOU HAVE AN EVOLUTION SERIES FORK?

  • Evolution Series appears on the largest left and right decals

OTHER DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

  • Fork Colors: Black, White or Green
  • FLOAT
  • Remote or non-remote
  • Travel: 120mm-160mm
  • Decal Colors: Black & White with Silver, Grey, and custom PMS color combinations that are coordinated with the bike’s color scheme

WHAT TO DO

  • Locate the fork’s ID code on the backside of its left lower leg.
  • Enter the ID code in the interactive form at http://ridefox.com/recall
  • You will then be guided through upgrade process step-by-step
  • The next step, if your fork is identified as possibly needing an upgrade, will be to locate the serial number stamped on the underside of the crown. You will need to remove your front wheel to get this information. You may also need to clean this area depending on your bike’s use. If it’s a remote fork, you’ll need to remove the cable hanger to see the entire serial number. Please also note that the numbers 0, 3, and 8 can look very similar.

Tested: Polygon Collosus DHX

If you haven’t heard of Polygon before, we wouldn’t be surprised. When it comes to most things from Indonesia, Australia is generally pretty disengaged (aside from our favourite political football, asylum seeker boat arrivals). But this is a brand worth paying attention to – they’re actually one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, producing bikes for a number of other brands- and this bike in particular warrants extra attention.

Polygon DHX Full bike 3

Why? Well not just because it is simply absurd value for money, but also because this is the very same bike that Mick Hannah won the National Champs on this year.

It’s a long way from the glory of the World Champs to the downhill tracks of Sydney, but they’ll have to do! We dusted off the full face, strapped some knee pads onto ageing legs and took this silver beast into the bush.

Design:

Holy Toledo, what a beast! In glistening silver and white, with CNC machined alloy aplenty, the Collosus DHX is an impressive looking bike. Your eye is naturally drawn to the web of alloy and pivots, housing the FOX RC4 shock, nestled around the bottom bracket. It’s a complex looking arrangement, but in reality there are no more pivots than any other twin-link rear suspension design.

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The heart of the FS2 suspension system.

The lower pivot incorporates the bottom bracket shell, which is encircled by two massive bearings. This link pivots directly around the bottom bracket axle and also drives the rear shock. This main pivot uses pinch bolts, with threaded inserts so you can’t stuff the frame – this is a blessing as disassembling this linkage would require some serious spanner time and pinch bolts mean less stuffing about.

Pinch bolts secure the massive bearings of the lower pivot/bottom-bracket assembly.
Pinch bolts secure the massive bearings of the lower pivot/bottom-bracket assembly.

All the weight is down low and very central, great for stability. The shock is surprisingly easy to adjust despite its location and it’s well protected from debris flung off the rear wheel by a neat carbon shield.

A carbon shield keeps the FOX DHX RC4 protected, but it's still easy to access the rebound adjuster.
A carbon shield keeps the FOX DHX RC4 protected, but it’s still easy to access the rebound adjuster.

If we look at the suspension behaviour, the linkage gives a wheel path that’s just like a high-pivot design. The rear wheel moves backwards quite markedly at the start of the travel, before tending more vertical in the deeper parts of the travel. It’s an incredibly supple design too, and the three-inch stroke FOX DHX RC4 moves at the slightest touch.

Geometry wise, the DHX isn’t as raked out as some, with a 64-degree head angle, but you can fit an AngleSet if you’re inclined to slacker it further. For our local downhill tracks, anything slacker is overkill, and we’re inclined to say that’s the case for most Australian terrain.

The wheel base is adjustable. The chain stay can be set at 434, 440 or 445mm.
The wheel base is adjustable. The chain stay can be set at 434, 440 or 445mm. We’re not sold on the use of a Maxle style rear axle.

We never changed the wheelbase, leaving the chain stays at 440mm, but you can move alter the length by 5mm in either direction. This simply involves fitting different dropout and rear brake mount inserts, but we were happy with the geometry anyhow so we didn’t mess about.

In this setting, the wheelbase was 1173mm, which is a tad shorter than some of the competition in an equivalent size (we were on a medium). For example, a Giant Glory has a wheelbase of 1211mm, a Norco Aurum 1192mm. Going up a size to a large adds another 50mm to the wheelbase. As we said above, for most Australian riding, we feel that the shorter wheelbase is pretty appropriate, but going to a size large frame may still be the preference for riders out there seeking maximum stability.

We’re not sold on the Marzocchi-made Maxle style rear axle. We’d prefer a standard bolt up arrangement which would provide more clearance and is also more reliable.

The low hanging cables attracted debris.
The low hanging cables attracted debris.

The cable routing, underneath the down tube, is clean but not hassle free. Because of the way the suspension moves, it’s necessary to have a fair bit of cable hanging below the bottom bracket. With such a low bottom bracket height, we did occasionally end up with some sticks hitching a ride, caught up in the gear and rear brake lines.

The Build:

We’re not aware of another downhill bike available in Australia that can come close in this area; the component spec found on the DHX doesn’t make financial sense. The very best from FOX, Shimano, Mavic and Schwalbe adorn the Collosus, for a price that’s around $700 less than the other king of value, Giant’s Glory 0.

When it comes to out-of-the-box reliability, you can't top Shimano Saint.
When it comes to out-of-the-box reliability, you can’t top Shimano Saint.

Saint brakes, shifting and cranks need no introduction. The 36-tooth chain ring is encased in an MRP Mini G2 chain guide with bash guard (well needed, given the low bottom bracket height) also a quality item. The suspension is from the top shelf too, with a Kashima-coated FOX 40RC2 fork and DHX RC4 rear shock, both delivering eight inches of travel.

