Big news out of the Enduro World Series team today with the announcement of the 2021 race calendar. As well as there being brand new venues added to the 2021 event calendar, the EWS will also be returning to Derby, Tasmania, for round two of the series. How good is that! Derby has of course hosted two EWS events in the past, and it’s also been voted the Specialized Trail of the Year twice, proving its popularity with riders, spectators and locals. Additionally, the e-MTB off-shoot of the Enduro World Series, the EWS-E, is set to expand to five rounds for 2021. We’re intrigued to see how this series evolves, and also to see which EWS competitors decide to make the jump to e-Racing given the huge uptake in e-MTBs over the past few years. There’ll no doubt be more brands wanting to get in on the racing action. Anywho, here’s the official release from the lovely folks at the Enduro World Series – get excited! The Enduro World Series is coming back to Derby! Enduro World Series Unveils 2021 Calendar The Enduro World Series (EWS) is excited to announce its 2021 calendar – featuring brand new venues, reimagined classics and an expanded EWS-E series. The season will get underway in New Zealand in March, visiting Nelson for the first time in the series’ history. Situated on the Northern tip of the South Island, this small city is famous for clocking up the most sunshine hours in the country, but also its steep, natural and burly trails. Round two heads back to the inimitable Derby, Tasmania. This tiny town has embraced mountain biking and in just a few years created one of the most iconic riding destinations in all of Australia. It’ll be the third time the series has visited Derby and with good reason – their ever expanding trail network has twice been voted the Specialized Trail of the Year. Get the Shrek masks out again lads, it’s EWS Time! For round three it’s back to one of the UK’s most famous venues, the Tweed Valley in Scotland. After a six year hiatus the series will return to the hallowed trails of Innerleithen and the surrounding hills, which for the last three decades have acted as the proving grounds for some of the biggest names in the sport. The Tweed Valley will also act as the first round of the 2020 EWSE Series, putting e-bikes through their paces on some of Britain’s most challenging terrain. The second round of EWS-E will head back to Valberg in France, to take on the region’s infamous grey earth in the Southern Alps. Val Di Fassa in Italy will play host to EWS round four. This stunning venue nestled high in the Italian Dolomites became an instant rider favourite when it first appeared on the calendar in 2019, featuring long, physical stages amongst some of Europe’s most dramatic terrain. It’s across the pond to the USA for round six, for the series’ second visit to Burke Mountain in Vermont. Serving up some classic East Coast riding, Burke’s trails will make their EWS debut later this season when they host round six. Famed for its raw and technical terrain, Burke will offer up a challenge to even the most experienced of racers. And for the first time in the series history, there will be a second USA stop, as round seven heads to the West Coast and one of California’s most talked about mountain bike destinations, Northstar. The resort’s dry and rocky trails pushed riders to the limit when they were featured in the 2019 calendar – and in 2020 they’ll expand the offering to e-bikes to form round three of the EWS-E Series. The EWS-E then heads back to Europe for the penultimate round in that most dramatic of settings, beneath the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Wyn ‘Whip-It’ Masters, proving aero is not actually everything. We expect many adoring fans will be returning to Derby for a close encounter with their favourite racers. For the final round of the EWS the series will crown its series champions in the sport’s spiritual home of France for the first time. Loudenvielle in the Vallee Du Louron in the South West of the country offers up a slice of classic French enduro – steep and natural trails and of course, some of those infamous French switchbacks. And whilst the series champions may be decided in France, there’s still one of the largest events of the year to go – the Trophy of Nations in Finale Ligure, Italy. This celebration of the sport sees Industry, Rider and Nation trophies up for grabs at the biggest race of the year, all set against the stunning backdrop of the Italian Riviera. It’s also the location for the final EWS-E round, and where the very first EWS-E Champions will be decided. Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: “We’re all really excited by the 2021 calendar – it’s a great mix of established and new venues. “We’re especially excited to offer two USA rounds for the first time and expand the EWSE to five rounds.” Ella Connolly negotiating granite boulders many times her size. About Shimano Enduro Tasmania The Shimano Enduro Tasmania was a ground breaking event when it first visited Derby in Tasmania’s North East in early 2017. Helping to create the juggernaut that the Blue Derby project is, both the 2017 and the 2019 return received the highest acclaim winning the Specialized Trail of the Year award. Race Director, Ian Harwood from Event Management Solutions Australia has thanked the Tasmanian Government and Events Tasmania for their continued support in showcasing the state to the world. “Without the support of Events Tasmania, we would not be able to showcase the best riders in the world, taking on the best trails in the world”. The 2019 edition of Shimano Enduro Tasmania saw in excess of 5000 spectators cheering the riders on. In 2021 the schedule will be expanded into a more inclusive multi day festival with a dedicated EWS Kids event, Ebike events with the Derb-E and an expanded line up of entertainment. “As part of our on-going commitment to support and grow cycling our region Shimano Australia proud to help bring the world’s best riders back to the trails of Derby in 2021. After a fantastic event in 2019 we are looking forward to an even bigger party in Derby next time around. Bring your bike, bring your mates and come down and make some noise”, Toby Shingleton, Shimano. Can we just fast-forward to 2021? Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. 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The 14th edition of the Otway Odyssey has been run and won, with nearly 1,500 mountain bikers descending on the rural town of Forrest in Victoria for one of the biggest events on the national racing calendar. As well as the Odyssey on the Saturday, the 4th edition of the Great Otway Gravel Grind was held on the Sunday, with many riders choosing to double-up for a huge weekend of riding through the stunning Otway rainforest just 2-hours drive south west of Melbourne. With near-perfect weather and trail conditions, the course was running fast, and consequently we saw the fastest ever race time in the Elite Male category for the big 100km race. Read on for the full report on how it all went down, along with some big news about the 2021 event… There was a huge turnout of riders for the 2020 Otway Odyssey, which stands as the 14th edition of the iconic mountain bike race. STRONG FIELD SEES COURSE RECORD AND A GAME OF TACTICS AT THE ODYSSEY A new course record was set at the Otway Odyssey 100km MTB Marathon by professional road cyclist Robbie Hucker of Team UKYO, in what has been described as one of the strongest fields at a mountain bike race in