First Impressions: FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik

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

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

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


FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik:

Chassis and appearance:

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

Axles:

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

Weight:

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

Dampers:

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

Air spring:

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

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

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

Axle to crown: 

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

Brosnan and Fry – 2017 Gravity Enduro National Champions

Adelaide’s Fox Creek trails were home to the 2017 Gravity Enduro National Championships over the weekend. Hosted by the Inside Line Downhill Club, racers were faced with the most technical and challenging stages this renowned trail network could offer. After eight stages of racing over two days, Troy Brosnan (SA) and Rowena Fry (TAS) won the 2017 elite men and women’s championship titles.

After 4 stages on Saturday, Troy Brosnan was sitting in 2nd behind fellow Adelaide local World Cup Downhiller Connor Fearon

Brosnan, who was four seconds behind Connor Fearon (SA) heading into the final day, was able to pull back the time to take top step by three seconds ahead of fellow South Australian Fearon and last year’s champion Chris Panozzo (VIC).

“It’s kind of interesting to actually be an enduro national champion; I’m not even the downhill national champion,” the Adelaide resident remarked. “After yesterday I knew I had to make that time up and really gave it all on that first stage and surprised a little bit it worked out.”

Fearon beat Brosnan at Fox Creek’s 2016 National Enduro Round. The local downhillers are hard to beat even when there’s some pedalling to be done.

Two-time defending National Enduro Champion, Chris Panozzo, had a consistent race, but couldn’t match the pace of the locals downhillers seeing him finish in 3rd.

For Fry, the 30-second gap she held to the 2016 champion Phillipa Rostan (SA) was enough to take out her first national enduro title with Shelly Flood (SA) in third.

The Tasmanian two-time cross-country Australian champion proved she was an even match for the local downhillers on their home track and added another title to her already impressive resume.

“I was always a little bit worried cause I didn’t actually feel that great on the bike today but knew I had a bit of time up my sleeve and could be a bit more conservative and stay upright,” Fry said.

Elite Female Gravity Enduro Rider of the Year and defending National Champion, Philippa Rostan, won stage 4 and rode consistently to 2nd overall.
Shelly Flood has had a great year of racing including World Cup DH, World Champs and three EWS rounds.
Launceston’s Rowena Fry had a tough task taking on the local ladies but kept it upright to win four stages and the race by 25 seconds.
Sydney’s Mel Hayes wrapped up 5th place in the Elite Women.

There was more local joy with junior men up-and-comer Sam Walsh claiming the green and gold jersey making it a perfect season after winning the national series.

Sam’s time of 17:58:24 would have placed him 5th in elite men.

Just as at the SA DH State Champs in Fox Creek a month earlier, Sam Walsh took the U19 Men’s win ahead of Bennett Wythe.

More than 200 riders were part of the weekend hosted by Inside Line Downhill MTB Club which used 22km of Fox Creek’s best trails.

Western Sydney’s Jon Gatt warming up with some stretches ahead of a big weekend of racing.
Gatt scored a couple of top 15 stage finishes and 18th overall
VIC’s Richard Kreuzer beat his number plate, by one place.
Ryan De La Rue focused, but this wasn’t to be his race.

After taking the win in the final National Round, Ben Cory managed 4th in the stacked field at National Champs
Keiran Volk
DHaRCO’s Mathieu Taris managed five stage wins, but finished 2nd in Masters 2 Men behind Kevin King.
National Series winner, Dave Ludenia, finished just off the podium in 6th
Fresh from an impressive 55th overall in the EWS, Sydney’s James ‘Cannonball’ Hall finished 10th on his first excursion to Fox Creek.

Michael Ronning wrapped up the National Series for Masters 3/4 Men and took the Masters 3 win in the Champs as well.
Yet another National Title for RonRon
Lower Blue Mountains’ Michael Vanos was too sick to race on Saturday but managed some impressive stage results on Sunday that would’ve seen him pushing into the top 10, including a 5th place in stage 6.
Ben McIlroy’s had a tough National Enduro season, missing multiple races due to injury. After busting his AC joint in Friday’s practice, he sat out the National Champs but continued his @flow_mtb Instagram Stories Takeover – thanks, mate! We’re keen to see him lay down some more race runs soon.
Elite Men’s Podium
Elite Women’s Podium

Find the full results here.

Enduro Racing Comes to the Mornington Peninsula

Mountain biking on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has achieved a significant milestone with the first ever race conducted on trails constructed within the Arthurs Seat State Park.

Organised and promoted by the Red Hill Mountain Bike Club, the Red Hill Gravity Enduro was conducted on the weekend of September 24-25.

A full field of 190 riders ranging from juniors to international level elites competed for more than $12,000 in cash and prizes over a six stage course on trails built by the Red Hill Riders.

Mornington Peninsula is a stunning spot for a race.
Mornington Peninsula is a stunning spot for a race.

The winner of Men’s Elite was Melbourne-based New Zealander Shannon Hewetson, who completed the six stages in 17 minutes and 23.14 seconds and won $1000 in the process.

However, Hewetson’s overall time out on the tracks was more than three hours as the riders had to also climb 1100 metres in the six stages that linked each of the competitive stages.

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The winner of Women’s Elite was Dora Bettridge from Glen Waverley, taking top spot on the podium in a time of 24 minutes 45.53 seconds and less than a minute back was Lyndsay McAlpine.

“The riders had a great time, the organisation worked smoothly and there is no doubt we have learned a lot,” said Red Hill Riders president Mark Gardner.