Polygon DHX 42
Mavic Dee-Max wheels are not your usual downhill hoops! They’re the best gravity tubeless wheelset on the market.

The yellow hoops of Mavic’s Dee-Max wheelset have been always been at the top of wish list and it’s extremely rare to see them on an off-the-shelf bike. Ordinarily they’re an upgrade, but here they are, and shod in Schwalbe tubeless rubber too. The Muddy Mary tyres are awesome, and the Trail Star compound (rather than the gummier Vert Star) is a good choice from both durability and rolling speed perspectives. They’re set up without tubes too, so pinch flats are a thing of the past.

The spiky Schwalbe Muddy Mary tyres grip surprisingly well in all conditions, not just the softer soils the name implies.
The spiky Schwalbe Muddy Mary tyres grip surprisingly well in all conditions, not just the softer soils the name implies.

Kore provided the bar, stem and funky T-Rail saddle and post. Kore isn’t a name you see so often any more, but it looks great, with the white bars setting off the bike perfectly. The build kit really is perfect, are reasonably light too, keeping the whole bike to 17.26kg.

We rarely see Kore products, but the lightweight saddle and post are a nice touch.
We rarely see Kore products, but the lightweight saddle and post are a nice touch.

Ride:

It’d been a little while since we’d swung a leg over a downhill bike (too much time on the trail bike!) and it’s always a good feeling to get back into it. The Polygon made it easy for us, giving us no nasty surprises as we re-learnt the lines.

Suspension set up can take a while when you’ve got so much adjustability on hand. Fortunately we found the spring rates (medium in the fork, 350lbs for the rear shock) perfect. A few clicks of high-speed compression damping was all we needed to feel totally confident in the FOX 40’s performance.

We added just a little high-speed compression damping and were very happy with the Fox 40.
We added just a little high-speed compression damping and were very happy with the Fox 40.

The rear end is more complicated. Polygon’s FS2 linkage gives the DHX a very pronounced rearward axle path for the first half of the travel. This is great when it comes to compliance, but the associated chain growth can be clearly felt through your pedals. We wound on a few turns of low-speed compression to keep the rear end more stable under pedalling and minimise this feeling. This trait that really was only pronounced at slower speeds – once up to speed, pedalling over rough sections of track was less of a chore.

It's easy to get at the shock, in spite of its location deep in the frame.
It’s easy to get at the shock, in spite of its location deep in the frame.

Polygon importer, Bicycles Online, had informed us that some riders were opting to stiffen the rear shock by 50lbs, but we didn’t feel the need. While we did find the bottom of the travel on a few occasions, adding some high speed compression damping gave us the feeling of support we wanted.

The overall stiffness of the bike is praise worthy too, with the rear end matching the immense lateral stiffness of the FOX 40s. It’s a reassuring feeling, giving you the confidence to keep your feet up and slide the bike into corners or cut inside berms, or get you out of trouble if you come into land a bit crooked.

There's chain slap protection on chain stay, but not the seat stay.
There’s chain slap protection on chain stay, but not the seat stay.

Drivetrain noise wasn’t a problem we expected, but the Polygon makes a bit of a racket on the trail. There’s no chain slap protection on the seat stay (get some Frame Wrap on there), and the Saint derailleur sits super close to the chain stay when in the higher gears, leading it to knock against the frame loudly. It’s something we’ve encountered before on our Norco Aurum long term test bike, and it can be easily remedied by fitting a small adaptor that creates more clearance. (Watch this video for more info).

The 10-speed shifting provided by the Saint derailleur is snappy and precise, but in the higher gears the mech would knock on the chain stay. Fitting the wide ratio adaptor is the solution.
The 10-speed shifting provided by the Saint derailleur is snappy and precise, but in the higher gears the mech would knock on the chain stay. Fitting the wide ratio adaptor is the solution.

Going fast is where the Polygon is best; when you’re not pedalling, and it’s got a lot of rocks to run over. The super supple suspension and stout fork make light work of heavy terrain, and the FS2 suspension carries momentum exceptionally well.

Overall:

This isn’t just a great value bike that you’d buy for the build kit alone, oh no, this is a great bike full stop. We’re not saying that $5000 will buy you Mick Hannah’s skills and enormous calves, but it will get you a bike that has proven itself as the fastest in Oz. And it’s a bike that’s got us itching to ride more downhill too – we’re stoked.

Polygon DHX Full bike

Tested: Merida One Forty B

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

Merida One Forty B-25

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

Design:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Build:

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

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

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

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

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

Ride:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall:

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

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

Flow’s First Bite: FOX Float X CTD Shock

To address the fast developing world of long travel trail bikes, all-mountain bikes and enduro racing bikes, FOX have released an air shock that combines the qualities of their lightest air shock, the FOX Float CTD, and the impact gobbling downhill shock – the FOX DHX.

We’ve mounted it in our Yeti SB66 Carbon test mule, replacing a Float CTD w/Trail adjust. So far the wide range of compression adjustability, and coil spring-like feel that it exhibits has made the bike feel even more like a plush downhiller. The lockout is nice and firm for tame uphills, and road sections, and the three micro adjusted ‘trail’ settings are clearly defined and super effective. Even descending in each mode still reveals the right amount of sensitivity to keep traction, without unwanted compression.

FOX Float X shock-3
Filling the gap between FOX’s lightweight shock, and their coil-sprung downhill shock, this Float X will boost performance of bikes with 140-180mm of travel.

The rebound dial is tucked away out of finger’s reach and will require a small allen key or even a stick on the trail to adjust. That may irk some people, but at least rebound adjustment isn’t really needed to be adjusted during the ride. Plus we find that on some Float shocks with light resistance on the rebound adjuster, the little red dial can creep open and unwind at times, speeding the rebound up without us realising. This won’t happen with this shock.