years. Hucker, who has recently returned to mountain biking broke the course record by almost three minutes in a time of 4:15:39, ahead of Cameron Ivory in second place (4:18:14) and Reece Tucknott third (4:20:05) in the hotly contested field of male elite riders. “It was a good course; tough, hard work, but I just tried to keep my momentum and stay calm so I’m pretty happy with that,” said Hucker. “I knew my fitness was there off the road bike, but my skills are a little bit less desirable, but when I saw that the time was quick, I really tried to empty the tank to get the record,” said Hucker. Bendigo lad, Robbie Hucker, returned to his off-road roots to pull off a staggering time in the 100km Otway Odyssey. Ivory, the 2018 XCO, XCM and XCE National Champion, was all praise for Hucker on what is renowned for being a tough course. “I’m pretty empty after that one; that last climb at about the 70km mark, that’s real tough up there,” said Ivory. “That was where Robbie left us for dead; he’s such a strong climber. He still has a lot of skill on the single track, so was hard to chase down, so after sitting about fourth place I managed to get a few spots back on that steep climb,” continued Ivory. The pointy end of the field showcased some top notch riding throughout the day, and at one stage the likes of Sam Fox, Tucknott, Russ Nankervis, and Benny Allen were fighting for top five. Unfortunately two top seeded riders Brendan Johnston and Tasman Nankervis both suffered mechanicals, pulling the pin at the 64km mark. “The pace was on a lot more than last year and it was a really great race up front. It is the strongest field that I have seen at a mountain bike race in a long long time, so it was great to see so many of us on the start line,” said Tucknott. The Elite Mens podium at the 2020 Otway Odyssey. Fast legs right there! It was a game of tactics in the women’s race between former Australia Road Cyclist Champion Peta Mullens, and former XTERRA pro athlete Renata Bucher, with Mullens taking out her 6th Otway Odyssey 100km win. “It was my 10th edition this year and my first sprint finish; I don’t think I want another one!” said Mullens. “Renata and I got a bit tactical towards the end; I like tactics. She attacked four or five times in the last few km’s so I knew a sprint finish was on our hands,” continued Mullens. According to the 2013 Otway Odyssey winner Bucher, it was a big day! “I tried everything that I could with Peta, because the last thing I wanted was a sprint finish,” said Bucher. “I knew Peta had the legs and experience. But I am happy, I gave everything I could. Mountain biking is such a good sport, I’ll definitely be back here,” continued Bucher. Renata Butcher giving it the beans during the 100km Otway Odyssey race. The 50km Otway Shorty event also saw some fast racing up front, with Joshua Sek taking line honours in 2:28:32; Ian Kelly in second place (2:19:10) and Conor Flett in third (2:20:53). Having been a 100km competitor back when the Odyssey race started in Apollo Bay, Sek said he was glad to be back. “It’s a great course, I’m glad to be back and I’m really happy with the results,” said Sek. Kim Willocks won the female 50km Otway Shorty, and is a previous winner three years ago when her third child was only 3 months old. Kim finished in a jet setting speed of 2:42:04. Cheryl Coombs was second (2:49:27) and Elise Buriss placed third (2:50:06). Riders have the option of doing a 100km, 50km or 30km race as part of the Otway Odyssey. 300 riders took on the 30km Odyssey Rookie designed specifically for novice mountain bikers and developing juniors. First across the line was a tight battle between two talented under 16 twin brothers Cohen and Jude Jessen, with Cohen taking the win… just(!) in a time of 1:22:25 to Jude’s 1:22:26. Tami Iseli was our first 30km Odyssey Angel in 1:27:34. Nearly 1,500 riders raced the famed single-track of Forrest in its’ 14th edition, which is now seen as a badge of honour for many mountain bike enthusiasts. These riders bared witness to Rapid Ascent’s big announcement today that the 2021 Otway Odyssey will be returning to its roots in Apollo Bay to celebrate 15 years since the beginning of the Odyssey. The ‘original’ 100km Otway Odyssey course is the stuff of legends and had a reputation as a “hardman/women’s” event where only the strongest survived. Yieeeew! How good does that singletrack look? Starting in Apollo Bay, the hills climbed to the clouds and smashed your legs while the descents pulverised your arms and left you quaking on the corners. And that was just the half way point at Forrest. Then you had 50km of epic single track to conquer before collapsing at the finish at Forrest. All other formats for 2021 will start and finish in Forrest as per the current format. “The event has had a huge following right from the get go and we’re rapt that its popularity continues. The trails of Forrest are world class, combined with the wilderness, the terrain and the friendly atmosphere all help make it the successful event it is today,” General Manager of Rapid Ascent Sam Maffett said. “Thank you to everyone for making today such a successful day, and to the locals of Forrest who dedicate their time to helping maintain the awesome trails here.” Zooooooom! Smiles all-round! Otway Odyssey 100km Top 3 Male Robbie Hucker 4:15:39 Cameron Ivory 4:18:14 Reece Tucknott 4:20:05 Top 3 Female Peta Mullens 5:22:54 Renata Bucher 5:22:26 Courtney Sherwell 5:33:17 That’s a weird and uncomfortable-looking mountain bike. Otway Shorty 50km Top 3 Male Joshua Sek 2:18:32 Ian Kelly 2:19:10 Conor Flett 2:20:53 Top 3 Female Kim Willocks 2:42:04 Cheryl Coombs 2:49:27 Elise Burriss 2:50:06 “I’ll tow you up the hill for $20” Otway Rookie 30km Top 3 Male Cohen Jessen 1:22:25 Jude Jessen 1:22:26 Felix Davis 1:24:56 Top 3 Female – Odyssey Angels Tami Iseli 1:27:34 Katrina Bennett 1:27:35 Mali Pimlott 1:28:13 Don’t be sad that this year’s event has finished, because 2021 is coming back in a BIG way! Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. 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Hullo all you Flow Frothers, and welcome to the first edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce for the year 2020! Consider this a slightly belated Happy New Year from Mick & Wil here at FlowMTB, and we hope you all had a marvellous break over the Xmas holidays! For those of you enjoying your summer riding trips, we’d really rather not know. But we still hope you’re enjoying yourselves. Happy (belated) New Year from Mick & Wil! Please don’t judge – we’re athletes after all. Yes, we’re just a little tardy with our New Years wishes, but has anyone else noticed just how massive the start of 2020 has been so far? Because it’s been humongous! If you’ve been following us here at FlowMTB, you’ll no doubt have seen all of the new bikes released over the past couple of weeks, in what is traditionally the ‘off-season’ for all the big brand launches. After the last few weeks though, we’re not convinced there’s actually an off-season anymore. Not when we’ve had Specialized launch its new Levo SL lightweight e-MTB, or Pivot Cycles bring out its second generation Switchblade. Of course you’ll no doubt be aware that Santa Cruz has also finally decided to jump into the e-MTB game with the amusingly-named Heckler, which has caused quite the stir. And just this week Norco decided to unveil the brand new Sight VLT, which is very, very different to the previous version. We’ve had the chance to ride and rate all four