Tested: Avanti Competitor S Plus 2

A dependable option that gives you what you expect most the time, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is a trail bike that does the job but doesn’t set the world alight doing it. Is that a bad thing? Let’s discuss how the bike performed in the sort of situations you’ll come across on a trail ride first, and then ponder whether the Competitor S Plus 2’s lack of flair is a positive or a negative.

Plus bikes are ideal for tricky terrain, and a safe bet for beginners, also.

In terms of the bike’s spec, you can check out a comprehensive run through of what comes on the Competitor S Plus 2 in our First Bite, so let’s jump into what happened when we hit the dirt!


How does the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 ride in the singletrack? 

With 140mm of front suspension paired with 130mm in the rear, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is a bike we would define as a long travel trail bike, and the key to any good trail bike is the performance in the singletrack, so let’s start by discussing that.

The Competitor S Plus 2 provides a stable, balanced ride when the trail gets twisty and narrow. Its middle of the road geometry numbers paired with a long 450mm chainstays means that the Competitor clings to lines well, and is very predictable and planted through corners when you setup well and trust the traction of the big tyres.

This much grip changes everything.

When cornering aboard the Competitor S Plus 2, we found it far more critical than on other bikes to use the traditional outside to inside cornering method.

Compared with a bike like the Cannondale Habit, for example, the Competitor S Plus 2 doesn’t like being thrown in on the inside with a foot out and the rear wheel drifting, it prefers to use its stable geometry and predictable traction to cut a smooth arc when the going gets twisty. The exception to this is when you’re faced with repeated tight turns, where we found the best option was to  lift the rear wheel rather than drift it, as once you lose traction with the plus tyres it’s hard to regain it, whereas lifting the rear in tight, repetitive turns still gives you the traction of all your weight over the front tyre.


What about when you’ve got to go uphill as well?

In undulating singletrack, the Competitor is a comfortable bike to swap between seated and out of the saddle positions. This is a good thing, because you’ll find yourself cycling through these positions more than you would on a 130mm 29” trail bike, as the tradeoff for the Competitor S Plus 2’s confidence inspiring plus tyres and long-legged suspension is a weight of more than 15 kilograms once you’ve slapped on a set of pedals.

The Competitor S 2 Plus’s weight also becomes apparent on longer singletrack climbs, as well as punchy technical efforts. One saving grace for the bike’s weightiness though is the traction provided by the plus tyres, and the very active rear suspension, which mean unless the terrain is very soft or slippery you’ll almost always have traction.

Not having to worry about traction means you can focus on putting the power down to get the Competitor moving, rather than taking the line that you would have to take on a bike with regular tyres or less travel.


The Competitor has 140mm of travel up front, how does it go on rowdier trails? 

The Competitor is a surprisingly capable performer when the going gets rough, or steep. As we noted in our First Bite, for a trail bike in this relatively budget price point, Avanti has done a great job in speccing the bike with adjustable and reliable suspension front and rear. Once we’d set up the Yari fork and Monarch RT shock to our liking, we took the Competitor out on a couple of the more technical trails near Flow HQ.

140mm of travel, add the cushion of the plus tyres and you’ve got quite a lot of bounce to enjoy.

In the steep stuff, the Competitor holds a straight line impressively, and performs well under braking with its bulky rubber and planted rear end. The biggest limiter in throwing the Competitor into steeper sections is the Shimano M365 brakes, which lack the power of more premium Shimano offerings and require some serious forethought about your braking points when riding steep and technical terrain. In rough and choppy sections of trail, we were also impressed by this sub 4k bike’s ability to soak up the chunder.

The limiter on the Competitor S Plus 2’s performance in rocky or rooty terrain is preserving the tyres because we found running them at mid-teen pressures gave the best performance characteristics, but we flatted the rear twice pushing through technical rocky sections. These flats were a combination of the relatively thin WTB Ranger tyres and soft Alexrims rims, which were about as robust through rocky sections as an iPhone screen going on a date with the pavement.

Plus tyres are not immune to punctures, finding the right tyre pressure to suit the terrain is paramount.

We were riding the Competitor S 2 Plus in places that perhaps we shouldn’t on the occasions when we got flats, but we wouldn’t want to run higher pressures in the tyres, as running high pressures gives the bike no traction and makes it very bouncy, which are sketchy sensations we like to keep to a minimum!

If your riding involves lots of super rocky stuff, the Competitor can handle it, but we would recommend you swap out to a beefier tyre and wheel set combo.


I might still want to ride the odd fire trail, how does the Competitor S Plus 2 go on more sedate trails? 

Whilst we’re sticking to our guns in classifying the Competitor S Plus 2 as a trail bike, albeit one on the longer travel side for the category, it’s not the sort of bike that you’ll be wanting to take on sedate fire trail rides, or longer, smoother rides in general if possible.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, as we’ve mentioned a couple of times now, the Competitor S Plus 2 isn’t light. We can’t complain about this too much considering this bike is pitched as a budget oriented, confidence inspiring trail machine, but it does make the Competitor S Plus 2 a laborious ride on smooth, non-technical trails.

During our testing of the Competitor S Plus 2, we rode a few sections of fire trail linking up more interesting trails with riding buddies who we’d normally plod along just fine with, but aboard the Competitor S Plus 2 we finished these same rides feeling pretty hammered due to the Competitor’s portly figure and ground hugging tyres.

Despite our reservations about taking the Competitor S Plus 2 out on the fire trails or longer rides, having a lockout on both the front and rear suspension is a bloody brilliant addition if getting to the good stuff involves a road commute, as it does for us most of the time.


So, if the Competitor isn’t a ‘do it all’ style trail bike, who is it the right bike for? 

We’ve spent longer than we normally would in this review talking about what the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 isn’t, which has affirmed what this bike is perfect for. If you’re the type of rider who’s on a budget, but wants a bike that gives you grins in flowy singletrack, or when the going gets just a touch gnarlier without getting to the stage where you’re thinking about putting on body armour, then the Competitor S Plus 2 could be the ticket.

Choose wisely, the Competitor ain’t for smooth trails.

If you’re the type of rider who’s willing to have a bike that requires a bit more grunt on the up and the flats as a tradeoff for traction, stability and confidence on the way down, than the Competitor S Plus 2 is worth a look.

All in all, the Competitor S Plus 2 is just like a soft serve from McDonald’s, you know exactly what you’re getting every time.


How did the parts go, is the bike good value for money? 

As we mentioned in our First Bite, and also our Avanti Range Highlights piece, the Competitor S Plus 2 is a bike that represents pretty good value for money at under $3500 bucks, and Avanti specced this bike very wisely, for the most part, spending their dollars where they really count.