FOX Float X shock-5
The CTD adjustments sit off to one side, and are so very easy to access. Plus with such a wide range, each of the five settings can be used effectively to tailor the bikes pedalling efficiency to suit the terrain ahead.

From the outside it appears that FOX have taken the large volume DHX Air, with its piggyback chamber, and added the very user friendly on-the-fly compression adjustments found on current FLOAT shocks. The large blue lever is off to the side of the piggyback chamber, making for very quick and effective adjustments. But there is more going on than that inside this advanced piece of equipment, as we plan to figure out as our testing continues. We just need to find some mega long downhills to push its limits.

Our shock exhibits a little squeak on hard compressions, as the oil flow moves through the damping unit, which we’re sure will vary from shock to shock. Of the Float X shocks we have ridden so far, this is the first with a squeak.

FOX Float X shock-7
The Float X also has a larger volume of oil than the normal Float shock, for more consistent performance during long descents.

So stay tuned for more, but for now our first impressions are very positive and we just love the way suspension companies are pushing the development of this relatively new area of the market. It will let us ride lighter bikes harder, further and safer!

Knolly Endorphin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOX Releases 2014 All-Mountain Suspension

FOX introduces an updated 34 TALAS fork and completely new FLOAT X air shock.

FOX—the industry-leading ride dynamics company—has announced the release of two 2014 all-mountain products with the 34 TALAS CTD 160 fork and FLOAT X CTD shock.

The FOX 34 and the FLOAT X

The 34 TALAS

The 34 TALAS features a completely redesigned TALAS travel adjust system and the FLOAT X is a new reservoir air shock platform.

The 34 TALAS fork has key design changes that translate to smoother travel and improved handling. The updated CTD tune provides more damping support in each mode for better efficiency and control.
The TALAS system uses an air spring design similar to FLOAT, giving it superior bump compliance for more comfort and traction on the trail.
Mated to the air spring is a hydraulic travel adjuster that provides quick, crisp travel changes between 160mm and 130mm. All 2014 TALAS forks use the new travel adjust system.

The FLOAT X CTD

The performance advantages of the FLOAT X’s reservoir design make it ideal for aggressive all-mountain riding. The increased oil volume and dual piston damping system produce an incredibly responsive ride while maintaining a consistent feel through rugged terrain.
The base valve on the reservoir gives the Climb, Trail and Descend modes a wide adjustment range to perfectly match trail conditions.

Specifications

FOX FACTORY 34 TALAS CTD w/ Trail Adjust 160

  •   New TALAS travel adjuster
  •   160mm/130mm travel range
  •   3 on-the-fly settings with Climb/Trail/Descend
  •   Trail Adjust tuning range (1, 2, 3)
  •   Air spring pressure
  •   Rebound
  •   15QR thru axle
  •   26” and 27.5” wheel options
  •   4.33 lbs. / 1,964 g (26”)

FOX FACTORY FLOAT X CTD w/ Trail Adjust

  •   New reservoir air shock platform
  •   3 on-the-fly settings with Climb/Trail/Descend
  •   Trail Adjust tuning range (1, 2, 3)
  •   Air spring pressure
  •   Rebound
  •   Low friction hardware
  •   Remote option
  •   0.8 lbs. / 365 g (8.5 x 2.5, no hardware)

Air-sprung FOX 40 revealed!

 FOX—the industry-leading ride dynamics company—has announced the release of two 2014 gravity offerings with the 40 FLOAT RC2 and DHX RC4. The 40 utilises an air spring and lightweight chassis and the DHX RC4 offers improved damping circuits and new adjustments.

 

Taking a clean slate approach and two years of development through FOX’s RAD (Race Applications Development) program, the 2014 40 FLOAT RC2 features a completely redesigned chassis and FLOAT air spring, dropping over a pound of weight from the previous model. The new chassis has the same strength as the previous design but all of the major components—the lower legs, crowns and upper tubes—have been optimized to lower the fork weight to 5.98 pounds (2711g). The FLOAT air spring is not only lighter than a coil system, it also offers incremental spring tuning and the addition of an adjustable compression ratio to modify the progressiveness of the spring curve.

The 2014 DHX RC4 borrows technology used in FOX’s Podium motorcycle shock. The damping loads between the main piston and reservoir piston are balanced to provide a more sensitive feel and better responsiveness to direction change. In addition, the shaft diameter has been decreased to ½”, which decreases friction and increases traction.

If you’re after more technical detail, Fox have assembled a comprehensive rundown. Read it all here.

Adjustable Seatposts – Three Way Test – crankbrothers kronolog, FOX D.O.S.S., RockShox Reverb

Some people would argue that the adjustable seatpost is one of the greatest recent advancements in mountain biking.  Whilst not being a new technology, it has only been in the past few years that the larger manufactures have started producing them in ernest.  Much to the joy of those who used to frequently dismount and adjust, the adjustable seatpost makes the transition from riding uphill to bombing downhills much easier.

Flow took three of the more popular posts from crankbrothers, FOX, and RockShox, and tested them for 6 months. Read on to see what we thought of each.

FOX D.O.S.S. (l), crankbrothers kronolog (c), RockShox Reverb (r)

crankbrothers kronolog

Inside that little box is where it all happens with the kronolog, a unique mechanism holds the seatpost in position.

The crankbrothers joplin post was the first widely adopted adjustable post, but like many pioneering products it certainly had its issues on the reliability front. Enter the kronolog, a completely new take on the dropper post from crankbrothers.