of those bikes, so be sure to check out the reviews right here if you fancy. Wil testing out the impressively lightweight Levo SL from Specialized. Mick piloting the zingy Santa Cruz Heckler – the brand’s first e-MTB. Beyond all the bombshell bike releases, there’s been scads of other stories and reviews we’ve been busy beavering away on in the New Year, including Mick’s colourful feature on all the bikes & tech from the Cannonball MTB Festival. And if you’re looking for any inspiration for a riding trip this year, be sure to read Imogen’s Top-5 reasons for mountain biking in Alice Springs – some lovely photos and inspirational words in there to get you yearning for some outback adventures. Now that we’ve gotten through some of those early bike launches, we’ve had a moment to breathe and go through all of the new kit that’s turned up at Flow HQ for testing. And there is A LOT! So grab a cuppa, settle in, and get ready for a heady dose of shiny new kit. As always, give us a hoy if you’ve got any questions about any of the products you see here. Enjoy! Fox Speedframe Helmet Fox has completely overhauled its trail lid, which is now called the Speedframe. Drawing from the Dropframe, the Speedframe is an open-face trail helmet with loads of rear coverage and a clever dual-density EPS shell. The Fox Flux is dead! Long live the Flux! In its place, Fox has introduced a brand new trail helmet called the Speedframe. We like the new name, which helps to better align it with the full-face Proframe and the half-face Dropframe. The Speedframe maintains an open-face shell and is designed with trail riding in mind. There are 19 vents in total, including three vents over the brow, which kind of gives it a slightly ‘Specialized’ vibe. There’s a big ol’ visor that offers three firmly-indexed positions. Set it in the highest position, and you can stow your goggles up there too. Inside the helmet you’ll find the latest version of the MIPS protection system, as well as anti-microbial padding that can be removed and washed if your microbes are simply too powerful. Fox offers the Speedframe in two versions. We’ve got the more expensive ‘Pro’ model, which gets a snazzy FidLock chin buckle that uses the wizardry of magnets to bring it together. More importantly though, the Speedframe Pro gets the Varizorb shell, which combines two different densities of EPS foam into the one shell. You can spot this in the photo above – the light grey EPS foam is a softer density and is placed closer to the rider’s head, while the black EPS foam is a firmer density and is placed on the outer part of the structure for better impact strength. For $70 less, you can get the standard Speedframe helmet, which comes with the same overall shape and MIPS protection system. However, the standard Speedframe does miss out on the dual-density Varizorb foam though, and it also skips the FidLock buckle. Both helmets come in a tonne of colour options and in Small, Medium or Large sizes. From: PSI Cycling Price: $269.99 Ride Concepts Transition Clip Shoes Ride Concepts is still a relatively new name in the mountain bike footwear world, but the fledgling brand is having a red-hot crack at the big hitters with a solid line of both flat pedal and clip pedal shoes. The Transition is RC’s flagship clip pedal shoe designed for trail riding and enduro racing. You get laces and a big Velcro strap to tie it all down, while D3O inserts in the footbed and around the ankle provide impact protection. The 40mm wide cleat box is designed to accept all modern 2-bolt mountain bike cleat systems, and it’s surrounded by a textured rubber outsole that uses RC’s mid-density DST 8.0 compound. From: Lusty Industries Price: $274.95 Dynaplug Racer Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit For repairing a tubeless tyre puncture on the trail, we’ve found it hard to go past the quality and effectiveness of a Dynaplug. The US brand makes a host of different solutions for plugging a hole in your tyre, including the lightweight Racer option we have here. This double-ended tool is beautifully machined from solid billet 6061 aluminium and weighs just 23 grams. It’s slim enough to fit in a saddle bag, jersey pocket, or with your tube strap on the frame. You get three of the pointy-tip plugs and two blunt Megaplugs included. From: KWT Imports Price: $64.95 Dynaplug Megapill Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit Compared to the original Dynaplug Pill, the Megapill is, err, more mega? It’s bigger, that’s right. And it holds more plugs too. And it comes with a Megaplug in it – that’s the thicker tubeless plug that has blunt, rounded tip for sealing up particularly large punctures. Also inside the Megapill is the world’s tiniest shank for cutting off the rubber tail that’s left behind after you’ve done your plugging. And all of that comes inside a texturally-pleasing machined alloy case. From: KWT Imports Price: $99.95 Dynaplug Megaplugger Tubeless Tyre Repair Kit If you’re not so fussed on carrying a zillion plugs or you don’t need the fancy alloy case, the Megaplugger uses a lighter plastic housing. As its name suggests, it comes with the bigger Megaplug applicator, along with a couple of spare plugs in the box. Plus the cutest little yellow pipe-cleaner. Spare plugs can be bought separately in a 5-pack for $19.95 (pointed or bullet-tipped), and you can get a 3-pack of the XL-sized Megaplugs for $22.95. From: KWT Imports Price: $59.95 DHaRCO Tech Tee DHaRCO has a fresh season of riding apparel for 2020, including some snazzy new Tech Tees. Aussie mountain bike apparel brand, DHaRCO, has got a new season line of riding jerseys, tech tees, baggy shorts, and gloves. We’ve got one of the new stone-coloured tech tees, which are made from a fabric called Drirelease. Made up of 85% polyester and 15% cotton, Drirelease aims to provide the softer feel of cotton while better wicking moisture for vastly better breathability. You can get these tech tees from Small through to XXL and in a bunch of colour options. From: DHaRco Price: $59.95 DHaRCO Gravity Shorts To go with the new jerseys and tech tees, DHaRCO has revamped its Gravity Shorts with a new cut that supposedly fits truer to size than the previous version, which was known for being on the small side. Using a 4-way stretch fabric, the Gravity Shorts get a couple of zippered pockets and an adjustable waist with a Velcro cinch-strap on each side. Available in Small through to XXL in Black, Blue and the Camo we have here. From: DHaRco Price: $125.00 DHaRCO Connor Gloves We dig the jazzy patterns of DHaRCO’s full-finger gloves, including the flowery print on these Connor gloves. These have a streamlined fit and a minimalist construction for comfort and summer riding breathability. The synthetic palm is free of padding for a close fit on the grips, and the the thumb and index finger are supposedly smart-phone friendly. There are four other colour options, and all gloves come in Small through to XL sizes. From: DHaRco Price: $36.50 DHaRCO 3/4 Sleeve Jersey You too can look like Connor Fearon. Standing still anyway. Inspired by Connor Fearon’s race kit, the Fast Tropical print on this 3/4 jersey is an obvious match for those dazzling gloves. With an over-the-elbow length, the 3/4 jersey offers a touch more abrasion and sun protection than a regular short-sleeve jersey, but keeps things light and breezy. Quick-dry polyester helps there too, as do the side mesh panels, which are kept black for tasteful discretion. Like the Tech Tee, this bad boy