“Considering we formed the club nine years ago with the dream of one day having dedicated trails and a venue capable of hosting high quality racing as well as recreational riding, this event was a big achievement.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the co-operation of the Parks Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire, so we extend a big thanks to them.

“We also need to gratefully acknowledge the sponsors which made the event possible; Canyon bicycles, Shimano bicycle components, Continental tyres, local bike shop Chain Brain, DT Swiss wheels and Hill View quarries.”

Gardner said the mountain bike park had the potential to further boost the Mornington Peninsula’s as a tourism region.

“We had riders come from Melbourne, country Victoria and even some from interstate,” he said. “We know plenty stayed for the weekend and that’s great for the wider local economy.

The venue is one hour from Melbourne, five minutes from freeway access and at the heart of a tourism region that offers plenty of attractions once the riding is done for the day.

“Now that we have successfully got underway, the next step is to conduct another event,” confirmed Gardner. “We’re already looking forward to it and we’re sure plenty of riders are too.”

First Ever Australian Enduro Champs Crowned

Chris Panozzo (VIC) and Em Parkes (ACT) have been crowned as the inaugural Mountain Bike Enduro Australian Champions at a thrilling event presented by Mountain Bike Australia in Palm Cove, Far North Queensland. 

The Enduro discipline, also known as Gravity Enduro, has been Mountain Biking’s fastest growing competitive category in recent years. 

Elite_champs_credit_DFA_Photography

The popularity stems from Enduro racing mirroring the riding that mountain bikers participate in with their friends, transitioning up hills and then racing down.

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The event started on both weekend days in picturesque Palm Cove, with a transition ride taking riders to race stages at the iconic Smithfield Mountain Bike park, the venue of the 2014 and 2016 Mountain Bike World Cups.

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With 2015 World Champion Jared Graves (QLD) absent, competition was fierce for the green and gold title in the men’s event.

Chris Panozzo (VIC) came into the event as the favourite, confidently winning the 2015 National Enduro Series.

Chris_Panozzo_Credit_Russ_Baker

The fastest rider in the prologue on day 1, Panozzo was almost untouchable on race day, winning 4 of the 5 stages to take the overall win by 10 seconds.

“It’s pretty exciting to be the first Enduro National Champion” said Panozzo. “It was difficult out there today, a big day with changeable conditions, with rain during sections changing powdery dry trails into slippery clay”. 

Panozzo is now looking ahead. “The focus is now on solid training over summer, racing some Aussie downhill events with an eye on the Enduro World Series in 2016”.

Second place went to Berend Boer (QLD) and Shannon Hewetson (VIC) rounded out the podium in third.   

In the women’s event, the favourites were 2015 National Enduro Series winner Jaclyn Schapel (TAS) and Em Parkes (ACT). 

Em_Parkes_Credit_Russ_Baker

Parkes has had a landmark 2015, winning the Under 23 Cross Country National title and finishing in the top 10 for the Eliminator discipline at the World Championships. 

She would end up with the perfect race day in the Cairns rainforest, winning all 5 stages to record her second Enduro race win in a row to take the win and the National title.

“It feels great” exclaimed Parkes reflecting on taking another National title. 

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“It was a nice experience to re-ride some of the world cup cross country course – it was a positive feeling to ride the A-lines, and it gives me good confidence going into the Cross Country World Champs in 2017”.

Jaclyn Schapel took second place for the Elite Women and Angela Williams finished third.

The Mountain Bike Australia 2015-16 National Series encompassing Cross Country, Downhill and more commences in November, with information available at www.mtba.asn.au     

The Slasher! First Impressions of the Trek Slash 9.8

Later this week, Flow’s boarding the big white budgie and heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, for a few days of exploring the trails of that famed adventure wonderland. Queenstown offers up a whopping mixed bag of trails, but the gravity riding is the real highlight, with gondola-accessed downhill tracks and mammoth heli-biking back-country epics.

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For this mission,we knew we wanted to take a bike that wouldn’t wring its hands when presented with some pretty full-on terrain. Our usual Flow Nation bikes, while superb trail bikes, just don’t have the travel for downhill work, so we had a look at some other options. This bike grabbed us by the lapels and screamed in our face: “PICK ME!”

Trek Slash first bite 3
The frame is carbon throughout, with the exception of the chain stays. Flipping the Mino Link at the top of the seat stay will switch the head angle between 65 and 65.5 degrees.

The Slash is Trek’s most aggressive platform before you leap into the full-on downhill realm with the Session. It’s a real gravity enduro machine – we’d shirk to call it an all-mountain bike, because its performance heavily skewed towards descending. Heavily skewed, but not heavy: this 160mm-travel beast weighs in at 12.7kg. Its angles are all about stability when it’s fast and steep, with a head angle that’s adjustable between 65.5 and a 65-degrees.

Trek Slash first bite 7
Fork travel is adjustable from 160-130mm on the fly.

Piloting a 65-degree head angle uphill is sometimes a bit like pushing a wheel barrow with a flat tyre full of water; it’s a pain in the arse to keep on track. So to sharpen climbing performance up, the Slash has a travel-adjustable Pike that lowers the bars and sharpens the steering a bit.

Trek Slash first bite 5
The Slash 9.8 runs a SRAM X1 11-speed, single-ring drivetrain, so the front derailleur mount gets this neat cover.

We’ve fallen in love with the performance of Bontrager’s XR4 tyres. These things hang on like a cat over water, especially when they’re mounted to a wide rim, like the Bontrager Maverick. We’re predicting a lot of grip!

A RockShox Monarch Plus in place of the usual Trek/FOX DRCV shock.
A RockShox Monarch Plus in place of the usual Trek/FOX DRCV shock.