The most obvious difference between this post and the others in our three-way test is that the cable is routed to the body of the seat post, rather than the seat post head. This looks far cleaner, and means you don’t have a big loop of cable dangling between your legs when the post is dropped. Neat-o.

Also neat is the remote lever. Ours is tucked neatly under the bar where you’d normally find a front shifter, easy to activate and with plenty of adjustability to get the position just right. The action is nice and light.

The kronolog is infinitely adjustable and it relies on a mechanical system to lock the post at whatever height you set it. The front and rear surfaces of the sliding portion of the post are covered with hundreds of little ridges; when you release the lever little ‘jaws’ inside the post lock into these ridges to prevent the post from moving.

Setup is critical – there needs to be at least 3mm of free play in the lever throw before it begins pulling the cable. If there is too much tension on the gear cable, the little jaws may not engage properly and this can lead to the post slipping, which in turn will wear out the knurling on the post, exacerbating the problem.

We carefully obeyed these instructions from the outset and this has prevented any serious problems. Still, we have found that the post does slip slightly, tending to drop about 5mm from full extension when you sit on it. So far (after about six months of use) the problem hasn’t become noticeably worse, but the wear to the knurled surface of the clamping surfaces is clear and it doesn’t look too good for long term durability. Dirt can get past the seal easily, so the mechanism needs to be cleaned and lubed after wet rides. Fortunately this is easy to do, as is replacing the cable.

Out of the box, the kronolog has 125mm of travel, but for our frame that was too much. Luckily the post is supplied with a chip that drops the travel by 25mm, making the post more compatible for shorter riders or bikes with long seat tubes. Installing this chip to lower the travel was a ten-minute job and didn’t require any fancy tools beyond a pin spanner.

We do have a gripe about the seat clamp… it is very hard to make small adjustments to the seat position – we need to really whack the seat to get it to move.

All up, we feel like the kronolog has some ground to make up on the competition. The design concept is great, but the durability and execution aren’t 100% yet.

Weight: 493g
Size Tested: 30.9
RRP: $429
Contact: JetBlack Products (www.jetblackproducts.com)

The internal section of the seatpost is constantly being lubricated, but the seal isn’t tight enough to stop the greasy section of the post from attracting dirt and debris. It didn’t take long for messy buildup to occur.
The two steel claws retract from the flat surface of the inner section to allow the air spring, or your body weight to make the adjustments.
Small adjustments to the seat position were tricky with this clamp, not our favourite.
Careful setup of cable tension is vital.

FOX D.O.S.S.

Climb, Trail or descend. The D.O.S.S. offers three positions of adjustment and very fast operation.

Was the product department at FOX drinking when they named their first adjustable seatpost? We’re used to more robotic part names from FOX, like TALAS RLC, or Float RP23. But FOX’s first seatpost is named D.O.S.S., which is actually an acronym for Drops On Steep Shit. It made us laugh, anyhow.

We’ll be honest in saying we hoped for more groundbreaking features when we heard that FOX were releasing a dropper post to take on the likes of Crank Bros and Rockshox. The D.O.S.S didn’t set the world on fire with new technology – it wasn’t particularly light and the cable actuation was nothing new – but word quickly spread that the D.O.S.S. was a serious contender for the most desired post, with the durability and ease of operation impressing the skeptics.

The D.O.S.S. is actuated via a remote and cable, which enters the post from the side of the seat clamp. You can simply rotate the post to suit your bike’s cable routing. The remote lever is also ambidextrous (unlike the Reverb) and has adjustable reach to allow users to customise where is sits on the handlebar.

The very large remote lever is a real point of contention, and may turn users off with its bulky appearance. It is way bigger than any of its competitors, but it wasn’t the end of the world for us. Our test bike runs a single chain ring, so we were able to run the lever under the left side of the handlebar, where the front shifter would normally sit. In this configuration the lever was concealed nicely, and out of the way. If you do run a front derailleur, the lever must sit atop the bar where it sticks out like the proverbial dog’s bollocks.

What sets the FOX post apart from the other two on test here is that the three-stage height adjustment. Rather than offering infinite adjustment, there are three preset positions, designed to match the FOX CTD suspension system (Climb, Trail and Descend). There’s full height, a 40mm drop, and all the way down. If you hit the black part of the thumb lever the saddle drops by 40mm and will stop there. If you hit the main silver lever it will drop completely.

This preset system makes for much faster changes in seat height; you know exactly where the saddle will be, rather than having to guess how far you’ve dropped it. We found that 40mm is the perfect drop for rough trails, most descents, and all but the steepest of roll-downs or jumps.

Setup with the FOX post was the simplest of the three on test, and after six months of solid use it feels just like it did on day one with no unacceptable play or unwanted movement. It does make a small knocking sound when you sit on the seat, and this can be noticed when climbing if you lift weight on and off the saddle. It wasn’t a real issue for us though, and we’ve certainly grown to accept that adjustable posts will always have movement in them; just some are slightly better than others.

The twin bolt seat clamp makes for very easy and no fuss saddle fitment and adjustment, and the quality of craftsmanship in the clamp is very neat and reflects FOX’s top-end status.

The FOX is the heaviest on test and the big remote lever is impractical in some ways, but the speedy actuation, smart finish, good aesthetics and very sturdy construction (and the name) make us smile.

Weight: 620g
Size Tested: 30.9
RRP: $399.95
Distribution: Sola Sport (www.solasport.com.au)

Close inspection reveals some very nice attention to detail, and clean craftsmanship of the mechanism and clamp.
By spinning the post 180 degrees and flipping the seat clamp parts around too, the cable can be routed to enter on both sides if need be.
Hit the black lever to drop it 40mm, or all the way with the silver. It’s a big lever, no doubt about that.
FOX provide a neat cable guide to help the cable track in a straight plane when fully compressed.