goes up to a XXL size. From: DHaRco Price: $69.95 DHaRCO Gravity Pants An entirely new product for 2020, the DHaRCO Gravity Pants were designed in collaboration with Connor Fearon to provide full-length protection while still maintaining a close-fit for less flapping in the breeze. Not just for DH racing, these Gravity Pants are built light and stretchy enough for winter trail riding. These get the same 4-way stretch fabric as the Gravity Shorts, but that fabric runs all the way down to the ankles, where they taper in above your shoes. There’s room for knee pads underneath, and you get three pockets and an adjustable waist band. Sizes go from Small up to an XXL. From: DHaRco Price: $179.95 ODI F-1 Vapor Grips Lighter than a lock-on grip, and with more squish for added comfort. These are ODI’s answer to the popular silicone foam grips from the likes of ESI. Utilising ODI’s own A.I.R.E compound, these provide a nice squishy feel that’s supported by millions of tiny air bubbles trapped inside. ODI says you get a slower rebound for more control and more comfort, while a textured and dimpled surface gives you more to hold onto. As for weight? These come in at just 74g for the pair, which is a good bit lighter than a lock-on grip. From: Lusty Industries Price: $34.95 Lezyne Digital Shock Drive The Lezyne Digital Shock Drive is without doubt one of Wil’s favourite tools, which explains why he was absolutely distraught when he lost his 3-year old pump on the trail a few weeks ago. Thankfully he didn’t have to endure too many sleepless nights, as we’ve just had a replacement Shock Drive turn up at HQ to satisfy his trailside-tuning needs. A very compact digital shock pump, this little doohicky is small enough to fit into the stealth pocket of a pair of bib shorts. It has a nice, big display that reads to the nearest whole number, plus there are gold bits, which look sweet. If you want to tune your fork and air pressures accurately, ditch the bulky analogue pump and get one of these. From: PSI Cycling Price: $119.99 RockShox PIKE Ultimate Fork Mick’s custom-build Tallboy has just received a fork upgrade in the way of a new Pike Ultimate. One of the biggest stories so far in 2020 has been on this bike here – Mick’s custom-built Santa Cruz Tallboy 4.0. Equipped with a SRAM AXS drivetrain and Reverb dropper post, along with Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels and a Deity cockpit, it is one seriously good-looking piece of trail shreddery. If you haven’t read that article already, you owe it to yourself to check it out right now. The only part of the puzzle that Mick wasn’t totally happy with was the fork. To begin with, he built the Tallboy with a 140mm travel Fox 34 fork that had a 51mm offset. However, the new Tallboy is significantly longer and slacker than its predecessor, and is also optimised around a reduced-offset fork between 120-130mm of travel. While the Fox fork worked fine, the handling wasn’t quite right. To rectify its handling, Mick has just plugged in a 2020 RockShox Pike Ultimate fork with 130mm of travel and a shorter 42mm offset. Compared to the 2019 Pike, the latest model gets the revised Charger 2.1 damper, low-friction SKF seals and Maxima Plush damping fluid to provide smoother performance for greater traction and control. Currently this fork has the RCT3 damper, which offers adjustable low-speed compression damping and a 3-position lever to offer open, medium and firm settings. However, we’re about to get our hands on a Charger RC2 damper for even greater high-speed control. Stay tuned for an update on that one! From: PSI Cycling Price: $1499.99 Fox Flexair Lite Shorts Super lightweight and minimalist baggys from Fox, the Flexair Lite. For those who want the lightest and breeziest kit available, Fox has the Flexair Lite short. Built with TruMtion 4-way stretch fabric, these shorts have a very light and soft feel along with in-built ventilation via laser-cut perforations on the outside of each thigh. There’s a single zippered mesh pocket to keep your mobile phone or keys handy, otherwise everything is stripped back to the bare minimum, with a single ratchet closure system on the waist. A padded liner is included, but can be removed if you want to wear these with your favourite bib shorts. From: PSI Cycling Price: $149.99 Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post Flow’s Fresh Produce | The Ultimate Pike Fork, Fresh DHaRCO Kit, Dynaplugs & Fox’s New Helmet appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
That’s right folks, we’ve got big news out of Canada today with the arrival of a brand new electric mountain bike; the 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29. The good news? There are four models available, and not one of them costs over $10K. In fact, two of them are actually priced under $7K, which is pretty incredible given the specifications. The even better news? We’ve got the C1 model in for testing right now, and holy cow is this one beast of a bike! Here we’ll be taking a closer look at what’s new, how the Sight VLT 29er compares to its smaller-wheeled sibling, and what our first impressions are of riding this chunky-looking e-MTB. Norco has a brand new Sight VLT 29er joining its e-MTB range for 2020. Wait A Minny Mate – Doesn’t The Sight VLT Already Exist? Yes, yes it does! The current Norco Sight VLT (now known as the Sight VLT 27.5) has barely been on the market for a year, having arrived in late 2018. As you’ll read in our long term review it’s a bike that we didn’t take long to fall in love with thanks to its superb handling, lively suspension and generous battery range. Thankfully the Sight VLT 27.5 isn’t going anywhere – it’s just being joined by a beefcake brother. Surely Norco Has Just Thrown 29in Wheels Onto The Same Bike? Nope. The Sight VLT 29 doesn’t just have bigger wheels, it features an entirely new chassis. As we’ll get onto shortly, the geometry is quite different between the two. The Sight VLT 29 takes a lot of inspiration from the naturally-aspirated Sight, building on Norco’s ‘Ride Aligned’ ethos. Like the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 uses a 630Wh In-Tube battery. Why Another Sight VLT Then? There are a couple of reasons. For a start, riders are simply asking for 29er e-MTBs. While we have thoroughly enjoyed the easier handling of the 27.5in wheels on the Sight VLT (and more recently the 27.5in Santa Cruz Heckler), there’s no denying the climbing and rollover benefits of a bigger 29in wheel – something that becomes more obvious the more technical the terrain is. Also, and in case you hadn’t noticed, Norco’s been on a bit of a blinder over the past 12 months. The Canucks have rolled out an all-new Optic, and they’ve also brought back the Torrent enduro hardtail in all its steel-framed glory. Then there was the release of the totally revamped Sight, as well as the arrival of Norco’s biggest and baddest e-MTB yet; the Range VLT. With that last bike (an absolute monster of an e-MTB with 180/170mm of travel, coil suspension and DH-worthy geo), Norco created a pretty significant gap in its full suspension e-MTB lineup. And so to fill that gap between the Sight VLT 27.5 and the Range VLT, we now have this brand spanking new Sight VLT 29er. As you’ll see, it does share a few things in common with the 27.5in version, though there are some significant differences too. The Norco Sight VLT 29er – Give Us The Lowdown First, let’s start by covering off what carries over from the 27.5in version. In terms of suspension