It’s almost odd seeing a Trek dual suspension bike that’s not equipped with the FOX DRCV shock we’ve come to know so well. While we like the DRCV shock, we do think that the Rockshox Monarch Plus is a better option for this bike; it has a bigger air and oil volume, and more progressive spring rate than the proprietary FOX dual-chamber shock, so it’s better suited to hard, rough long runs.

With four days of EnZed’s finest coming our way, we think we should be able to give the Slash a pretty good shake down and get our head around its strengths and weaknesses. A review will be coming your way, maybe even before Santa arrives.

Video: Gravity Enduro at Narbethong

The ENVE Victorian Gravity Enduro series has proven to be the biggest hit since The Beatles, attracting hordes of gravity enduro racers across Victoria. The latest round was at Narbethong, and we reckon the trails look like a heap of fun, both in the dry and in the wet.

ENVE Victorian Gravity Enduro presented by My Mountain & Schwalbe – Narbethong Round 3 from Liam Renaut on Vimeo.

Jesse

Jerome Clementz to Race the RockShox Enduro Challenge

Holy wheel of camembert, Mt Buller’s trails aren’t going to know what hit them!

Insane-fast Frenchman, 2013 EWS Overall Champ Jerome Clementz, is confirmed to race the opening round of the new RockShox Enduro Challenge at Buller! Come on now, Gravesy, you need to show this man who is boss on home turf.

JER_6633

Read on below for the official word.


 

The level of racing at the RockShox Enduro Challenge Powered by SRAM in Mt Buller in February is set to be hot, with 2013 EWS Champion Jerome Clementz confirmed as a starter for the inaugural Enduro event at Mt Buller on February 1.  Working with Event promotors, Event Management Solutions Australia and SRAM Australia, Jerome has structured his 2015 pre season training around being able to attend this  event.

The 2013 EWS Champion had a tough 2014 sustaining an injury early in the year that put him out of contention for the 2014 series, so is looking to come back to challenge 2014 Champion Jared Graves at the opening EWS event in Rotorua in March.

A number of other Northern Hemisphere riders are looking to come join JC at the RockShox Enduro Challenge events in Mt Buller and Toowoomba.


Learn more, or just enter dammit, at: www.gravityenduro.com.au

And in case you needed any more motivation to head to Buller, watch this vid to get the flavour of the place:

 

 

Tested: BH Lynx 6 27.5 Carbon

One of life’s most frustrating occurrences is gelato inconsistency; sometimes you get a generous soul who heaps it into the cup like a mad person, other times you leave holding an ice cream that befits a child on a diet. Lately, our relationship with BH bikes has been a little like our relationship with our favourite gelaterria.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-75
Lovely lines.

In most instances, the experience has been fulfilling and damn tasty (take for instance our time on board the BH Lynx 4.8 29 – superb!). But we’ve also had experiences that left us wanting just a little more, such as our test of the Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5; a fine bike, but just not as satisfying as we’d hoped.

But now the overly-generous staff member is back on shift, and the BH Lynx 6 27.5 Carbon has left us absolutely stuffed to the gills with tasty trail memories. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-45
6-inches travel, 27.5-inch wheels. Simple.

[divider]Build[/divider]
Don’t be fooled into assuming that the 627 Carbon is just a magic plastic version of the Lynx 6 Alloy we reviewed a month or so ago. The two bikes are chalk and cheese. Where the Lynx 6 Alloy felt a little rough around the edges, the 6 27.5 Carbon is sculpted beauty of a thing, its full carbon frame all curved lines, like someone has stuck 650B wheels onto a dolphin. (Now there’s an interesting concept…). The upper link and pivot hardware are just about the only alloy in the frame, with the bottom bracket shell and headset cups all carbon. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-66
But the differences run far deeper than its sleek carbon skin. Take a closer look at the rear end and you’ll notice the frame/suspension configuration is different too. Whereas the Lynx 6 alloy had a pierced seat tube with the shock located within the frame, the 6 27.5 Carbon is more conventional, with the FOX CTD Factory Series shock positioned in front of the seat tube. Unsurprisingly, the suspension kinematics are quite different on the trail too, but we’ll get into that later.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-80
The frame layout is quite different to the Lynx 4.8 29 or Lynx 6 we’ve tested previously – the shock does not pierce the seat tube.

Dave Weagle is kind of the secret evil genius of the mountain bike industry. He’s got his hands on the levers of many machines, and the Split Pivot suspension system the BH employs is one of his creations. The secret of the design is a concentric pivot around the rear axle which ensures the suspension is uninhibited by braking forces. The rear shock is ‘sandwiched’ between an upper link and the chain stays, so it’s actuated from both ends, and this floating arrangement means suspension forces are not transferred into the main frame. Rear travel is a buttery 150mm, matched with 150mm up front. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-31
Torx fittings for all the pivots ensure everything stays tight.

If you don’t own a full set of Torx keys, hopefully you got a Bunnings gift card for Christmas, as the BH will require a trip to the hardware store – all the suspension pivots use a variety of Torx fittings, rather than Allen keys. While this is a pain in the proverbial, Torx heads are actually a better solution as they’re harder to round out under high torque loads. While our test riding often got loose, the pivots all stayed tight. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-43
Yes, there are many cables. But they’re well managed. We used one single zip tie to keep them silent, and clean routing around the head tube prevents any cable rub.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-16With a remote lockout for the fork and shock, the Lynx 6 27.5 has more cable than Foxtel, but thankfully it’s all neatly managed, with rattle-free internal routing (hooray!) for the derailluers and KS dropper post. The rear brake line is external (double hooray! Overwhelming joy!), as is the rear shock remote cable. The rear shock’s lockout cable does slide backwards and forwards through the cable guides the suspension compresses, which does make us worry about potentially nasty cable rub in wet conditions.