RockShox Reverb

The benchmark in adjustable seatposts. The Reverb uses hydraulics for smooth and infinite adjustability.

RockShox have a couple of variants of their very successful Reverb post available. There’s the standard Reverb (on test here) and the Stealth version, which uses a hose routed internally to activate the post from inside the frame, meaning there are no loops of hose dangling off the seat post head.

While the other posts in this trio of droppers rely on a gear cable, the Reverb is a hydraulic system. This has advantages – there is never a problem with grit or mud fouling the cable, and cable routing doesn’t matter at all – and disadvantages – the system needs to be bled like a hydraulic brake upon installation. This involves a syringe and 2.5wt fork oil, but it’s not beyond most backyard mechanics.

Early versions of this post were as reliable as a 1980s Alfa Romeo, but the last couple of years have seen huge improvements and our post has been flawless.

In all conditions it has remained smooth and leak free, requiring no maintenance whatsoever.

The Reverb’s ergonomics are great, especially if your run SRAM shifters and Avid brakes. Using the Match Maker clamp you can integrate the Reverb lever, brake and shifter into single clamp for supremely clean bars. We also appreciate the traditional dual-bolt micro adjust seat clamp; simple and reliable.

Like the kronolog, the Reverb is infinitely adjustable too, with 125mm of travel on our particular post, though a 150mm-travel version is available too if you really need to get your seat outta the way. Return speed to full height is slower than most posts – you can adjust how fast the post comes back up via a dial on the remote lever, but even on its fastest setting it’s a little bit laggy.

There’s a little bit of play in the post at full extension, both twisting and fore/aft, but you honestly don’t notice this on the bike and it’s greatly reduced when the post is dropped into its travel.

Weight: 535g
Size Tested: 30.9
RRP: $399.95
Distribution:  Monza Imports (www.monzaimports.com.au)

Push the button and away it goes. RockShox offer left and right options, and with a SRAM shifter and Avid brake, all components are able to be integrated very neatly with one single handlebar clamp.
A little bleed port sits up under the seat rails, and the clamp gives fuss-free saddle adjustability.
Return speed of the post is adjustable, but still not as rapid as the FOX or Crankbrothers.
The latest generation of Reverbs are most definitely more reliable and ours has been peachy.

FOX 34 Float 160 CTD w/Trail Adjust

In all-mountain riding the ‘bigger is better’ mantra generally applies with any component that you fit to the front end of a mountain bike. But going bigger, beefier, stiffer or stronger normally means more weight, and overcoming this tradeoff is a battle for the product engineers. We want it strong and stiff, but we won’t put up with undue heft. We were very happy to get our hands on the new FOX 34 Float in a 160mm travel version to see if FOX had succeeded in treading this fine line.

The 34 series straddles the divide between FOX 32 and 36 forks. We think it’s going to convert a lot of people to 160mm-travel bikes.

 

This fork makes a lot of sense: 160mm-travel bikes are increasingly common as they get lighter and more efficient, but the popular FOX 36 fork often found on these all-mountain bikes is a pretty hefty little number. With more and more people looking towards the 160mm category as the do-it-all bike, FOX wanted a way to offer the same amount of travel and stiffness, but to lose a little weight and facilitate the use of lighter 15mm axle wheels. Enter the FOX 34.

The magic number? 34mm stanchions represent a huge stiffness increase for a 200g weight penalty. Is 200g too much?

As you’d have guessed from the name, this fork is all about legs. Beefy new 34mm diameter legs to be precise. Previously, FOX forks of 150mm-travel and below used 32mm legs with a 15mm axle. In longer travel applications (anything 160mm and up) FOX used 36mm or 40mm legs combined with 20mm axles. The new 160mm-travel FOX 34 is pretty much the perfect hybrid, combining the new 34mm diameter legs with the lightweight and widely used 15mm axle standard.

2mm difference doesn’t sound like much, but the new 34 fork is more robust all over. You certainly notice the beefier appearance right away when you look down at your front wheel.

Weight wise, it’s right in the middle too; the 34mm fork is 200g heavier than a Float 32 150mm fork and almost 200g lighter when compared to a FOX Float 36.

Fitted to a Yeti SB66 Carbon, the tall 160mm travel fork wasn’t the perfect match to the 150mm travel rear end, the fork is however adjustable internally down to 150mm if desired. We plan to drop it down to sharpen up the bike’s head angle slightly. A 34 TALAS is also an option, with adjustability from 160mm down to 120mm for the steep ascents. Interesting to note; the FOX 34 at 160mm has an axle to crown height that is 7.4mm lower than FOX 36  – running the 34 160mm doesn’t mess with the bike’s geometry nearly so dramatically as would occur with the 36.

With 160mm-travel, the 34 was little longer than we’d normally run on the Yeti SB66. Still, it’s around 7mm shorter in terms of axle to crown length than a 160mm-travel FOX 36 fork.

 

Visually, it’s surprising how much chunkier this fork appears when compared to 32mm forks. And the extra beef is 100% noticeable on the trail; this fork is seriously stiff! You become used to a degree of deflection, twisting and flex with most lightweight trail forks, but with the 34 this was drastically reduced.

The confidence we found when piloting the fork down rough and steep lines was higher than we have been accustomed to, and we were able to adapt our riding technique to make the most of it. In short we had a lot less care about what we were ploughing our front wheel into, and focused that energy into the fastest line choices. Straight-line speed was a highlight too, and a lot of this has to be attributed to the stiff chassis.