travel, it’s exactly the same as the Sight VLT 27.5. So we’ve got a 160mm travel fork on the front, and 150mm of rear wheel travel courtesy of a four-bar suspension platform. The motor and battery system are also the same. There’s a Shimano STEPS mid-drive motor integrated into the frame, and a non-Shimano battery that is stowed inside that huge downtube. As with the Sight VLT 27.5, Norco has gone for a big 630Wh rechargeable battery, though unlike a lot of other e-MTBs on the market, it isn’t designed to be easily removable. This does mean the frame can be built lighter and sleeker. There’s 150mm of rear wheel travel via a 4-bar suspension design. Because of the motor, the chainstay length is over 20mm longer than the regular Sight. Up front is a 160mm travel reduced-offset fork and a beefy 2.5WT Maxxis Minion DHF. So What’s Different Then? Aside from the obvious wheelsize difference, the biggest change with the Sight VLT 29er is the geometry. Much like the new Optic, Sight and Range VLT models, the new Sight VLT 29 shares Norco’s new-school geometry concept with a significantly slacker head tube angle, a longer top tube, a steeper seat tube angle and a lower BB. Consequently, the wheelbase has expanded. Big time. For those wondering, here are some of the headline geometry figures of the Sight VLT 29 and how they compare to the Sight VLT 27.5; Head Angle: 64° (vs 66°) Seat Angle: 78.3° (vs 75°) Chainstays: 458mm (vs 440mm) Reach: 455mm (vs 440mm, Medium) BB drop: 25mm (vs 15mm) Wheelbase: 1246mm (vs 1184mm) We love the current Sight VLT 27.5, and thankfully it isn’t going away – the two Sight VLTs will coexist. For now at least. Given those differences, we can see why the Sight VLT 29 and Sight VLT 27.5 will coexist. For riders who want a more playful and easy-handling bike, the 27.5in version is likely going to remain the more logical option. For those who are chasing all-out speed and stability, the 29er appears to be the sled you’re looking for. One other thing to note on the geometry is that while it is very similar to the naturally-aspirated Sight (a bike that we just finished reviewing), the rear centre length is the same between all four frame sizes (the regular Sight has a different RC length for each size). This is purely down to the mid-drive motor, which unfortunately makes it impossible to change the BB location to extend or shorten the RC length. 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29 Geometry Moar Battery! Moar Water! Moar Alloy! Geometry aside, there are some other functional differences to be found on the Sight VLT 29. Whereas the current Sight VLT 27.5 is only available in carbon fibre, the Sight VLT 29 comes in both alloy and carbon variants. The addition of two alloy models helps to bring the cost of entry down significantly, with the cheapest A2 model coming in at $6,199. We’ve got specs and pricing on all four models below. One update that is likely to make many riders happy is the provision of a water bottle cage inside the mainframe – something that the current Sight VLT 27.5 misses out on. This has been achieved by twisting the rear shock by 90°, which helps to increase clearance for a bottle while still accommodating the shock’s piggyback reservoir. Also good news is the option of running a range extender battery pack. Just like the Range VLT, this additional 360Wh battery is designed to sit on top of the downtube and plugs into the frame just above the Shimano motor. The battery sells separately for $699 and increases total capacity to 990Wh, which is an extraordinary amount of juice. If you do choose to run a range extender battery, you will have to forgo the water bottle though. Unlike the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 comes with water bottle mounts, and it’s also compatible with Norco’s aftermarket range extender battery pack. Which 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29 Models Are Coming To Oz? There are four different Sight VLT 29 models available in Australia – two carbon (the C1 & C2) and two alloy (the A1 & A2). Norco also makes a cheaper C3 carbon bike, but we won’t be seeing that one locally. Oh, and unlike all the other new bike releases we’ve covered for the start of 2020, not one of Norco’s Sight VLT models will sell for over $10K. Phew! We suspect there’ll be a lot of demand for the A1 model in particular, given its super competitive $6,999 list price. For your monies, you’ll get the same Shimano E8000 motor as the carbon models, a proper RockShox Yari fork, a piggyback rear shock, 1×12 drivetrain, 4-piston Shimano brakes and high-end Maxxis tyres, complete with the heavy duty DoubleDown casing and sticky 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound. Ticks a lot of boxes hey? Read on for a closer look at all four models that are hitting our shores over the coming months; The top-end Norco Sight VLT C1 29er is decked out with a Lyrik Ultimate RC2 fork, DT Swiss wheels and a Reverb Stealth dropper post. 2020 Norco Sight VLT C1 29 Frame | Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Seatstays, Alloy Chainstays, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, Charger 2 RC2 Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 185×55mm Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E8000, 70Nm Battery | In-Tube 630Wh Wheels | DT Swiss E 1700 Hybrid, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5WT Front & DHR II DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/Shimano XT 34T Crankset & NX Eagle 11-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Code R 4-Piston w/200mm Rotors Bar | Deity Ridgeline 35, 25mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 175mm (M), 200mm (L/XL) RRP | $9,799 The C2 utilises the same carbon chassis as the top-end C1, but specs a Shimano XT 1×12 drivetrain, a cheaper fork damper and a TranzX dropper post to lob a grand off the price. 2020 Norco Sight VLT C2 29 Frame | Carbon Fibre Mainframe & Seatstays, Alloy Chainstays, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | RockShox Lyrik Select, Charger RC Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 185×55mm Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E8000, 70Nm Battery | In-Tube 630Wh Wheels | Shimano XT Hubs & e*thirteen LG1 DH Alloy Rims, 30mm Inner Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5WT Front & DHR II DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | Shimano XT 1×12 w/XT 34T Crankset & 10-51T Cassette Brakes | Shimano XT 4-Piston w/203mm Rotors Bar | Norco 6061 Alloy, 20mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | TranzX YSP-39JL, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 170mm (M), 200mm (L/XL) RRP | $8,799 Prefer metal? The Sight VLT A1 is sure to become a best-seller given its $6,999 price tag and the fact that it comes with proper suspension, proper tyres and proper brakes. Plus it has the same motor and battery as the carbon models. 2020 Norco Sight VLT A1 29 Frame | Hydroformed Alloy, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | RockShox Yari RC, Motion Control Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 185×55mm Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E8000, 70Nm Battery | In-Tube 630Wh Wheels | Shimano Deore Hubs & e*thirteen LG1 DH Alloy Rims, 30mm Inner Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5WT Front & DHR II DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | SRAM SX Eagle 1×12 w/Shimano FC-E8000 34T Crankset & NX Eagle 11-50T Cassette Brakes | Shimano MT520 4-Piston w/203mm Rotors Bar | Norco 6061 Alloy, 20mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | TranzX YSP-39JL, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 170mm (M), 200mm (L/XL) RRP | $6,999 As the entry-point into the Sight VLT lineup, the A2 may well be one of the most capable e-MTBs going at this price point. 