In just about every regard, the BH keeps ticking boxes like a food safety inspector. There’s a press-fit bottom bracket, ISCG mounts, a neat low-stack head tube, and the super neat double-bolt seat post clamp even has a rubber sheath to keep grit out of the frame. You can fit a full-sized water bottle in there, but there’s a catch! Depending on your bottle cage, you may need to file out the cage’s bolt holes in order to sit it further forward; we found the shock’s rebound adjuster just caught on the end of our bottle, turning the rebound dial one click faster with every suspension compression! Thirty seconds with a round file to modify the bottle cage fixed it.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-27
Great lines and graphics.

[divider]Spec[/divider]
BH have listened to rider and media feedback and the 6 27.5 is specced with cockpit and fork that we felt were sorely missing from the Lynx 6 alloy. A 740mm bar and 50mm stem make for an aggressive front end, and the FOX 34 Float fork sweeps your poor line choices under the rug. We’re hoping that all new season FOX forks work as well as this one, because this fork has more sensitivity than an exposed nerve ending – it’s so smooth at the top of the stroke it felt like we had a slow leak in the front tyre. The Kashima coated shock is equally adept, as always.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-32
Almost frictionless performance.

The Stan’s Arch EX wheelset is an interesting choice, being very light, and the rims aren’t as wide as we’d normally see on a bike of this travel. Still, our past experiences with these wheels is that they punch well above their weight and they’re wisely wrapped in a pair of Hans Dampfs, which stick like a smashed moth to a windscreen.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-41
The Arch EX rims are a little narrow for the big Hans Dampf tyres, but these hoops are very tough for their weight.
BH Lynx Carbon 627-26
Confidence-inspiring grip.

Braking, shifting and fishing reel duties are all handled by Shimano, with an XT/XTR combo. A cheaper SLX cassette is also slipped into the mix, but cassettes wear out and you can replace it with a lighter XT cassette in year’s time. As a European brand, the BH is understandably equipped with a double ring drivetrain – the hills are just a lot bigger over there. Even though we’re big fans of a single ring setup, there were times we thankfully slipped into the granny ring on long climbs. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-33
XT brakes with 180mm rotors fore and aft.

Completing the menagerie of cables out front is a KS Lev dropper post, with its neat remote lever smoothly actuating 125mm of adjustment. Along with two shifters, two brakes and remote lock outs for the fork and shock, there are six cables off the bars, but BH have done an admirable job of taming the serpents’ nest and with the addition of just one zip tie we were able to prevent any cable rub. All the cables use a full-length housing too, which should reduce the need for regular maintenance to keep the lockouts, post and shifting working smoothly. With so many levers for your thumbs to hit, we’ll admit that it took us a good ride or two to stop pushing the wrong button occasionally, stiffening the suspension when we really wanted the big ring!

[divider]Ride[/divider]
When we rode the BH Lynx 6 Alloy a couple of weeks ago, we noted the bike’s excellent geometry and the fact that the suspension had the same super lively feel to it as its 29er brother, the Lynx 4.8 29. The genes are strong, and the 6 27.5 has that same ultra-supple, responsive and lively ride quality, but it’s also a far more capable bike when you start pushing harder. 

BH Lynx Carbon 627-64
It feels wrong to treat such a pretty bike so badly… but it loves it.

With the 34mm fork leading the charge, the 6 27.5 is a reckless beast. Thanks to the 50mm stem, your weight is naturally pushed back over the rear axle, encouraging you to keep the front end up and plough over all comers. The Lynx has a very short rear end too, which makes it very easy to pick the bike up, jump or pump through the trails – it’s just really playful.

While we found the Lynx 6 Alloy blew through its travel a little easily, the 6 27.5 offers a more progressive suspension feel. When you really slam it, you’ll find plenty of support to the ride, so it’s still responsive when other bikes would be feeling bogged down by the rough riding. Basically, go ahead and treat the bike like it insulted your sister, it’ll take it.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-48
The Lynx is equipped with a 2×10 drivetrain, which mightn’t be ‘on trend’ but will bring a smile to your face at the end of a big day’s riding.

The 50mm stem on the 6 27.5 definitely adds to the ‘get rad’ factor of the bike and makes it really easy to manoeuvre, but it won’t suit everyone. When climbing up ledges or steep pinches, the short stem does leave the bars right in your lap, so we tried going a little longer. With a 70mm stem fitted, we didn’t feel like the bike gave up much of its playfulness, but there was more front end grip in flat turns and the climbing position was better. It’s a horses for courses thing, and like during your teen years, a bit of experimentation is good.

BH Lynx Carbon 627-9
While we’ve ridden lighter all-mountain bikes (and many much heavier too) the 627 is a steady, grippy climber, preferring a conversational pace. We don’t like to rely on lockouts too much, and we often find them too firm and only suitable for the smoothest surfaces, but we actually found the light tune of the Trail and Climb modes on the 6 27.5 to be really usable. In Trail mode the suspension only stiffens marginally, and even when you push the lever further to engage Climb mode, the suspension becomes just firm enough to resist bobbing under heavy pedalling, but not so firm that you’ll be put through the wringer if you leave it engaged for a descent. 