The stiffer chassis does transfer generate more feedback than a 32mm fork – the classic ‘when is stiff, too stiff’ debate. A Float 32 does feel smoother, as the thinner legs offer slightly more compliance. Lighter riders may notice this, but a heavier or more assertive rider shouldn’t be fazed by it.

The 15mm axle is key to this fork’s appeal. It opens up the prospect of using lighter hubs and wheel sets in these long-travel applications.

In typical FOX style the fork’s action is unrivalled, the control and consistency is simply unreal. The rate of compression is quite linear, finding us in the deeper part of the stroke a lot and letting us get full travel without too much effort. This is all due to the completely redesigned air spring, which finally addresses the issue of it being hard to get full travel out of FOX Float fork. If you prefer a more progressive fork action, the more savvy suspension tuners may benefit from adding a little oil to the air chamber, to reduce the air volume.

Our test fork came to us feeling a little dry and sticky unfortunately, so the sensitivity over small bumps was not quite 100%. A little stanchion lube (Finish Line Teflon suspension lube) applied to the pretty gold Kashima legs instantly, but temporarily, gave us the smooth action we expected. To resolve the issue properly requires a quick 30min service – simply yank the lower legs off and perform a seal and foam ring lubrication. We also found storing the bike upside down to allow splash oil to soak into the seals helped the fork feel smooth at the beginning of the ride.

Kashima Coat. It looks good, and it works well. Unfortunately our fork required a strip down and relube to get proper performance – the seals were unusually dry from the factory.

2013 sees FOX introduce a new damper too, called CTD – it stands for Climb, Trail and Descend. In short, the new damper is all about simplifying adjustment options and helping the fork and rear shock to work in unison. A lever on the right fork leg lets you select between Climb (firmest compression damping) or Descend (least compression damping), or an in-between ‘Trail’ setting. The ‘Trail’ setting has three levels of adjustment too, brilliantly called Trail Adjust – you simply set it to the level that’s right for you and leave it, kind of like the three ProPedal settings on an RP23 rear shock. (NB. The less expensive forks lose this Trail Adjust function). While some people will lament the loss of the low-speed compression dial found on the RLC or RC2 dampers, it’s definitely a far more user-friendly system for the average rider.

We like the CTD Trail Adjust damper and it will certainly help remove some of the mystery out of suspension tuning for many riders. It’s easy and intuitive to operate on the trail and matches up perfectly with the CTD rear shock too.

In response to the fairly linear rate of travel, we rarely rode the fork in the Descend mode; even on the roughest descents we opted for the Trail mode in setting one or two. This offered greater support, especially under front braking, without detracting too much from sensitivity.

So is the FOX 34 platform a winner? Hell yes. Stiffer than 32mm, lighter and lower than a 36mm fork, the 34mm fork is a no-brainer for the fast growing realm of all-mountain bikes. And of course, with longer travel big-wheelers appearing everywhere, the stiffer chassis of the 34mm fork is going be increasingly important in controlling the inherent flex found in the longer legs of a 650B or 29er fork. So yes, bigger is better in this case, and in our eyes it’s added weight in the right place. And you cannot beat the look of those gold Kashima legs, hot stuff indeed.

 

 

Interview: Christoph Ritzler – Fox Racing Shox

Name: Christoph Ritzler.
Role: Managing Director for the European sales office for Fox.
Home: Bern, Switzerland.
Slices of lemon bun eaten during this interview: Just the one [good restraint].

 

Christoph, you’ve been with Fox for 11 years, roughly the same time Fox developed their first mountain bike forks.

Yes, one year after the first fork. But I was in the industry for long before that. I started racing mountain bikes, if you could call them races, back in 1984. I’ve worked with Tange, the tubing company who also made forks for a time, I was the first Specialized importer in Switzerland too, I also was in charge of Rockshox’s European business for eight years.

Tell us more about Fox’s move into making suspension forks in addition to shocks.

Bob Fox started Fox 38 years ago – he was a motocross racer, unhappy with the equipment, so he started making his own shocks and forks. Back then motocross forks had a stanchion tube diameter of maybe 36mm, but Bob Fox made this fork that had 44mm legs that was huge for the time. It really shook things up.

1989, he developed the first mountain bike rear shock for Cannondale, before their bikes even had front suspension. Then for many years Fox made only rear shocks. Interestingly the opportunity to make forks arose when Rockshox were moving away from San Jose in California. Some of the engineers didn’t want to move, so they contacted Bob Fox and began the mountain bike fork project. Some of those engineers are still there today!

The rear shocks were the driving force, but the forks were the start of something bigger, taking a $10-20 million company to a company that’s 10 times that size now. [private]

Is mountain biking the biggest side of the business?

It is, but the other sides are catching up. And interestingly, they’re catching up because we apply mountain bike technologies to the other areas – things like reducing weight with air springs, bottom-out control from our mountain bike shocks has moved into the motocross realm, and the linear air springs from our TALAS forks are now in snowmobiles and quads.

We’re also doing OEM supply for automotive businesses, like the new Ford Raptor which has suspension and off-road capabilities that you wouldn’t have been able to buy off the shelf before. There’s a general drive for lighter weight suspension overall, especially as we’re seeing more electric vehicles.

Can you give us an overview of how and where a fork or shock comes together?

Now we must define what we mean by ‘made’. There are certainly technologies that are simply not available in parts of the world any more, so different elements are completed or sourced in places all over the world.