2020 Norco Sight VLT A2 29 Frame | Hydroformed Alloy, Four-Bar Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | RockShox 35 Gold, Motion Control Damper, 42mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 185×55mm Drive Unit | Shimano STEPS E7000, 60Nm Battery | In-Tube 500Wh Wheels | Shimano Deore Hubs & WTB ST i29 Alloy Rims, 29mm Inner Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.5WT Front & DHR II DoubleDown 3C MaxxGrip 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | Shimano Deore 1×10 w/Alloy 32T Crankset & Deore 11-42T Cassette Brakes | Shimano MT420 4-Piston w/203mm Rotors Bar | Norco 6061 Alloy, 20mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | TranzX YSP-39JL, 34.9mm Diameter, Travel: 150mm (S), 170mm (M), 200mm (L/XL) RRP | $6,199 The Sight VLT C1 comes with a SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, though a cheaper (and heavier) NX Eagle cassette. Compared to the 27.5in version, the Sight VLT 29 is considerably longer and slacker. It’s also lower in the BB too. First Impressions The model we’ve got our hot little hands on is the top-end C1. In terms of its overall shape and geometry, it shares a lot in common with the naturally aspirated Sight – a bike that I only just finished testing. The reach and head angle are identical between the two, but because the Sight VLT 29 has a slightly steeper seat angle, the cockpit does feel shorter and more upright in direct comparison. With the same bars, grips and 160mm Lyrik fork, the front-end feels reassuringly familiar. The saddle is an e-MTB specific number from Ergon though, with a pronounced scoop at the tail that’s designed to provide a stronger platform for your sit-bones while seated on steep, technical climbs. It’s comfortable, though I’ll be playing around with saddle tilt and fore/aft positioning to get it dialled in properly, as right now it feels like I have too much weight on the grips. One other key geometry difference is the rear centre length, which is over 20mm longer on the Sight VLT 29 (458mm vs 435mm). On the climbs, this helps to keep the front end from pitching, and it all feels very steady and calm. On the descents, the longer back end does give the electric version a bigger footprint on the trail, and it also helps to shift a little more weight distribution onto the front tyre. This is complemented by the extra weight of the battery and motor, giving the Sight VLT 29 an enormously planted feel at speed. Despite only having one solid ride on it so far, I’m already feeling very comfortable – something that took me a few rides on the regular Sight to achieve. 800mm wide riser bars from Deity, along with Ergon GE1 grips and SRAM Code R brakes. It’s a tough-looking cockpit, if quite messy with all those Shimano Di2 wires. For those wondering, our medium sized Sight VLT 29 weighs in at a not-feathery 23.43kg. Part of the weight comes down to the Maxxis Minion DoubleDown tyres, which tip the scales at 1.23kg for the DHF and 1.17kg for the DHR II. They also feature the mega-sticky 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound, which offers an insane amount of grip, albeit with a noticeably slower rolling speed. Not as big of a deal when you’ve got a 70Nm motor between the crank arms though. We’ll be testing the Sight VLT 29 over the coming weeks, and I’ve got a few big rides planned to see how it’ll handle a variety of trail types and conditions. Norco also supplied us with a range extender battery pack. According to the workshop scales, this weighs in at 2.3kg, which brings the total bike weight close to 26kg. Yeesh! However, it does give you nearly 1000Wh of battery to indulge in, which opens up some pretty cool riding adventure opportunities. Your suggestions are welcome! Stay tuned to the Flow website for the full review, though in the meantime, by all means shoot us through any questions you’ve got, and be sure to tell us your thoughts on the new 2020 Norco Sight VLT 29. The range extender battery pack sells separately for $699 and adds 2.3kg of mass to the bike. It does jack up capacity to 990Wh, which opens up some the possibility of bigger adventures. Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post First Ride | Norco Releases All-New Sight VLT 29er appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
Not everyone wants or needs a $10,000 mountain bike (or a $26,500 e-MTB with gold leaf graphics…), though lately it seems that that’s the only kind of bike companies have been releasing. In a thoroughly refreshing turn of events though, we’ve just received a new trail bike from Merida that is both free of a motor and entirely devoid of any carbon fibre. Indeed with its sensible parts package and alloy frameset, we reckon this is quite possibly one of the best value mountain bikes we’ve come across in some time. Merida delivers us a trail bike that doesn’t have a motor or a $10,000+ price tag. Less Marketing Fluff, More Value For Money If you’re not familiar with the name, we won’t blame you! Merida’s full suspension bikes do have a habit of flying under the radar, which might have something to do with the company’s distinct lack of marketing compared to ‘sexier’ brands like Santa Cruz and Yeti. That’s a shame, because Merida has been putting out some seriously good kit over the past few years. In terms of its designation, the One-Twenty slots into Merida’s mountain bike lineup as the versatile trail speedster. Aiming to bring together the efficient climbing performance of the 96 (the 100mm travel XC race bike) with the descending fervour of the One-Forty (the burly 140mm travel All Mountain rig), the One-Twenty is a straight-up trail bike. It rolls on 29in wheels and is equipped with 120mm of rear suspension travel with a 130mm travel fork up front. Named after its rear travel, the One-Twenty is a purist’s trail bike. 120mm of rear wheel travel courtesy of the proven Float Link suspension platform. Of course the One-Twenty isn’t strictly a brand new platform. The current generation frame was released for the 2019 model year, and you might recall that we did in fact test and review a One-Twenty 8000 only about six months ago. That was one of the top-end spec levels built around a high-zoot carbon frame, and it left us thoroughly impressed with its refined suspension performance and zippy character on sinewy singletrack. Having collected a string of awards throughout the year (including a spot in Wil’s Top 10 bikes & gear list for 2019), the One-Twenty marches on into 2020, albeit with a few key updates and spec changes that are aiming to take both performance and value to the next level. Last year we tested the carbon One-Twenty 8000 model. Now we’ve got the alloy version in for review. What’s On Offer For 2020? There are seven One-Twenty models available in Australia for 2020, starting at $2,299 for the One-Twenty 400, and going up to $7,499 for the One-Twenty 8000. The cheaper models utilise an alloy frameset, while the top two models get a full carbon fibre frame. New for 2020, all One-Twenty models that come with a RockShox fork have moved to a shorter 42mm offset, compared to the 51mm offset forks that came on last year’s bikes. At the same time, Merida