Of course, the heart of any bike is its frame, and the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is an all-aluminium affair with pronounced welds and solid feeling construction. The bike’s suspension platform is a four-bar linkage that Avanti call Tru4, it delivers stability and grip through a fairly linear stroke, which promotes keeping the tyres glued to the trail rather than floating or popping over it.

Avanti’s long-serving four-bar linkage provides smooth and supportive suspension.

The suspension is handled by RockShox, with their budget oriented Yari fork and Monarch RT shock. The fact that these are closer to the entry level of RockShox’s line and they delivered outstanding performance is a testament to how good the suspension of today is, and with rebound and air volume spacer adjustments available, as well as compression adjustment on the fork, there were more than enough knobs to satisfy our inquisitive tweaking.

The drivetrain was Shimano’s SLX 1×11, and as we said in our comprehensive test of the groupset, it’s bloody awesome! We set the gears up on the stand for 10 minutes when building the bike, and a half turn of the barrel adjuster a couple of times throughout testing kept the shifts going smoother than Chris Froome’s legs.

The smooth and crisp SLX drivetrain was a real highlight for us.

The brakes were handled by Shimano, and whilst their M365 brakes aren’t top of the line items, they do the job most of the time. On typical singletrack rides and undulating trails their power and modulation is fine, although their initial bite is on the weak side, so think about your braking points in advance.

The M365’s budget price point becomes more obvious when the going gets steeper, but if you’re getting into longer, steeper riding than upgrading to something like an SLX brake set isn’t a hugely costly upgrade.

The brakes felt nice under the finger, but aren’t particularly powerful.

Wheels and tyres play an important role on plus bikes, the tyres need tough casings but can risk being too heavy, the rims need to be wide and should withstand dings, too. The wheelset on the Competitor S Plus 2 uses Shimano Deore hubs laced to Alex rims MD35 rims, the 35mm width is necessary to support the tyre. During testing, we noticed the rear wheel needing a little TLC with a spoke key to return it to true.

The wide rims give the tyres tremendous support at low pressure, but did feel a little soft when ridden hard on harsh rocky trails.

With the mid-teen pressures that the WTB Ranger tyres need to be run at to give the best compromise between grip, damping and avoiding tyre roll, the rims ding and dent remarkably easy. They’re also not the lightest wheelset out there, perhaps a wheel upgrade down the track to something lighter and stronger would take all the great handling traits of the Competitor S Plus 2 and amplify them with better performance on the climbs, flatter trails and inspiring confidence to give it a bit more of a nudge when the going gets rough.

The KS Eten dropper post, despite having the external routeing performed well, and allowed us to get the best out of the Competitor not just on the descents, but getting low and tipped in (at least in our heads) through the corners.


Any final thoughts?

The Competitor S Plus 2 might not be the most radical bike out there in terms of geometry, suspension design or spec, but its overall abilities offer consistency, and you’re not going to experience too many surprises out on the trail. Despite a few niggling issues with the Competitor, it remains a bike that is excellent value for money and sits right in the sweet spot for the sort of bike most riders should be riding, especially on loose and challenging conditions.

If you’re someone who takes predictably solid performance over potentially outstanding performance, and you don’t want to re-mortgage your house to buy your next bike, then the Competitor S Plus 2 is worth a look!

Flow’s First Bite: Avanti Competitor S Plus 2

The Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 has one of the loudest paint schemes out there.
The Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 has one of the loudest paint schemes out there.

Upon closer inspection, though, the 1×11 SLX drivetrain and Zero finishing kit reveal that this chunky trail bike is more on the budget end of the price spectrum, despite its lavish paint scheme.


What is the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2?

The Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 is a 27.5+ trail bike, offering 130mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 140mm fork up front.

The Competitor S Plus 2 pairs 140mm of travel up front with 130mm in the rear.
The Competitor S Plus 2 pairs 140mm of travel up front with 130mm in the rear.

The vibrant red frame is very sturdily built, with solid welds and chunky pivots that stick out upon closer inspection. Avanti integrates the main pivot with the bottom bracket on the Competitor S Plus series with a system they call ‘Trucore’, which they say creates more rear end stiffness and strength.

The Bottom Bracket and Main Pivot aboard the Competitor S Plus 2 are integrated.
The Competitor S Plus 2’s Bottom Bracket and Main Pivot are integrated.

Despite the sturdy design of the Competitor S Plus 2, one aspect of the frame that was overlooked was proper chainstay protection, as in only a couple of short rides aboard the bike thus far, the slim, clear chainstay cover has copped a beating and woken up local residents on early morning rides.

If we were to purchase this bike, we’d be popping on a proper chainstay protector before rolling out of the shop.

No chainstay protector makes for a loud ride.
No chainstay protector makes for a loud ride.

What can you expect from the Competitor’s rear suspension?

The 130mm of rear suspension is delivered via a pretty simple four bar linkage arrangement, and the resulting suspension feel is supple throughout the stroke, but a bit linear feeling. Luckily the shock features a wide range of adjustments to dial in the ride qualities, which we’ll discuss in more detail later.

Avanti's suspension system, called TRU4 is a fairly simple four bar linkage.
Avanti’s suspension system, called TRU4 is a fairly simple four bar linkage.

Is that external cable routing?

Moving on from the chunky hardware and bulging welds, the cables on the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 are all routed externally, and the downtube mounted rear brake and derailleur cables are neatly executed.

One blemish to the otherwise well thought out routing is the externally routed dropper post. As the last mount for the cable outer on the frame is on the top tube, the line runs loosely and almost entirely exposed from the end of the top tube to the tip of the saddle, the exception of the KS provided a mount that attaches to the seatpost itself.

A welcome sight for anyone working on their own bike.
A welcome sight for anyone working on their own bike.
There's not really a way around this, but it still looks ugly.
There’s not really a way around this, but it still looks ugly.

What bouncy bits does it come with?

The suspension at both ends is handled by RockShox. The Yari fork has a similar chassis to the venerable Pike RC, with 35mm stanchions, the ability to install bottomless tokens, as well as rebound and compression adjustments. The difference between the two forks is that the Yari uses the ‘Motion Control IS Damper’ instead of the Charger Damper found on Pike models.

The different damper is noticeable if you’ve ridden a Pike in the past, but the Yari still offers excellent performance, especially at this price point. With the range of user-friendly adjustments available, you’ll be able to get the front-end setup in no time.

The RockShox Yari is a solid performer.
The RockShox Yari is a solid performer.

The shock is a Monarch RT, which offers fully open and locked out compression settings as well as rebound adjustment. We like the decision to pair the Yari and the Monarch RT, especially at this price point, as with their simple adjustments they increase the ability of the rider to fine tune their ride, and the ability to lockout both ends increases efficiency on smoother trails or when riding on the road.

The rear suspension is handled by a RockShox Monarch RT.
The rear suspension is handled by a RockShox Monarch RT.
The suspension choices for the Competitor S Plus 2 are sensible, and offer a variety of adjustments for different conditions.
The suspension choices for the Competitor S Plus 2 are sensible and offer a variety of adjustments for different conditions.