For example, the tubing that we use, that used to be US made, that capability is gone in the US. Easton tubes are now made in Taiwan, so that’s were the tubes are made. Now if it’s a Kashima tube, it goes from Taiwan to Japan for coating, before coming to the US for assembly. You can see already why a lot of the costs are logistics costs. In some ways it’s crazy, but in other ways it allows us to focus in the US on the key processes that have the biggest bearing on the outcome of the product.

Foundries, castings, forgings – it makes no sense for us to do that in the US – obviously we need to have the right materials, but in the US we concentrate on the elements that are really tolerance critical.

I would say that the quality of suspension is the sum of its tolerances – we make relatively complex products that depend entirely upon how well all of the individual parts work together. It’s controlling those tolerances that dictates how sticky or not a fork is, the fluditity of the damping curve, how smoothly it transitions from compression to rebound. All of these details that dictate if a fork will feel good on the trail, that’s what we control in the US.

We have 45 CNC machines at Scotts Valley (California, USA) that operate 24hrs a day, six and a half days a week, and these machines do all the finishing of the incoming parts prior to the assembly. When you’ve got a fork bush that needs to fit perfectly to within 3/100ths of a millimetre, and that will make the difference between smooth and sticky performance, those are the processes we need to control ourselves.

Tell us a bit about the feedback process from consumers, distributors and racers.

Very little feedback comes directly from consumers, purely because their first point of call should be their distributors in their country. It’s very important what Greg Minnaar wants from his product, but his needs are very specific versus that of the products that we ship around the world.

So most of our feedback comes from distributors, through their service and warranty work. If there is an issue they haven’t seen before, we ask them to ship us the product and goes to the Quality Review Team and they define it is a manufacture issue, a design issue, materials, or is it connected to some environmental conditions.

Environment is important – sometimes you have a part or material that works everywhere, but then you go to Norway and the seal fails! It can be something in the soil, the particular conditions of the dirt, sand, even the humidity or temperature. For example, our automotive distributor here in Australia has a particular problem with quad bike shock seals, but only in Tasmania, so all the shocks in Tasmania get different seals that are little bit more sticky but which hold up to the soils there. Or in Holland, the people there tend to ride a lot of trails that are ancient dunes or beaches, and the conditions are so aggressive it can actually wear holes through the lowers, from the inside out. Sometimes, no matter how good your testing, the real world catches up in some places.

You can get situations where it comes back to a supplier too – like a few years ago we had problems with some air shocks getting ‘stuck down’. It turned out the supplier we had been using for years changed their own materials supplier, and when the temperature got below five degrees, the seal had problems.

Fox and Shimano have been working together for a few years now. How did that come about?

Yes, they have worked with us on 15QR axles, remote levers and more. The reality is that we are not a cockpit company, so even if we do a good job, we will not do it as well as a company that has expertise in that area. Plus, quality wise, Shimano is the best supplier you can have for the quality of the products, no doubt about that.

When it came to 15QR, it was a new standard, and the industry is not always happy about new standards. So partnering with Shimano, who could support the new standard with the necessary hubs and explain the new standard, it was important.

With Shimano too, the development is very thorough, step-by-step, so it made sense if were to bring in a new standard to do it with a partner like them. It takes more time, but it was worth it 100%.

A couple of years ago we saw Fox touting a fork with cast titanium uppers, but it never appeared. What happened?

That was very frustrating. Some background. Our forks have always been heavier than the other guys – with good reason, but still the lightweight has sex appeal. Also, we believe in metals and in that context, titanium is very sexy.

The prototyping was very interesting because of the technology that was involved. There was a casting process that was basically rotational, so it put all the materials on the outside to create a ‘skin’ – it was completely hollow. It was fantastic technology in principle, so advanced that there were only a few companies in the world that could consider it. But there were even less companies who could give us the quality and consistency we needed, so after a while we just had to say, ‘that’s it, enough’.

Still out of it we learnt a lot about maximising our abilities in lightweight design, so in fact our 2013 forks are lighter than the titanium fork was going to be anyhow. And affordable too! We never really talked about the price, but that fork would have been so expensive.

What about carbon?

We have definitely been looking at it. The weight savings really are minimal, but what is really interesting with carbon is rigidity, structural stiffness. But it’s not for all applications or all our needs. The things that are important, like parallelity, or where tubes must be round, not quite round, but perfectly round, this is where carbon is not necessarily the best fit for our needs.

Many things are possible – coatings on gliding surfaces theoretically. If you dream up the ultimate carbon fork it would definitely be a fantastic product, but it’s not producible in a steady, consistent form yet. We have also tested carbon in lowers already; they were stiffer than magnesium, but none was lighter.

I will not exclude composites from us in the future, but it’s not close.

Talk to us about electronics in suspension.

Well, I think it’s logic of any consumer good – it’s coming. The big questions will be, ‘What do you actually need? How much technology? How much money?’ Then this must be offset against whether or not it’s actually beneficial to your riding experience.

What we’re offering today with our iCD (Intelligent Ride Dynamics) electronic lockout is the equivalent of Shimano’s Di2 shifting. It does the same thing as what you would do mechanically, but it does it more quickly and more reliably, more intuitively. For whom is that important? For racers – the people who have the real need to be focused on everything but the lockout. For trail riders, it’s not so important.

It’s a convenience, a reliability enhancement. It can also bing some risks, for example weight and costs.

The next step is to add some intelligence to it, and this is what the Ei system of Lapierre has done. It’s a very nice system. It does with electronics what we have been developing with hydraulic damping over the years, i.e. making the suspension something you do not have to think about so much.

So to improve upon what we have achieved with damping, it becomes a question of how complex do you want the system to become. How many sensors do you want, how much weight do you want to add? Do you need heart rate? Global position system with the maps pre-programed? It’s all possible, but the question is the added cost against the added value to your ride.