[divider]Overall[/divider]

This is the all-mountain bike we knew BH had the potential to make, a glamorous (cable nest aside), wicked all-rounder. Those riders with Gravity Enduro aspirations will likely fit a single ring, and for our purposes that would be the only modification we’d likely make in the longer term. But we’re sure that most riders will be completely blown away with the bike as it stands. 

Flow’s First Bite: BH Lynx 6 27.5

Normally we’re filling you in on a new test bike the moment it lands in the office but the BH Lynx 6 is one we’ve had for a little while and we’ve already been shredding the trails from Cairns to Sydney. The BH Lynx 6 27.5 is a 150mm/160mm travel all-mountain machine, and coming with Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension system, we approached this one with high expectations.

BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-5
The heart of the frame; a ‘floating’ shock driven by the Split Pivot suspension configuration. The FOX Evolution series shock has a remote CTD lever.

Click here to check out our full write up.

So what’s in the package? 150mm of FOX CTD damped travel front and rear with a handlebar remote for both, Shimano XT cranks and derailleurs, SLX brakes, Stan’s ZTR tubeless ready wheels (even though we’ve shot ours with DT Swiss), to name a few highlights. The 90mm stem and 680mm bars made us feel like we were back in the 90’s, so we swapped them out as soon as we could. The absence of a dropper post is a pity. We’ve since had a chat with the Australian BH distributor and we’re super pleased to hear that the 2015 version of this bike will come with 50/70mm stem options, a 740mm bar AND a dropper post too – it’s great to see that BH has taken that feedback on board.

The handlebar-mounted controls for the CTD fork and shock make for it easy to stiffen things up in a hurry for the long climbs or sprints. It’s a simultaneous lockout system – it’s either C, T, or D for front and back, at the same time – so you can’t just stiffen the rear and leave the fork fully open, which is a common setup choice.

BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-10
In 1993 Guns and Roses released their 5th studio album called “the Spaghetti Incident”. Just like that album was a bit of a let down, the spaghetti “incident” of cables  is less than appealing. The brakes, however, are awesome.
BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-7
“Floated Mount”? BH boasts that they’re the only company who uses a floating mount on split pivot suspension system. Simplistically, it means that the rear shock is not anchored to the actual mainframe, allowing more control over the shock rate.

The BH Lynx is all about the rear end and it has a list of slogans to describe the technology employed here that’s longer than most people’s weekly grocery list. However, it’s really the ride that matters and our initial impressions of the rear suspension are very good, especially on those square rocks and bumps that tend to hang up the rear end. The BH doesn’t seem to get caught up as much and thus momentum is easier to maintain over the really rough stuff.

With a different bar and stem fitted (as mentioned above), the bike has a neutral, familiar feel. The geometry feels perfect for a bike of this kind, with a head angle that instills confidence and a compact frame that lends itself to flicking about. We’re excited to have the bike for a bit longer, so look out for our full test soon.

Tested: GT Force X Expert Carbon

“I want that for sex!”

“Excuse me?”

“I said; I want that Force X!”

“Oh, yes, of course. It is a nice bike, thank you.”

The GT For Sex, I mean, Force X, is a serious piece of artillery in GT’s fight to re-establish themselves, after a few fairly quiet years on the development front. It’s a big-hitter, a gravity enduro bike with real guts, developed with input from Dan Atherton and the rest of the Atherton clan.

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GT’s recent reinvention has won them a lot of fans, or perhaps more correctly rekindled a love that had simply faded a bit, as GT is one of those brands that everyone seems to have a soft spot for.

There are three key models in the range now: the Sensor (130mm), the Force (150mm) and the Fury DH. The Force X (of which there are two variants with different spec) sandwiches in between the regular Force and the Fury. It uses the same frameset as the Force, but with a number of component choices such as a longer travel fork that push its descending credentials a bit harder.

 

Build:

Like a pair of white jeans, the GT screams look at me. The frame has a bulbous well-fed python look to it, and you get the feeling that GT opted for carbon not for its weight saving properties, but its strength and the opportunities for creative frame shapes it provides. The lines are muscular to say the least.

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Carbon lets GT create some very involved frame shapes, including the pierced seat tube.

It’s tricked up with all the features too, like an internally activated seat post, a sag indicator to aid suspension setup, a Maxle 142x12mm rear end, and Shimano’s new direct mount rear derailleur system. There are ISCG tabs as well, a feature that is becoming increasingly irrelevant with this new era of single-ring chain guide-free drivetrains.

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Behold, the AOS (Angle Optimised Suspension).

The new 150mm-travel Angle Optimised Suspension system is one of the more involved out there. Have a look at video below to see it in action. It’s designed to provide the benefits of a high-pivot suspension system but without fewer negative (brake jack and pedal feedback). The bottom bracket is housed in the Path Link, which rotates slightly rearward with the suspension compression so as to minimise the amount of chain growth. It’s a fair bit to get your head around!

A FOX Float X shock handles the damping duties, sitting low in the frame. There’s a neat mud guard slipped in behind the shock too, to offer some well considered protection for the shock shaft. On the topic of protection, you’ll want to wrap the chain stay with some Framewrap to both protect the bike and silence any chain slap, as the bike makes a racket in the rough.

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Neat cabling… until it all hits the Path Link, at which point it all gets a bit complicated! With a single-ring drivetrain, it’d be much neater.

By virtue of the cramped front derailleur / shock mount junction, the cabling is little convoluted. This is one bike that would’ve been far easier to design without having to consider front shifting, but having a good complement of gears doesn’t seem like such a bad option once you point this beast uphill.

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There are some similarities between the AOS system and the iDrive suspension system of years past (namely, the rearward movement of the bottom bracket of the suspension compresses), but the new system is far superior.