Considering the Competitor S Plus 2’s portly figure and wide rubber, locking out your suspension on smoother terrain will make a big difference, especially on longer rides.

There's lots of rubber on the ground at all times aboard the Competitor S Plus 2 with the 2.8" WTB Ranger tyres.
There’s lots of rubber on the ground at all times aboard the Competitor S Plus 2 with the 2.8″ WTB Ranger tyres.

What have Avanti specced in the shifting department?

The drivetrain is also a real winner. We can’t believe just how well 1×11 SLX just plain works, and minus the loss of the double downshift option XT/XTR shifters have, so far our shifting has been hammering home perfectly every time.

Our only complaint with the drivetrain is that with pedals, the Competitor S Plus 2 weighs in on the wrong side of 15 kilograms, so we wouldn’t mind seeing a bigger lowest gear than the 30-42 that comes as standard. We feel that a 28-tooth ring on the front, or speccing the 11-46 XT cassette would give riders a better range of gears for a bike as weighty as the Competitor S Plus 2.

Shimano's 1x11 SLX groupset offers outstanding performance at this price point.
Shimano’s 1×11 SLX groupset offers outstanding performance at this price point.
With pedals, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 weighs in at over fifteen kilograms.
With pedals, the Avanti Competitor S Plus 2 weighs in at over fifteen kilograms.

What’s the finishing kit like?

The Zero (Avanti’s in-house component manufacturer) components such as the saddle, stem and handlebar look and feel up to the job, but we didn’t understand why the bike came with very thick push on grips. Not only were they squirmy, but they were unusually thick, which didn’t feel all that comfortable underhand. We’ve changed these out for a set of lock on grips for the review.

The stock Zero grips are about as comfortable as an economy flight from Sydney to London.
The stock Zero grips are about as comfortable as an economy flight from Sydney to London.

The 27.5+ wheelset uses Alexrims rims laced to Shimano Deore hubs and is shod with 2.8” WTB Ranger tyres that converted easily to tubeless. Run at mid-teen pressures, the tyres deliver the oodles of traction we’ve come to love from plus bikes.

The braking is handled by Shimano with their M365 hydraulic disc brakes. Whilst they certainly aren’t at the high end of the Shimano range, hooked up to 180/160mm rotors front and rear they do the job, and are a testament to how well modern componentry works, even at the lower end.

Shimano's M365 brakes offer consistent performance, but a bit less power than more premium offerings.
Shimano’s M365 brakes offer consistent performance, but a bit less power than more premium offerings.

Their overall feel is excellent, but one indicator that they’re a lower spec model is the lack of initial power in comparison to an SLX, XT or XTR brake where you can feel the power of the initial bite. The more gradual power the M365 brake provides requires you to think about your braking points a bit further in advance out on the trail.


What’s the geometry like?

A look at the geometry reveals the bike isn’t overly slack, low or long for a bike with this amount of travel, where we’re starting to see some manufacturers go quite aggressive with their geometries, however at this price point Avanti are clearly aiming for a bike that provides stability and confidence on the trail, rather than a bike that is super flick able, and demands the rider makes bold decisions and throws the bike around.

On paper, the Competitor S Plus 2 looks like it would suit the beginner or less aggressive rider.
On paper, the Competitor S Plus 2 looks like it would suit a beginner or less aggressive rider.

The 450mm chainstays in every size are a standout measurement that shows the intended audience of this bike. Whilst lots of experienced riders appreciate the flickability a shorter rear end provides, the slightly longer chainstays give the Competitor S Plus 2 a bit more stability, perfect for a newer or less flamboyant rider.

The 68.5 degree head angle isn’t overly slack either, but is a good choice from Avanti to get more weight over the front wheel, as the plus tyres and 140mm fork can feel vague through weaving singletrack if there’s not enough weight over the front.

Plenty of stack and a reversable stem allows for a range of cockpit adjustments.
Plenty of stack and a reversible stem allows for a range of cockpit adjustments.

How are we poised heading into the full review?

So, despite a couple of niggles, which are somewhat understandable at this price point, the Competitor S Plus 2 looks like a very solid trail bike at a great price that’ll allow both beginners and riders looking for a simple trail bike to have a blast out on the trails.

We're interested to see where the Competitor S Plus 2 shines out on the trails!
We’re interested to see where the Competitor S Plus 2 shines out on the trails!

On our first ride, we were committed to attending a ride with a mate on some more technical trails than we would normally take a bike like this out on, but it performed surprisingly well, so we’re excited to see the bike’s capabilities throughout the remainder of the test.

Tested: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

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

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

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

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

Onto the important part!
Onto the important part!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spark rewards committed and aggressive riding.

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

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


Who is this bike for?

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

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

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

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

What upgrades could you make?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it good value for money?

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

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

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


How did the components perform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any gripes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flow’s Year In Review: Trail Bikes Of 2016

Many brands have given consumers even more choice in 2016 with the option for one bike to run two different wheelsizes!
Many brands have given consumers even more choice in 2016 with the option for one bike to run two different wheelsizes.

We’ve been having a nostalgic look at all the shiny bikes that we’ve been lucky enough to review here at Flow this year, and we’ve put together a list of some of the bikes that stood out to us as trail bikes with a personality.

Cannondale's Habit Carbon surprised us more than the seismic political shifts worldwide in 2016.
Cannondale’s Habit Carbon SE surprised us more than the worldwide political climate in 2016.

What we’re talking about is the sort of bike that’s a real all-rounder. We’d all love to own a bike for every sub-category and niche discipline of mountain biking, but the reality for most of us is that isn’t going to be the case, and having a bike that does lots of things well, with a slight focus on the priorities you have as a rider is a more realistic proposition.

Whyte's T-130 would be the perfect trail bike for many riders out there.
Whyte’s T-130 would be the perfect trail bike for many riders out there.

Before we launch into the bikes, we should clarify that our definition of a ‘trail bike’ for the purposes of this article refers to a bike that is within the rear travel boundaries of 115mm-135mm of travel. More importantly than the travel numbers though are the subtleties and ride qualities that these bikes possess, the unmeasurable quantities that make them real standouts in our eyes for the rider looking to do a bit of everything.

There’s a pretty vast range of prices and specs across the bikes we’ve selected for this article, just like there’s a variety of consumers out there who’ll have vastly different budgets for a new mountain bike. If you’re in the market for a new trail bike, or just interested in the variety that’s out there, this isn’t a bad place to start!


Intense Spider 275C:

“From the raw and steep hills of Laguna Beach, California, all the way back to our rocky and fast trails back at Flow HQ, we’ve spent many heavenly hours flogging this thing, it’s been a legitimate dream ride.”