has shortened the stem length to 50mm on all frame sizes, and we’re very keen to see how that plays out on the trail. Merida has changed to a shorter 42mm fork offset on most One-Twenty models. Is that a good thing? The Merida One-Twenty 700 – All Of The Mod-Cons The bike we’ve got on test here is the One-Twenty 700, which is the top-spec option with the alloy frame. For less than $4K, it’s a helluva package for the money, with impressive attention to detail on the areas that count. Just like the top-end carbon models, you’re getting 120mm of rear travel via a floating link suspension design. There’s a big volume RockShox Deluxe shock with a trunnion bearing mount to aid small-bump sensitivity, while a RockShox Revelation fork up front uses the same chassis as the pricier Pike, albeit with a simpler Charger RC damper inside. The drivetrain is mostly SLX, except for the XT rear mech and I-SPEC EV shifter. Merida has spec’d our Medium test bike with a 150mm travel dropper post and the impressively powerful 4-piston Shimano SLX brakes. While you’re getting a mostly SLX-based drivetrain, the shifter is upgraded to an XT unit, which gives you a punchier feel at the triggers along with a double-upshift function – something we have missed on the SLX 1×12 groupset we recently reviewed. Nice touch! As for the frame itself, it’s built from shapely hydroformed alloy tubing with a curved top tube to increase standover clearance. There isn’t a tonne of room around the rear tyre though, with the 2.35in Maxxis Forekaster being about the biggest size that Merida recommends for the back end. Otherwise it’s all well finished, with tidy bolt-up cable ports and thick rubber armouring under the downtube and over the drive-side chainstay. It could really do with more black on it though. 2020 Merida One-Twenty 700 Specs Frame | LITE Hydroformed Alloy, Float Link Suspension Design, 120mm Travel Fork | RockShox Revelation RC, 42mm Offset, 130mm Travel Shock | RockShox Deluxe Select+, 185x55mm Wheels | Shimano SLX 32h Hubs & Merida Expert TR Alloy rims, 29mm Inner Width, Tubeless Compatible Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.40WT Front & Forekaster EXO 2.35in Rear Drivetrain | Shimano SLX/XT 1×12 w/SLX 32T Crankset & 10-51T Cassette Brakes | Shimano SLX M7120 4-Piston w/180mm CenterLock Rotors Bar | Merida Expert TR Alloy, 20mm Rise, 760mm Wide Stem | Merida Expert TR Alloy, 35mm Diameter, 50mm Long Grips | Merida Lock-On Seatpost | Merida Expert TR, 30.9mm Diameter, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (MD), 170mm (LG, XL) Saddle | Merida Expert CC Available Sizes | MD, LG, XL Confirmed Weight | 14.23kg (Medium size w/tubes fitted) RRP | $3,799 Does less money equal less performance? Looking at the One-Twenty 700’s spec sheet, we’re not so sure… We’ll be testing the 2020 Merida One-Twenty over the coming weeks, so be sure to stay tuned to the Flow website for the upcoming review. Otherwise we’d love to hear what you think of this value-packed trail bike, and be sure to drop us any questions you might have in the meantime. Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post On Test | The 2020 Merida One-Twenty 700 Is A Mega Package For The Money appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
We’ve got big news for all you e-Frothers, because today Santa Cruz is unveiling its first ever e-MTB. Answering years of anticipation and rumours from both Santa Cruz fans and e-MTB enthusiasts from all around the globe, the Heckler CC represents Santa Cruz Bicycles’ first jump into the world of electric mountain bikes, and we expect this one is going to make some serious waves. As fans of the retro era, we are stoked to see the Heckler name revived for this new bike. Mick’s been razzing the pants off the Heckler. It’s lively and agile machine. A Santa Cruz e-MTB; Why Now? Never say never, because sometimes you just ‘never’ know! In recent years, Santa Cruz has been blatantly clear about its decisiveness in not providing the booming segment of e-Bikes with one of its own. Alongside other core brands like Yeti Cycles, Transition Bikes and Evil Bicycles, Santa Cruz is well known for holding out on the e-MTB revolution. As the pressure has built up though, so too has the inevitability that the Californian brand would eventually produce one. We reckon there are a few factors at play here. For a start, Santa Cruz’ biggest market outside of the US is Germany. And if there’s one thing that Germans love more than bratwurst and hefeweizen, it’s e-MTBs. One of the sleekest e-MTB’s we’ve seen. You may also recall that back in 2015, Santa Cruz was acquired by Pon Holdings – the Dutch super group that also owns Focus Bikes. Focus is a brand that is pushing hard with e-MTB models, which have been outselling its regular MTBs for a few years now. With a backstage pass to the inner workings of its German sister brand, and with the e-MTB market growing at a rapid rate of knots, the question for Santa Cruz internally has at some point shifted from ‘if‘ to a matter of ‘when‘. Of course from a commercial perspective, Santa Cruz will also be more than aware of the huge demand awaiting its first e-MTB. The likes of Rocky Mountain, Pivot and Intense have done much of the hard work to break the ice already, proving that boutique manufacturers can also have a place amongst the e-MTB market. Meanwhile, Specialized has also been doing its bit to normalise near $20,000 price points, further paving the way for a high performance and premium-priced e-MTB from Santa Cruz. And that brings us to the new Heckler. The Heckler is loosely based on the Bronson, with 27.5in wheels, the lower link VPP platform, and 160/150mm of suspension travel. Introducing The Heckler CC The last time we saw a Santa Cruz Heckler it was made from alloy, it had a single pivot suspension design, and there was most definitely no electrics to be found anywhere. To say the new Heckler CC is a little different would be the understatement of the year. The result of three years of development, the Heckler CC is an all-new, carbon fibre full suspension e-MTB. Here are the basics; CC Carbon Fibre Frame 27.5in Wheels w/2.8in Max Tyre Clearance Shimano STEPS E8000 Motor Shimano E8035 Internal Battery Pack Lower Link VPP Suspension Design 150mm Rear Travel 160mm Travel Fork 65.5° Head Angle 75.4-76.2° Seat Angle 445mm Chainstay Length Sizes: SM, MD, LG, XL, XXL Three Years In The Making The original plan for the Heckler was hatched back in 2017. While three years may sound like a generous timeframe to cook up something juicy, in terms of e-Bikes Santa Cruz certainly put the wheels into motion late in the game compared to brands that are now onto their third or fourth iteration of e-MTB. We don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, as you can bet they were watching not only how other brands handled things, but also what the market wanted once the dust settled on the teething period. Once the parameters for travel and geometry were established, the first prototype, a fairly unattractive alloy ‘e-Bronson’ mule, emerged in February of 2018. Various prototypes were designed and tested in-house, though the general consensus was a preference for the lower-link VPP suspension design, along with the more playful attitude of smaller 27.5in wheels. The end product is a 160/150mm travel e-MTB that is subtle on gimmicks, with a strong emphasis on clean and functional design. Aesthetically and functionally speaking, the Heckler is loosely based on a Bronson, albeit with a 