This brings us to an issue that can’t be ignored; the GT has a weight problem. Out of the box, the GT is 15kg. Add some pedals and you’re getting into the territory of some downhill bikes. It’s simply too heavy. Fortunately there are a couple of easy tweaks to bring the bike back to a more acceptable figure.

 

Spec:

With the scales showing 16.1kg once we’d fitted pedals and a full water bottle, we had to work out where the weight resided in the GT. It didn’t take long to work out that the problem is predominantly in the wheels, more specifically the tyres and cassette.

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Some cable trimming is needed! The KS LEV seat post and GT themed saddle are both great! We’d definitely opt for lighter, fast and more supple rubber than these Continental Trail King tyres.

The Continental Trail King rubber is massive with very stiff sidewalls, but just far too heavy, at a kilogram per tyre. Our first move would be to fit something like a Schwalbe Hans Dampf or Maxxis High Roller 2, both of which would save you 200g per wheel. Then we’d go tubeless (another 100g saving per wheel). GT have done the dodgy with a crappy steel cassette – the HG50 Deore-level cassette is close to 400g. Swapping it for an XT cassette would save 110g and shift better. Finally, we’d go for a single chain ring drivetrain. Fitting a 32 or 34 tooth Raceface, e13 or Wolf Tooth chain ring and removing the front shifter, derailleur, the bash guard and associated cabling will save you at least another 200g.

All up, that’s close to a kilo saved right away, without huge expense, whilst simultaneously simplifying and improving the performance of the bike. Easy!

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WTB’s Tubeless Compatible Rims really aren’t all that tubeless compatible – they don’t come ready for tubeless use, you’ll still need to install rim strips or tape/valves.

The rest of the componentry is all good stuff. We’re especially fond of the KS LEV seat post, and the Kore bar/stem combo is great as well, with the huge 760mm bars making you feel like a viking! As with a number of FOX forks we’ve ridden in the past 12 months, the FOX 34 160mm fork was a little sticky in its performance. It only takes 10 minutes to pull the lowers off the fork and we highly recommend you do so in order to lube the seals and change the splash oil. It makes a world of difference.

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Formula’s RX brakes are a little on/off at slow speed, but modulate well once you’re up to pace. The tiny remote lever for the KS LEV seat post is the best out there.

Ride:

Our first ride on the GT was what we’d classify as ‘ok’. It felt big – very confident once gravity was on your side – but hard to get moving and not as responsive as many other gravity enduro / all-mountain bikes. Sure the riding position was solid and the frame relished a hard impact, but the bike felt a bit dead.

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We knew there was a more exciting, lively and versatile bike in there. Softening the suspension a little (30% rear sag vs 25% on our first ride) and speeding up the rebound was the first move; suddenly the ride went from being choppy to delivering the kind of control we’d expect from a high-pivot design and the FOX Float X shock.

We also changed out the wheels, although simply swapping to lighter tyres would have had the same effect. With less rotating weight the GT was much easier to get up to speed or to change direction. The bike’s low centre of gravity suddenly shone, as it became easy to flick the bike from turn to turn. Reducing the unsprung weight (i.e. the wheels) also assisted the suspension’s responsiveness to small bumps. Overall, the bike was suddenly one we could appreciate!

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The GT catalogue claims that the Force X has a 67.2 degree head angle, but we’re certain it feels slacker. Either that, or the bike’s willingness to run blindly into the roughest trails just convinces you it must have a more relaxed head angle. With a 760mm bar and a 50mm stem, you’re in a very strong, stable position on the bike and so keeping it on track in the rough is made easy.

This is bike that really likes big hits. The high pivot suspension design is particularly adept at smoothing out sudden harsh, square impacts (rock ledges etc). As you’d have guessed, the frame is robust in the extreme, and it doesn’t give a stuff if you wedge it into situations that would twist or upset a lesser beast. It’s only if you really concentrate in it that you become aware of the bottom bracket moving backward and forward as the suspension moves – it’s certainly not enough movement to upset your rhythm.

Despite its weight, the GT is a reasonable climber. The seat angle is sufficiently steep to keep the front tyre on the ground when grinding up climbs, and rear wheel tracks well under power, rarely breaking traction. In the granny ring, despite the Path Link’s best intentions, you can notice a bit of chain tug though the pedals as the rear suspension works. If your regular riding does include a lot of climbing, the 50mm stem might prove to be a little too short as well, as the riding position does become pretty cramped when you shuffle forward onto the nose of the saddle.

Overall:

Whereas some all-mountain bikes have a fairly even split in terms of descending and climbing performance, the Force X unreservedly leans towards the descending end of the spectrum, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a ride that can handle the odd day shuttling the local downhill track. Make the changes we’ve recommended in this review to drop some weight and get most out of this bike, because it has some savage potential as a gravity enduro / all-mountain bike. Of course, you could also look at the Force X Pro, which already comes with lighter, tubeless wheels and a single-ring drivetrain!

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Racing: 24hr Solo Champ Jason English to race gravity enduro

The Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro NSW State Series Powered by Flow Mountain Bike will kick off on Monday, 27th January and organisers from Rocky Trail Entertainment have just confirmed that the current 24 Hour Solo World Champion Jason English will be at the start of at Ourimbah MTB Park near Wyong.

On new terrain in the gravity enduro scene, English will be up against the reigning NSW State Series Champion, Jon Odams from Sydney as well as the local rider Brad Kelly, the winner of last year’s Rollercoaster race at the popular venue on the Central Coast.