The Intense Spider 275C is an absolute stunner.
The Intense Spider 275C is an absolute stunner.

It’s probably fair to say nobody is going to nominate us for a Walkley for uncovering that a $16500 bicycle is a dream to ride. That being said, the Spider 275C comes in four build kit options with a $10000 variance in price, and the outstanding frame and ride qualities remain the same throughout.

The entry level Spider 275C comes in at $6499, and features the same incredible frame as our test bike.
The entry level Spider 275C comes in at $6499, and features the same incredible frame as our test bike.

The Spider 275C has an adjustable 130mm or 115mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 130mm fork, and we think this is an excellent feature for the trail rider looking for a bike that can head out for technical trail rides, and with some quick adjustments in the workstand be ready for a Cross-Country race the next day.

The Spider 275C has adjustable rear travel through a two shock mounts.
The Spider 275C has adjustable rear travel through two separate shock mounts.

In its 130mm guise, with the frame’s balanced geometry, the Spider represents just how capable the modern trail bike is:

We relished our time aboard the Spider 275C in all sorts of terrain.
We relished our time aboard the Spider 275C in all sorts of terrain.

“The Spider is a lively little bugger, with the magical combination of super-short 419mm chain stays, a slack 67-degree head angle, roomy 445mm reach and a tiny 50mm stem we found ourselves throwing it around the trail with remarkable ease. Flicking around the tight turns with a spritely pop the Spider is a heap of fun to ride, we’ve enjoyed it so very much.”

The Spider 275C is a very engaging ride.
The Spider 275C is a very engaging ride.

Our final thoughts on the Spider 275C pretty much sum it up- if you’re after an aggressive trail bike with adjustment allowing for a more XC oriented ride, this bike is well worth a look!

Yewww!
Yeoowww!

“If you like to ride hard, shred turns, jump over things on the trail and pump and manual along throwing up roost then this is your bag. It’s hard to hide our love for riding this bike, and we can vouch that if you can manage the cost it’ll give you the same feeling on the trail.”

You can definitely do worse than getting yourself an Intense Spider 275C as your next trail bike.
You can definitely do worse than getting yourself an Intense Spider 275C as your next trail bike.

Intense Spider 29C:

Not only were we lucky enough to get our hands on the Gucci spec Intense Spider 275C this year, but we also checked out the 29” model, which also comes with 130/115mm of rear travel paired with a 130mm fork.

We got to hang out with two non-venemous Spiders this year, lucky us!
We got to hang out with two non-venomous Spiders this year.

“Flow’s home trails are the ultimate testing ground for bikes like this, rocky, ledgy and unforgiving. Each ride on the Spider we couldn’t help but compare it to bigger travel 27.5″ bikes we’ve been testing lately, it holds its own against bikes with bigger travel but smaller wheels. The Spider 29c is a rolling dream, munching its way through rocky trails, skipping across the top of holes and undulations instead of falling in them.”

The Spider 29C ate up rocky terrain.
The Spider 29C ate up rocky terrain.

We remarked throughout the review where the 29” Spider differed from 27.5” wheeled trail bikes on the market. It’s a traditional 29” trail bike in the sense that it prefers to stay grounded and munch terrain rather than flick, pump and jump through the trail.

The Spider 29C will roll over anything.
The Spider 29C makes rolling through ledges a breeze.

“Looking at the frame geometry it’s quite a classic mid-travel 29er, long out the back and short up front, with a relatively sharp steering angle. So it’s no surprise that we weren’t jumping around or popping off objects on the trail as much, instead we were hammering over them pedalling easily as the suspension worked away furiously below us.”

The JS Tuned suspension is very stable in all conditions.
The JS Tuned suspension is very stable in all conditions.

Summing up, it’s a case of horses for courses if you’re looking at an Intense Spider, in either it’s 27.5” or 29” guise as your next trail bike. If you’re after a classic handling 29” trail bike- the Spider 29C could be the ticket:

The Spider 29C goes up, down and all-around with equal ease.
The Spider 29C goes up, down and all-around with equal ease.

“The Spider 29c will make a calm type of trail rider very happy, it’s not an aggressive or rapid handling weapon, it is more about confidence and control and in a comfortable package that’s a pleasure to ride all day long.”

Who wouldn't want this head badge at the front of their bicycle?
Who wouldn’t want this head badge at the front of their bicycle?

Pivot Switchblade:

The Pivot Switchblade sits on the threshold of being too much bike for this piece with 135mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 150mm fork, however it was noted in the review that in either guise this bike is not an out an out enduro descender, with a tall and short geometry that leans more towards traditional trail bike geometry and ride qualities.

The Pivot Switchblade 29"
The Pivot Switchblade 29″

We tested the Switchblade in both 27.5+ and 29” form, and here’s what we thought:

“Riding both bikes back to back it was clear to feel the differences, the consensus going around the mountain bike community is that a regular 27.5″ bike will feel agile and fun, a plus bike will have loads of confidence and control and the big wheels of a 29er will be fast. That’s certainly the case here, the plus bike was eager to clamber up and down anything and take creative lines through tricky corners, while the 29er would get up to speed and want to stay there with fantastic rolling momentum and corner speed.”

The 27.5+ Switchblade was eager to test the limits of traction.
The 27.5+ Switchblade was eager to test the limits of traction.

Summing up the Switchblade, despite its long travel compared to other bikes in this review, we thought that it would be an excellent bike for the trail rider looking for more confidence in all aspects of their riding, or someone who would take advantage of the Switchblade’s ability to run two different wheelsizes on the same frame.

pivot-switchblade_low5026
The Switchblade cornered confidently, rather than sharply with both 27.5+ and 29″ wheels.

“Like we mentioned before we found the front end quite tall in comparison to many 150mm travel bikes we’ve ridden recently, which made for a less aggressive cornering bike. We believe the Switchblade is more suited to riding everything capably and confidently than setting personal best times on your enduro trail descents.”

We think the Switchblade would be best suited to doing a bit of everything.
The Switchblade is confident in a variety of situations without being arrogant. It would suit someone looking for a balanced trail bike nicely.

Whyte T-130C RS:

The Whyte T-130 is a 27.5” 130mm bike that would suit an experienced rider who wants a bike that can be ridden more aggressively than its travel would suggest, and that begs for its owner to take creative control out on the trail.

There's no such thing as a mellow ride aboard the Whyte T-130.
There’s no such thing as a mellow ride aboard the Whyte T-130.

“Whyte Bikes are a little different; they tend to circle the outside of the main pack waiting for someone to outgrow the norm, someone looking for more. One of our testers nailed it by stating Whyte provide bikes for experienced riders who can appreciate the finer details and get the most out of the progressive designs; that sums them up nicely. We like riding Whytes.”

Every aspect of the Whyte encourages you to play with the trail.
Every aspect of the T-130 encourages you to play with the trail.