I would say the Lapierre approach is impressive for a first approach. The average rider benefits from it without having to understand it. It’s like my iPhone – I just want it to work well, I don’t need to understand how it does it. And on the trail, I just want to have a good riding experience, I don’t need to know how it happens. That’s what most people want.

The other question is how to use electronics without taking away too much of the feedback that the rider uses, maybe unconsciously, to handle the bike.

Obviously electronics gives you 100 times more possibility to play with different things, but if people care or not, we don’t know yet. It’s a huge investment for everybody, no doubt, but at the same time if you don’t do it, you’ll be dead in a few years. It’s going to multiply the costs for the whole industry too, all the way down to the bike shops that will need to learn all about it and servicing it.

The other aspect too, is that no matter how good the electronics, the suspension that works the best is the one with the precise tolerances, with the nicely made valves, with the attention to detail.

This is the first year we’ve seen Fox enter the adjustable seatpost market. Can you tell us about the challenges there?

I think, like suspension, it’s one of those products that makes a huge difference to the riding experience. Especially on longer-travel bikes that have a higher bottom bracket. For me, personally, being a so so rider, an adjustable seatpost lets me lower my position on the bike in technical terrain but without having to have a low bottom bracket which would make it hard to pedal.

For us the decision to get into the seatpost market was because no one was making a post that was reliable enough – we were reading stories of people taking a second seatpost along with them on long rides in case their adjustable post failed. It wasn’t good enough. So our approach is take make something with Fox quality and Fox reliability.

When you look at a seatpost, it’s actually a very unusual design from a structural standpoint. It narrows as you get towards the point that must bear the load, there’s a lot to fit into a very narrow tube, and it’s hard to have bushings that glide nicely without any play too. When we embarked on the project, we were impressed by how complicated it proved to be.

It wasn’t long ago that we saw a Fox prototype inverted downhill fork pop up (on Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton’s bikes). What happened to that project?

The upside down fork was aimed at a few things. First, it was about trying to make a lighter fork, and also a different feel in terms of the stiffness. It was fantastic through the rocks, but no good in a high traction corner, it was not stiff enough. The only way to get around it would have been a bigger axle, and then you would need to change hubs and all kinds of things. We even tried full steel chromoly axles, but it was not stiff enough.

We definitely gained in some regards, but in berms and under hard cornering loads, it was not precise enough. And it’s not like flex is always a bad thing, but this was to a level where it overrode the benefits. Still there were certain things we learnt that have made it into the new race fork.

Are there any particular athletes who have really added to the products through their feedback?

There are some racers you ask for feedback and they shrug their shoulders! There are others who are super analytical, who come back five or six times at every race until they feel they can master the track. Some guys can really formulate what they feel, and it’s not always the fastest racers who make the best testers. They might know what they need, but they cannot communicate it so well. So it’s our job to find the right language, to take that feeling from the rider’s hands to the engineers.

What a racer communicates may not be best for the public too. A few years ago when we released the Gee Atherton fork, which had Gee’s own damper settings, people were returning it, saying it was too harsh for them. They just weren’t fast enough to ride it.

It’s the same when you look at someone like Aaron Gwin. If you ride his bike, it is hard work. I could not ride his bike down a downhill track – I would be shaken! Where other guys are making their setups super plush, his bike is so hard. He could ride a fork with 120mm travel at some races, that’s all he uses sometimes. He needs suspension to save his arse when it really goes wrong. Everything else, he’s doing somehow. When I ride downhill, I need suspension so the tyres stay on the ground. He does it completely differently, he has his own physics.

Look at cross country racers too. When you see someone like Julien Absalon descending, he looks like he his rigid, but somehow he goes through rocks and he doesn’t bounce off anything! It’s like he dissipates energy somehow differently.

Finally, what is Fox’s finest achievement?

I think Fox’s finest contribution is that we’ve made suspension systems that are quite long-travel, efficient and lightweight. Honestly now, a six-inch bike weighs as much as my titanium race hardtail did in the 80s. And I think Fox has played a big role in that.

It’s funny how development happens incrementally. I remember back in 1988 I was in Moab and I was fit then. I was riding a bike with 2.2” tyres, huge for back then, but I could barely ride every day because I was so sore. Then I went back a few years ago, I rented a six-inch Turner bike, and everything felt too easy! I was not physically challenged. And I was looking at these trails I had to walk down back in 1988, and everybody, cyclists all abilities, were riding them. And I think Fox has been a real driving force in that.

 

A few questions from our Facebook page:

 

Will there be RC2 dampers on Fox 34 forks next year?

No – we see RC2 dampers as being better for gravity, for riders looking for the ultimate tune. more tuning is common. CTD is for all-round riding, which is where 34 forks will be used.

Will I get full travel from my Fox fork in the future?

For 2013 we’ve changed our air springs a lot. You will get full travel on all the new forks.

What are Fox doing to reduce their maintenance intervals? I just want to set and forget for 12 months.

How much do you ride, and where do you ride? There are certain bikes that are harder on the rear shock for instance too, where the rear shock is used as a structural element, or where it is more exposed to dirt and mud. For sure, on some bikes and some people, you can ride much longer than the recommended service intervals, but others not.

Mountain biking is a sport where you take some metal, some oils, some dirt and then you shake it. How long can you shake it before you need to service it? That’s the question.

On the newer forks, or forks with the new SKF seals, you can ride for longer and not have as much crap get in to your fork. In the little world of fork seals, it’s a real technology jump.

The new five-piece mounting hardware also reduces service time, it gives up to ten times the durability when compared to a DU bush arrangement. It also gives the same load reduction as Kashima coat. [/private]