“I’ve been following the new gravity enduro format that Rocky Trail has been running in NSW over the past year and am excited to give it a go”, said Jason English for whom it will be a new type of racing event. The ultra-endurance mountain bike athlete from Port Macquarie has been dominating Australian marathon and cross-country endurance events over the past few years and said that he was curious about the new format that has taken the Australian mountain bike racing scene by storm. Event promoters Rocky Trail Entertainment were one of the first to host gravity enduro events in 2012, adapting the popular European and American racing concept for the local terrains. In Australian gravity enduro events the times of two to three race tracks add up to 15-20 minutes and are dominated by technical descents and short pinch climbs with neutral rides or shuttles to the starts in between.

Sweet air time, Jas! But you'll need to get wilder than that to beat the likes of Brad Kelly and Jon Odams.
Sweet air time, Jas! But you’ll need to get wilder than that to beat the likes of Brad Kelly and Jon Odams.

Race director Martin Wisata said that the format had been attracting both downhill and cross-country racers and that he expected the Ourimbah venue to sell out by the weekend, “We have limited the rider number to about 200 to cater for the local track set up and logistics. The track conditions are ideal right now and it will take an all-rounder of a mountain biker to take out the fastest time on this track.” Wisata added that there would be two timed race tracks and that he expected a wide variety of racers at the event, including juniors and female riders. “We have strong male and female elite fields and also the age categories have been very popular. A lot of mates enjoy the ‘pure mountain biking element’ of this type of racing – it’s about a day out on the bikes together and the added competitive challenge of the timed runs.”

 

Brad Kelly knows these trails better than anyone. He can actually ride them by feel alone, like a Jedi.
Brad Kelly knows these trails better than anyone. He can actually ride them by feel alone, like a Jedi.

The hosting club for this Round 1 will be the Central Coast Ourimbah MTB Club and with Brad Kelly from Watanobbi they have a local downhill favourite on the start line. The 36-year old is one of the regular builders and custodians of the Ourimbah trails he is expected to dominate on his home track. Among the elite riders he will have strong competition from the reigning Gravity Enduro NSW State Series Champion and cross-country whippet, 31-year old Jon Odams from Sans Souci.

Flow Nation: Mt Buller, Day 2

On day 1 in Mt Buller, we got chatting with Norm Douglas, a fella who spends a lot of time up here. His favourite ride? “The Delatite River Trail,” he said, “it’s got something for everybody.” And so taking that recommendation on board, that’s where we pointed ourselves for our second day on the Buller trails.

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The Buller team have developed a great smart phone app to help you get the most out of your time on the trails. It has trail maps, trail info and loads more – definitely worth the download (it’s free).

As you begin the long, winding drive up the mountain to the peak of Buller, you pass a beautiful park and camping ground at Mirimbah; this is where the Delatite River Trail exits, right at the very base of the hill. And its start? Well that’s way, way, way up the mountain – this is a long, generous run, the likes of which are almost unknown in Australia.

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The sky-high eucalypts that surround the Delatite River trail are beautiful, just don’t hit one.

There are many, many aspects that make the Delatite a ride that is guaranteed to stick in your memory. There’s the sheer speeds you reach, fast enough to leave you short of gears; the lingering threat of potential carnage should you stray off the ride line in the rubble strewn fireroad fringe; the towering gums that stretch out of the gullies; the thirteen bridges that span the bubbling waters of the Delatite River… But for us, it’s the way the Delatite Trail just keeps on giving which really stands out. Just when you’re 100% certain you’ve reached bottom, the trail begins descending once again, and you’ve just got to laugh – “it’s still going!”

A dip in the river and a coffee at the excellent Mirimbah store is the perfect way to finish it all off before jumping in the shuttle bus back to the village. Paradise, or what?

Our afternoon was spent on a very different trail, Copperhead. Where the Delatite is raw and natural, Copperhead is a manmade, sculpted flow trail that snakes its way down the ski runs. It’s the ideal trail bike friendly accompaniment to International, Buller’s downhill race track. Berms aplenty, massive corners and a surface that keeps you on your toes, Copperhead doesn’t need a bike with lots of travel for you to have a good time. it’s also the ideal trail for when your legs are blown and the thought of riding back up is enough to send you to the pub.

Tomorrow, we’re taking on Stonefly, a trail we’d have to rate as one of the best in the country.

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World Trail’s Ryan De La Rue joined us on the trails again today. He carries a telescoping fishing rod in his pack – what a legend! He normally bags a trout or two on every outing, but they weren’t biting today.
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There are 13 of these bridges that span the Delatite as you hammer towards Mirimbah. Talk about iconic.
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A quick foot spa in the refreshing (cold) waters of the river before jumping into the shuttle bus.
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Copperhead lets you make the most of the chairlift for some quick vertical, even if you’re not riding a downhill bike.

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MAGICMAGICMAGICMAGIC!


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Video: SRAM XX1 | Enduro | Part 2: Flat Out and Focused

Enduro is demanding on riders and bikes in the same way: it requires a unique combination of all-out riding and reliability over long stages, multiple days of racing and ultimately a long season.

This second chapter follows the best enduro racers in the world from the iconic Mega Avalanche in Alpe d’Huez to the final race of the Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, Italy. Here, in addition to Jerome Clementz’s victory in both the race and overall, Curtis Keene, Rene Wildhaber, Anka Martin, Anneke Beerten and many more reflect on the first season of the Enduro World Series and what it means to be an enduro racer today.

at the third round of the Enduro World Series, Les 2 Alps, France

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during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

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during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

 

Video: SRAM XX1 | Enduro | Part 2: Flat Out and Focused

Enduro is demanding on riders and bikes in the same way: it requires a unique combination of all-out riding and reliability over long stages, multiple days of racing and ultimately a long season.