Worried about maintenance? The T-130 takes sealing the frame from the outside world to another level.

“Born and bred in the UK, the T-130 is built to sustain wet weather like no bike we’ve seen before. The bike is sealed at every angle to prevent any muddy water entering the frame through the seat post and cable ports, and all the pivot bearings are protected by sealed caps too. On top of the sealing on the bearings, they are also backed by a lifetime warranty, that’s confidence!”

We really enjoyed the 27.5” wheeled T-130 in a section of the market that is increasingly dominated by 29” wheeled bikes. Why? Read on!

“Smaller things fit into smaller spaces, so it’s no secret that 27.5” wheels have a livelier and precise feel to them, they feel easier to jump and land on smaller transitions, drift sideways. And with stiffer wheels and the axles being lower to the ground a 27.5” bike tends to respond better to throwing down onto the sides of the tyres through a turn. Make sense? We know, the wheel size debate/topic is a headache.”

Tight inside lines become the norm on the T-130.
Tight inside lines become the norm on the T-130.

Overall, we think the Whyte T-130 is the perfect trail bike for lots of people, but perhaps it will appeal to this type of audience the most:

“If your trails are not especially rocky and rough, but they are fast this is your type of thing. Or if you’ve got a few years of riding experience behind you and find the new trend of 140-160mm travel bikes a little too easy to ride and numbing, then the zippy and capable T-130 will have you feeling the rush of speed while feeling the terrain and trails below.”

The T-130 would be a great option for someone who wants to push their trail bike to the limit.
The T-130 would be a great option for someone who wants to push their trail bike to the limit.

Orbea Occam TR M30:

The Orbea Occam TR M30 is a 120mm 29” bike with an outstanding frame, but a couple of the spec choices held back this bike’s fantastic potential, namely a narrow and flexy Fox Float 32 fork and a lack of dropper seatpost.

The Orbea Occam's frame is one of our favourites this year.
The Occam’s frame is one of our favourites this year.

The option to counter this however Is the custom ‘my Orbea’ program, which allows you to customise your Orbea build.

“This is a great looking bike, and the quality of the frame is the real stand out, giving you a magnificent base from which to build your dream machine. Orbea make it easy to go down this custom route too, using their My Orbea custom bike program, which lets you change certain components from the stock build to create a one-off bike to suit your style. To see what the options are, head to the Orbea website – on the spec listing for each bike, there are certain items you can change which are marked with a little dropdown menu, and the prices to make these modifications are clearly listed.”

Swapping out the flexy 32mm fork would allow the front end stiffness to match the frame.
Swapping out the flexy 32mm fork would allow the front end stiffness to match the frame.

With its stiff, direct frame and hard charging attitude, we feel that the Occam could cater for a variety of riders. In the setup we tested, with a narrow fork and no dropper post, the Occam could be a great bike for an owner who wants a fast trail bike that can double as a cross-country race bike.

The Ardent/Ardent Race combo was fast rolling and predictable.
The Ardent/Ardent Race combo was fast rolling and predictable.

We also believe that with a few changes to the spec, the Occam could be beefed up as a more aggressive trail bike. All of these potential changes are possible through the My Orbea program.

Fill that lonely port with a dropper post and you'll have a mighty fine trail steed.
Fill that lonely port with a dropper post and you’ll have a mighty fine trail steed.

“The Occam TR M30 is a bit of a fence sitter, and this might make it perfect for you. If you’re a cross country rider looking for a glamorous steed to push a little harder, then this bike will really nail it for you; it’s efficient, very comfortable for big days in the saddle and packs some really confident geometry. If you’re looking for an aggressive trail bike, then we think there’s an absolute beast of a bike lurking here. The frameset is amongst the nicest we’ve seen, we love its simplicity, its clean looks and the stiffness it possesses. The Occam certainly has the bones, but you’ll need to flesh them out with a dropper post, possibly a stiffer fork and maybe a more aggressive rear tyre too, to take it to the next level.”

Beef the Occam up for a hard hitting trail bike, lighten it up for XC duties or leave it as is- the choice is yours.
Beef the Occam up for a hard hitting trail bike, lighten it up for XC duties or leave it as is- the choice is yours.

Lapierre Zesty XM 427:

We’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Lapierre Zesty here at Flow. We’ve ridden many in the past that have made hitting the singletrack such a pleasure, and the Zesty XM 427 was no exception.

With 27.5” wheels, and 120mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 130mm fork, the Zesty definitely falls into the category of a hard charging trail bike that begs for aggressive use.

The hard charging Lapierre Zesty XM 427.
The beefy Lapierre Zesty XM 427.

“The Zesty XM uses a 130mm travel fork on a 120mm travel rear end, there’s a massive gear range, dropper post and a robust aluminium frame to keep you riding anything in your path.”

We weren't afraid to cut loose aboard the Zesty.
We weren’t afraid to cut loose aboard the Zesty.

We appreciated the Zesty’s stiff and burly frame when the going got rough, however we wouldn’t see the Zesty as a potential XC and trail bike all in one as much as the Focus Spine, Cannondale Habit or the Orbea Occam. The Zesty XM 427 is a bike that with a beefier fork and rubber could handle far more abuse than its 120mm of rear travel would initially suggest.

Rocks and rowdiness, the Zesty soaks it all up.
Rocks and rowdiness, the Zesty soaks it all up.

“We can’t get enough of these new breed of mid-travel trail bikes with dialled geometry, and the Zesty is one of them. It has a fun character from it’s vibrant paintwork, right down to the way it lights up the singletrack.”

The Zesty XM 427 is a trail bike that can take a beating straight out of the box.
The Zesty XM 427 is a trail bike that would suit a no-nonsense rider on a budget.

Cannondale Habit Carbon SE:

The Habit is another 27.5” trail bike that falls into the category of a bike that loves to play with the trail and has a lively feel, but can also roll your trail bike and race bike into one.

 

The Cannondale Habit has a feisty personality.
The Cannondale Habit has a feisty personality.

“Its target audience is the one-bike-rider, someone who doesn’t want a quiver in their garage, but needs a bike that’s light enough for the odd marathon race perhaps (and at just over 12kg, that’s certainly the case here) and is confident and burly enough for some over-enthusiastic play.”

The Habit wants to turn every part of the trail into a feature.
The Habit wants to turn every part of the trail into a feature.

The Habit rolls on 27.5” wheels, and comes with 120mm of travel front and rear. Much like the Whyte T-130, the Cannondale Habit promotes lively and aggressive riding- we commented that it was often as we lay on the ground after a crash that we thought about how much we loved the Habit’s ability to make us want to double things up, or take the inside line.

The Habit frame is compact, with a low standover clearance.
The Habit’s frame is compact, with a low standover clearance.

“We feel it will be best in the hands of a fairly competent rider. Those looking for more cushiness or a bike that will soak up mistakes will be happier on the Trigger, or perhaps the Jekyll.”