This second chapter follows the best enduro racers in the world from the iconic Mega Avalanche in Alpe d’Huez to the final race of the Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, Italy. Here, in addition to Jerome Clementz’s victory in both the race and overall, Curtis Keene, Rene Wildhaber, Anka Martin, Anneke Beerten and many more reflect on the first season of the Enduro World Series and what it means to be an enduro racer today.

at the third round of the Enduro World Series, Les 2 Alps, France

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during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

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during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

during the final stop of the EWS, Finale, Italy.

 

New Race Series: The Australian Gravity Enduro Series

Leading the charge for Gravity Enduro racing to grow and develop in Australia are two of the country’s most successful pioneers so far of the new school of mountain bike racing. Alpine Gravity and Rocky Trail Entertainment have both followed the huge growth in the sport from Europe and North America, and run their own state race series events in Victoria and New South Wales/ACT respectively, in the last couple years. They have now teamed up to lead the charge in running a professional, exciting, and truly Australian series based on the Enduro World Series, with multiple stage events and a big diversity in courses and locations.

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Their vision for this true Aussie series is to incorporate local experience and know-how of both the most exciting trails and the best ways to run events in specific areas. The two companies are working with South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland to unite and summon riders across the country to races that will be part of the most professional and amazing gravity enduro mountain bike series in Australia.

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The Australian Gravity Enduro Series will bring diversity, value for money and an experience aimed squarely at the most important aspect of racing, THE RIDERS. This series will give each rider a great experience at each round, focusing on great trails and lots of riding time.

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“Established by riders for riders, the main focus of the new Australian Gravity Enduro Series will be on the racers and the key ingredient will be having a lot of fun on your bike”, the organisers said today. The multi stage gravity enduro format was just like riding with mates and thrashing some of the best trails in the country, with a little competitiveness thrown in for good measure, they added. Courses in the series will have a big mix requiring some fitness, technical bike skills and a sense of adventure, providing an equal chance for all types of mountain bikers including cross country riders, weekend trail riders, and downhillers.

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Series dates and locations are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Racing: South East Qld Gravity Enduro Hits the Road

Event Management Solutions Australia, promoters of the hugely popular Gravity Enduro format of mountain bike racing in South East Qld are taking their racing on the road in 2014.

Visiting iconic mountain bike venues such as Eagle Park in Adelaide and Stromlo Forrest Park in Canberra, the series will give riders a chance to pit their skills and endurance against some of the country’s best riders.

Gravity Enduro is a stage based format of racing, where riders compete on a series of timed competition stages, interspersed with untimed liaison stages. Competition stages, will be predominantly downhill in nature with some small climbs to really test the rider’s endurance. Liaison stages will be a combination of self-powered climbing or shuttle services dependant on the location.

Event dates are listed below.

Round 1 February 2 2014 Adelaide

Round 2 February 16 2014 Victoria (Location TBC)

Round 3 March 23 2014 Stromlo Forrest Park

Round 4 April 13 2014 Mt Joyce, Qld.

 

Full details will be listed on www.gravityenduro.com.au in coming weeks.

Trek Unleashes Top Mountain Bikers On Enduro Racing

Trek Bicycle is sending a hit squad of its top mountain bikers from all corners of the sport and globe to conquer the newly-formed Enduro World Series.

The group of athletes hails from international hotbeds of mountain biking such as the US, Switzerland, New Zealand, UK, and France. It brings together talented stars of cross-country, downhill, and enduro to try their hand at the fast-growing format that demands a well-rounded rider. With athletes from a variety of backgrounds and representing different team programs, Trek riders will be piloting the Remedy and Slash at every stop of the 2013 Enduro World Series.

Rene Wildhaber (CH) is the most decorated enduro racer in the world, with six wins at the Alpe d’Huez Megavalanche, seven victories at the Trek Bike Attack Lenzerheide, and dozens of other titles in enduro-style events in the past decade. He has ridden all over the world, from his native Switzerland to Nepal to Whistler, and continues to be one of enduro’s greatest ambassadors.

World champion downhiller Tracy Moseley (UK) is used to being at the top level of sport, and while she may have retired from the World Cup, she hasn’t slowed one bit. Her domination of the UK and Ireland Gravity Enduro Series’, along with the occasional XC victory show she’ll be a major competitor in enduro.

When cross-country racing wasn’t technical enough for his tastes, Colorado native “Rad” Ross Schnell reinvented himself as an enduro athlete before most North Americans knew what enduro was. The 2008 All-Mountain World Champion and 2009 Singlespeed World Champion focuses both on racing and helping promote the sport of enduro in North America.

During his World Cup downhill career, Justin Leov (NZ) established a reputation for his fitness and a keen talent on longer courses, which makes his transition to enduro a natural fit. The Kiwi will continue to represent Trek World Racing in the inaugural season of the Enduro World Series.

Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (US) have traded their skinsuits for sweet singletrack, shifting from their successful careers on the World Cup XC circuit to the world of adventure offered by enduro. They kicked off their US campaign with a win for Heather and 2nd for JHK (just behind Ross Schnell) in Moab at the first top of the Enduro Cup.

Trek’s enduro representation will be rounded out by the shining talents of Steffi Marth, Greg Doucende, Michele Quint, and Kathi Kuypers. With their global, multi-pronged approach, Trek will have a rider in contention for the win at every event of the 2013 Enduro World Series.