An aggressive attitude is key to unleashing the Habit's potential.
An aggressive attitude is key to unleashing the Habit’s potential.

Despite the Lefty fork feeling somewhat behind the latest offerings from Fox and Rockshox, its unparalleled stiffness was one of the attributes that makes the Habit so eager to find far more ambitious lines than you would usually seek aboard a 120mm trail bike.

Stiffer than a British upper lip, the Lefty allows you to point and shoot with the Habit.
Stiffer than a British upper lip, the Lefty allows you to point and shoot with the Habit.

“The colour is divisive. The suspension is far from perfect. But none of that matters to us, especially when we’re out on the trail grinning from ear to ear as we go back yet again to try and make that tricky inside gap line for the fifth time, or as the rear wheel sprays through a loose corner. This bike feels fast, it feels fun, it feels like Cannondales should.”

The Cannondale Habit would suit an owner who likes riding on the edge.
The Cannondale Habit would suit an owner who wants a lightweight, efficient trail bike that still loves to play.

Focus Spine CO 0:

Despite having just 10mm less travel then the Whyte T-130 for example, the Focus Spine is a very different bike. The Spine is a 27.5”, 120mm travel front and rear trail bike that leans towards the XC side of trail riding through its suspension tune and spec decisions.

The skeletal Focus Spine.
The skeletal Focus Spine.

“This is a bike which makes sense at speed. Toodle about on the Spine C0.0 at lower speeds and you’ll find it feels very firm, like a shorter-travel cross country machine. This has its advantages on smoother trails or when climbing, as the bike never feels like it’s loafing in its travel, but if the terrain is choppy it can all feel a bit harsh, like you’ve got too much pressure in the suspension.”

The Spine feels good when moving at pace.
The Spine feels good when moving at pace.

The Spine is the sort of bike that with its firm, efficient suspension damping and lightweight spec encourages you to go fast to get the most out of it.

“If you’ve got aspirations to roll your cross-country race bike and your trail bike into one, then the Spine C0.0 could be the answer. It is about as light as trail bikes come, and its efficient, taut ride will see it hang out happily with the lycra set on the climbs and drop them on the descents.”

The Focus Spine would suit the rider looking for an XC leaning trail bike.
The Focus Spine would suit the rider looking for an XC leaning trail bike.

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

Any one of these bikes would make an excellent choice for the rider looking for the ‘quiver killer’ bike to do it all. Some of them lean towards the XC side of the spectrum, with lightweight specs and firm, race oriented suspension, whilst others have beefy componentry choices, confidence inspiring geometries and chunky frames built for abuse.

Budget is also a factor, but with bikes ranging from the high four thousand range to over sixteen thousand, and the fact that most of these bikes have a model range with a wide variety of prices, we hope that if you’re in the market for a new trail bike, this has at least inspired some thought about what might be the right rig for you, or at least what isn’t!

Dubbo’s fun, flowy and fast scenic loop to close out the year for Evocities MTB competitors

evocities-dubbo-masthead

2016 Evocities MTB Series Coordinator, Tracey Whillock, said with only two rounds remaining in the Evocities MTB Series and only one race left this year, Dubbo was preparing to make the most of being part of Australia’s richest MTB series.

“After an extremely wet winter which resulted in the postponement of both the Dubbo and Orange races, we’re thrilled the warmer weather is finally here and that the track has dried out enough to host the sixth round of the series on Sunday, 20 November,” Ms Whillock said.

Ms Whillock said the Dubbo leg of the 2016 Evocities MTB Series will take place at Bald Hill Reserve at Geurie and will be a combination of three single track loops for singles, pairs and teams combining the Oaks and Homestead trail networks through the “link” which runs alongside the Macquarie River and under the Arthurville Road Bridge.

“Following feedback from last year’s competitors and the Dubbo MTB Club we have shortened the track by 2.5km to a 13.5km loop which is fun, flowy and fast with plenty of room to overtake and lots of thigh-challenging climbs followed by fast sweeping downhills.”

“The trail is 90% single track and is sure to reward travellers as it winds its way up and down through Grassy Box Gum Woodland beside stunning spring wildflowers and alongside the Macquarie River under towering River Red Gums,” Ms Whillock said.

The Dubbo Junior Rugby Club will be catering on the day with a fundraising sausage sizzle, while a band performs live music to entertain spectators and waiting riders.

The Evocities MTB Series is the richest mountain biking series in Australia thanks to the generous support of sponsors including Fairfax Media; QantasLink; Forestry Corporation; NSW Mining; Charles Sturt University; Macquarie and Orange Anglican Grammar Schools; Spinifex Recruiting; Maas Group Properties; and Prime 7.

Online registrations for the ‘Dubbo 300 can be made at www.evocitiesmtb.com/enterdubbo. To stay up to date with the series, visit www.facebook.com/evocitiesmtb or www.evocitiesmtb.com.

About Evocities:

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

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

Damien Oton and Theo Galy in Portugal

Join Enduro rippers Damien Oton and Theo Galy on a pre-season training mission in Portugal’s paradisiacal Azores region.

Fifteen hundred kilometers from mainland Europe, the nine islands of the Azores spring from the Atlantic, forming a volcanic archipelago covered in lush forest and featuring fast, flowing descents. Oton and Galy charge singletrack mainstays such as “The Cathedral”, rip ancient fishermen’s trails, and explore cultural quirks from stew brewed in the earth’s bowels—a local delicacy—to high-temp hot spring therapy.

La Grande Corsa – The Great Race

People get to the top of the mountain in different ways.

The NS Snabb was designed to get you to the top whichever way you choose, but as Sam Pilgrim and Slawek Lukasik demonstrate, that’s not the important part.


Finally. Something we’ve been working on for a long time. Here it is. The Snabb – our new Enduro and Trail bike.

When we launch a new product, especially one that is so important – we always try to get some cool action shots and videos. We really wanted to feature our superstar rider, but there was one problem. Sam Pilgrim hates riding uphill! And what is enduro riding without the climbs? So we thought hard and long how to put him to work and came up with a plan – and it’s called La Grande Corsa – The Great Race!

Amazing Fontana Downhill Track Preview

Most of the time track previews give you a very limited view.

Shaky GoPro footage taken at sixty kilometres an hour can sometimes turn the sketchiest of features, or the most beautiful of landscapes into an indistinguishable blur.

KHS Factory Racing have realised this, and put together an incredible preview of the Fontana downhill course, using drone and GoPro footage combined to not only show the features of the track, but also the beautiful landscape.

The Ultimate Claudio Caluori Wild Ride

One of the must-see events of any UCI World Cup weekend is the inimitable GoPro Course previews from the Gstaad-Scott manager and veteran downhill speed demon Claudio Caluori.

Anyone who has watched one of Claudio’s course previews over the past three years will understand why the bubbly Swiss national is our go to man for such clips. Claudio is just pure box office when he gets motoring on that downhill bike. You just don’t know what comments or sounds are going to come out of his mouth next as he describes his ride down World Cup courses.

You always tell us you want more Claudio so we’ve put together some of Claudio’s funnier moments from last season’s GoPro runs for your enjoyment. Sit back and be prepared to laugh like you’ve never done before.

 

Search for the Steep, Episode 2: Lake Garda

 

Joe Barnes is joined by trials legend Chris Akrigg on his latest mission to ride the world’s steepest descents.

Travelling to Lake Garda, Italy, the two go in search of the illusive 122 trail, that some said would challenge even the formidable talent of Akrigg himself.

The long hike in changeable weather brings its rewards as the guys are presented with a steep, technical descent where Chris’ trials skills prove more than useful.

 

Hero. Legend. Brother.

Yet another win for Jason English over the weekend at the 24 hour Nduro over the weekend in Rotorua.

A fine achievement by an incredible rider, but the story of the weekend is Rotorua local Lance Tavinor’s amazing effort to raise money for Kidney Health New Zealand.


Hero. Legend. Brother.

Rotorua mountain biker, Lance Tavinor was all those things and more when he took on the solo category in the 24 hours of Nduro in the Whakarewarewa Forest over the weekend.

With $5 from every entry going to Kidney Health New Zealand, he was riding for a cause close to his heart.

His older brother, Grant, is ill with kidney disease. Lance is undergoing rigorous testing to see if he is a suitable donor.

He also put himself through one of the most challenging tests for a mountain biker, when he started the Nduro at midday on Saturday.

“He went out a little fast with his race face on at the start,” said his pit crew boss, Benny Devcich who works with him at local bike shop, Cyclezone. “But he settled into a good rhythm as night fell.”

The weather and riding conditions were perfect. After one of the driest and hottest Januarys on record, there was rain on Friday night and the race started in a refreshing drizzle.

Lance was still going strong as dawn broke on Sunday morning.

He passed the 300-kilometre mark on the demanding 14-kilometre course as the clock ticked down to midday.

At the same time, multiple 24 Hour Solo world champion, Jason English, from Australia confirmed his favouritism to win the men’s race, with the New Zealand title going to David Rae in second place.

Another Australian, Liz Smith, was first over the line in the hard-fought women’s category with Kiwi, Anja McDonald, riding a brilliant race to take the women’s title. 

Then the focus turned to Lance’s last lap. He was cheered on his way by a big crowd of supporters and arrived back to an even bigger round of applause. “I had to ride that last lap upright,” he said as he enjoyed a post-race beer. “My back was so sore I couldn’t lean in to the handlebars.” He took a long swig and then held out his hands. They were bruised and calloused. “Sleep next,” he added with his trademark grin.

He was cheered on his way by a big crowd of supporters and arrived back to an even bigger round of applause.

“I had to ride that last lap upright,” he said as he enjoyed a post-race beer. “My back was so sore I couldn’t lean in to the handlebars.”

He took a long swig and then held out his hands. They were bruised and calloused.

“Sleep next,” he added with his trademark grin.

“If there was a Spirit of Rotorua Mountain Biking award, Lance would be a front row contender,” said Rotorua Bike Festival event coordinator, Martin Croft. He was there to watch the end of the race, which was a dress rehearsal for the WEMBO 24 Hour Solo World Championships.

This will be one of the feature events at the 2016 Bike Festival.

This year’s festival launches on Friday February 15 and Lance will be there.

“I’ll see how the recovery goes,” he said. “It’s a great time to be in Rotorua at Festival time, with all sort of events to enter or watch.”

Last year, he channelled Elvis at the Bike Speedway in front of Rotorua’s historic Museum and Art Gallery.

“I might have to just sit in a chair and spectate this year,” he added with a grimace.

Fundraising for the Tavinors and Kidney Health New Zealand continues in April at the New Zealand Singlespeed Championships – very special 100th anniversary Anzac edition.

Race day is Sunday April 26:

www.rotoruasinglespeed.com

Donate to Lance’s fundraiser for Kidney Health New Zealand:

https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/lancekranksitforkidneys

Rotorua Bike Festival:

www.rotoruabikefestival.com

 

Record Sell Out and Stacked Registration for Giant Toa Enduro

Holy Guacamole that was fast!

As was predicted, it was only a matter of minutes before the four hundred ametuer places for the first round of the EWS sold out- three to be exact. Read below for the official word, and we’ll see you in March.

Wondering what trails they’re going to use in the race? Probably a few of these!

http://flowmountainbike.com/features/10-video-special-rotoruas-top-ten-trails/


The Giant Toa Enduro is shaping up to be a fascinating race with a field of competitors from all mountain biking race disciplines set to take on the course at Crankworx Rotorua.

Selling out in under three minutes, the event secured a new Enduro World Series (EWS) registration record yesterday, with a rich field of New Zealanders and internationally-based amateurs set to join the professional riders for race day this March.

All but one of the top 20-ranked men and women from the 2014 EWS season are set to ride, and a number of professional downhill racers have registered, as well.

“This is probably one of the most interesting, stacked mountain biking races with top enduro, cross country and downhill athletes all entered in this one event,” says Neil Gellatly, Giant Toa Enduro race director.

The race roster includes World Downhill Champions Sam Hill, Steve Peat, and Greg Minnaar, who will ride alongside several top downhillers from New Zealand−Sam Blenkinsop, Brook MacDonald, Cam Cole and Matt Walker.

Of the 400 racers registered, 40 per cent are from New Zealand, with 17 other nations represented, including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and, for the first time in an EWS event, Tahiti.

Race registration from New Zealand shows equal interest from all regions, with riders from Auckland (10%), Christchurch (10%), Dunedin (5%), Queenstown (10%), Nelson (10%) and Wellington (15%). Rotorua has, nonetheless, secured the most representation with 20 riders on the list.

Sponsored by Giant Bicycles, the Toa Enduro Rotorua marks the opening race for the EWS and will be one of five competitive events at the inaugural Crankworx Rotorua.

For those who didn’t make the race cutoff, and true enduro fans, Crankworx will once again broadcast the event live and names are being accepted on a waitlist at www.enduroworldseries.com/waitlist/R1. To date, Crankworx has offered the only live enduro coverage, broadcasting its Whistler event annually.

“We hope to take our live race coverage to new levels this year,” says Darren Kinnaird, Crankworx Word Tour Manager.

Tune into Crankworx.com at 7 a.m. NZDT on Saturday, March 28 to watch how it all unfolds.

Shredding The Slush

Never ride in the wet because it destroys your bike right? Unfortunately in many parts of Australia, the sandy conditions in the wet are a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for the Coastal Crew, slashing through slushy singletrack on the Sunshine Coast is almost as good as giving your bike a clean. Wetter is Funner!

24 Months of Insanity- The Best of Trail Ninja

From Afghanistan to Argentina and two dozen places in between, the Trail Ninja has brought havoc, pain, laughter and insight into the lives of a lot of mountain bikers. There’s only so much he can cram into a 5 minute episode, so here in all its glory are the fails, falls, out-takes and nonsense that was just too close to the edge of sanity to include in the series. Get ready for a whirlwind tour of the globe, Trail Ninja style. 24 Months Of Insanity – The Best Of Trail Ninja | Trail Ninja, Ep. 22

 

Photo Feature Preview: Riding the Australian Alpine Epic Trail, first

December 6 was the day when hoards of frothing mountain bikers joined those who were already in town for the Australian Mountain Bike Summit to ride the Epic first. It was a real unknown, not even the locals had ridden it, anyone who found their way onto it or snuck in a ride before the open date were spotted on the surveillance cameras and busted custard accordingly. We even tried to pay the trail builders a visit earlier in the year when the trail was under construction, but the talk of being blindfolded and walking through the bush scared us off, so we eagerly awaited what was in store of this massive project.

To date, the project has received $125,000 in federal funding through T-QUAL Strategic Tourism Investment Grants, $375,000 in state funding through Regional Development Victoria. Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management has contributed $225,000 and the Mansfield Shire Council a further $25,000.

World Trail began construction in November 2013 a 40km trail that takes riders from the Mt Buller Village all the way down to the valley floor at Mirimbah via some old favourite trails and the recently completed linkages. You begin by riding some of the existing network toward the top of the well-loved Stonefly track, and it heads even further into the wilderness along ridge lines and mountain tops with a mixture of old and new trails. The juiciest bit is the 7km descent that throws you down the mountain in the finest flowing singletrack you will ever ride. Then you cruise a 2.7km undulating trail along the Delatite river to Mirimbah where an uplift shuttle awaits (if you’re organised) to return you back to Buller. It’s a mind bending ride, a real tough undertaking and is not for the faint hearted. A lot of climbing is rewarded with fun descending, so expect some highs and lows, cursing and hotting, it’s a real epic day ride.

Mount Buller threw one hell of a party for the riders to celebrate the Epic opening, whilst the weather didn’t like to party as much, the day was a real blast. This is how it unfolded.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1
The drive to Buller is always a real pleasure, a true road trip in all respects. You pass through great country towns, it’s super scenic, and the approach to the big mountains always gets us very excited to ride.
We made it onto a really big billboard! Life is complete.
We made it on to a really big billboard! Life is complete. That Damian Breach photo is a real winner.
The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Mountain Bike summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking... Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community.
The launch of the Australian Alpine Epic Trail coincided with the inaugural Australian Mountain Bike Summit. Like the G20 Summit, but more focussed on mountain biking… Trail advocacy, event management, industry, media, land management and networking all went down in a fine gathering of the key playing in the MTB community. The future is bright, and we were honoured to be involved and presenting in the Summit.
A visit to Buller can't be complete without a visit to the summit for a sunset beer.
A visit to Buller can’t be complete without a walk up to the summit for a sunset beer.

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (2)

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (2)

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (2)

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 5

Australian Alpine Epic first ride 6
Some hoppy goodness from the nearby town, Beechworth, Bridge Road Brewers.
The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up high towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trainied lungs in anticipation of what lays ahead in the fog.
The morning began with the old favourite trails that took us up towards Mt Stirling. Dave from Albany, WA burns his altitude-trained lungs in anticipation of what lies behind the curtains of fog.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 9
Patty Young from Specialized Australia begins the famous Stonefly climb.
Don't be fooled, there's a lot of climbing to earn the descent.
Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot of climbing to earn the descent.
Way out in the middle of nowhere, tubes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?
Way out in the middle of nowhere, tunes were blasting riders up the climbs. Alpine rave, anyone?
IMBA's Joey Klein enjoying an alpine pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.
IMBA’s Joey Klein enjoying a crisp pink lady at the Stonefly summit. This is his 9th trip to Australia, and the Epic blew his mind.
Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride, with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!
Telephone Box Junction is not only a place to begin or finish a ride with public road access closest to the best bits of The Epic, there is also COFFEE!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 16
Coffee in the middle of nowhere should not be that good, right? Wrong. The Epicentre serves up a stellar muddy heart starter as we approached The Epic.
Pop your head into The Epicentre for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.
Pop your head into The Epicentre at the Telephone Box Junction for a realllllly good coffee, organic food, bike repairs, local advice and a bit of goody shopping.
The signs we were waiting for.
The signs we were waiting for.
Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote juice stall.
Bike Buller surprised riders again with a remarkably remote pedal powered smoothie stall. Free!
Cheers for the juice, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh...
Cheers for the smoothies, but we had to pedal the bike/blender ourselves? Sheeeesh…
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 20
Beats water and and warm jelly snakes any day. Fresh fruit smoothies! Free!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 21
Free Epic smoothies!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 22
This is where our photos become a bit thin in quantity… The descent began and it became really quite hard to stop and shoot, please accept our apologies, a full report is coming soon though we promise.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 2 (1)
Feature packed, the Epic takes you through, past, around and over eye-poppingly gorgeous wilderness.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 1 (1)
In true World Trail style, the flowing descent rewards all your efforts that lay behind you.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 3 (1)
Imagine descending 7km of trail like this? Hardly any pedalling or braking, just dreamy flow.
When we couldn't yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.
When we couldn’t yell any more, our bodies were exhausted, heads exploded, we were greeted by another remote surprise.
Free ice cream!
Free ice cream!
Never tasted better.
Never tasted better.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 25
Specialized’s Nick Van der Linden rolls past another disgustingly scenic and fun piece of trail towards the end.
The Delatite river roared beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.
The Delatite river roars along beside the final section of the trail, crystal clear and lined with massive green ferns.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 26
We were a part of something special, first to ride on the Australian Alpine Epic Trail. Done, but not quite dusted.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 27
Brett and Aaron from Blue Dirt Mountain Biking were shuttling exhausted and muddy mountain bikers like mad back up to Buller from Mirimbah. Cheers, guys!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 28
Beats climbing. Well, climbing may well have been impossible by that stage. It’s exhausting to ride the full Epic!
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 29
Ryan De la Rue from World Trail celebrates on his finest work yet, he’s responsible for many happy mountain bikers now.
Australian Alpine Epic first ride 30
The rain pushed the celebrations inside, but one last surprise from the folk at Bike Buller, fireworks to cap off a mega amazing day.

The Australian Alpine Epic is open, get to it people!

Stay tuned for a complete story, and a seriously amazing video of Ryan from World Trail shredding the Epic soon.

http://bike.mtbuller.com.au