250W motor between the crank arms. It draws a pretty mean silhouette, which we reckon does well to hide the e-bits in the shape and paint – the holy grail of e-MTB design. This bike, size large, set up tubeless, without pedals weighs 21.54kg. Now that is a tight fit. The way that Santa Cruz managed to get all of suspension linkage parts, PLUS the motor in that area is remarkable. Carbon Only, Shimano Powered The Heckler is engineered from Santa Cruz’ premium CC carbon fibre, with the rigid mainframe and swingarm connected by forged and machined alloy VPP linkages. Santa Cruz hasn’t indicated that it will be offering a cheaper C carbon option, or an alloy frame either. The whole shebang is driven by a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor and an E8035 battery pack, the latter of which clips into the underside of the downtube – not unlike the Merida eOne-Sixty we’ve been testing lately. A 4mm hex key is all you need to unlock the battery from the downtube, which means you can charge the battery separate to the rest of the bike. Otherwise there’s a port on the frame for charging the battery while it’s in the bike. To protect the lithium-ion cells, the battery is shielded by a thick armour plate that is actually made of the same structural carbon fibre as the rest of the CC frame. Santa Cruz states that it chose the Shimano motor based on worldwide distribution, serviceability and availability of spare parts. The E8000 motor offers 250W average power output with 70Nm of torque, and it also features the same Q-factor as a regular XT crankset. The swingarm is a one-piece carbon structure that connects to the mainframe via two alloy linkages, with large cartridge bearings and field-proven pivot hardware. Space is tight for the piggyback Super Deluxe rear shock. The engineering complexity around this part of the frame and BB-mounted motor is extraordinary. Clean Lines & Nice Bits In true Santa Cruz fashion, the fine details are particularly fine. We’re very impressed with the frame shape around the rear shock, given there’s A LOT going on in a relatively small space. Santa Cruz has managed to keep the chainstays pretty short at 445mm, while still allowing room for the lower VPP link suspension design – something we assumed would be next to impossible, or just really, really difficult to achieve. Santa Cruz has done it though, and there’s even space for a water bottle inside the mainframe too. Despite there being room for the piggyback Super Deluxe shock, there isn’t clearance to run a coil shock though. And unlike other Santa Cruz models, you won’t find any geometry adjustment built into the Heckler’s chassis. Instead, Santa Cruz wanted to keep things simple, without introducing packaging constraints of building in flip-chips. Speaking of simple, there are no new frame standards to be found anywhere on the Heckler CC. There’s an old fashioned threaded bottom bracket shell, a 31.6mm diameter seatpost, and standard Boost hub spacing front and rear. The suspension pivots use familiar locking collet hardware, along with grease ports on the lower link that allow you to replenish the grease in the angular contact bearings without having to disassemble anything. And there’s a generously thick, textured chainstay guard to silence chain slap. First seen on the Megatower last year, their lumpy chainstay guard does a stellar job of silencing chain slap noise. On the down low. The on-button is tucked out of view. Now that is a tight fit. The way that Santa Cruz managed to get all of suspension linkage parts, PLUS the motor in that area is remarkable. A miniature guard protects the sensitive parts of the rear suspension from harm. The 2020 Heckler Lineup We’ll see all four models of the Heckler CC coming Down Under, which share the same frame, Shimano STEPS E8000 drive unit and integrated 504Wh battery pack. All models get a burly 160mm travel fork, 2.6in wide Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres with thicker EXO+ casings, and chunky 4-pot brake callipers with big rotors front and rear. You’ll be able to get the Heckler in two colour options: Gloss Black w/Matte Copper decals, or Gloss Yellow w/Matte Black decals. There are five sizes to choose from, starting from Small and going up to a big XX-Large. As you’ve probably gathered, the Heckler doesn’t avoid the Santa Cruz price tag. In fact, it’s worse… The base model sells for a throat-tightening $12,999, and the others trickle-up dangerously close to the $20,000 mark for premium spec. The prices of the Heckler models are fierce, like all Santa Cruz’s, to be fair. The top-banana Heckler, the XX1 AXS RSV, is all about minimising vowels while maximising the bling factor with a rainbow-coloured drivetrain and Kashima gold forks. 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – XX1 AXS RSV Frame | CC Carbon Fibre, VPP Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, e-MTB Chassis, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate Drive Unit | Shimano DU E-8000, 70Nm (250W) Battery | Shimano 504Wh Integrated Wheels | Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 27.5in Carbon Rims w/i9 Hydra hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C Maxx Terra 27.5×2.6in Drivetrain | SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 1×12 w/Single-Click Shifter, Shimano XT 165mm Crank Arms & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Code RSC w/200mm Rotors Bar | Santa Cruz Di2 Carbon, 25mm rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1X Lever, 125-200mm Travel (Size Dependent) Claimed Weight | 21.04kg RRP | $19,999 The Heckler CC X01 comes with carbon Reserve rims, a Fox 36 fork with the burlier e-MTB chassis, and carbon Santa Cruz Di2 handlebars. 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – X01 RSV 27.5 Frame | CC Carbon, VPP Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Performance Elite, e-MTB Chassis, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate Drive Unit | Shimano DU E-8000, 70Nm (250W) Battery | Shimano 504Wh Integrated Wheels | Santa Cruz Reserve 30 V2 27.5in Carbon Rims w/DT Swiss 350 Hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C Maxx Terra, 27.5×2.6in Drivetrain | SRAM X01 Eagle 1×12 w/Single-Click Shifter, Shimano XT 165mm Crank Arms & 10-50T cassette Brakes | SRAM Code RSC w/200mm Rotors Bar | Santa Cruz Di2 Carbon, 25mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1X Lever, 125-200mm Travel (Size Dependent) Claimed Weight | 21.13kg RRP | $18,449 Electing for a workhorse SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Performance-level Fox suspension, the Heckler CC S build brings the price right down compared to the X01/XX1 models. 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – S 27.5 Frame | CC Carbon, VPP Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Performance Elite, e-MTB Chassis, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ Drive Unit | Shimano DU E-8000, 70Nm (250W) Battery | Shimano 504Wh Integrated Wheels | Race Face ARC HD 30 Rims w/DT Swiss 370 Hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C Maxx Terra, 27.5×2.6in Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/Single-Click Shifter, Shimano M8050 165mm Crank Arms & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Code R w/200mm Rotors Bar | Santa Cruz Di2 Carbon, 25mm Rise, 800mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1X Lever, 125-200mm Travel (Size Dependent) Claimed Weight | 21.71kg RRP | $14,999 The ‘R’ build offers the starting point in the Heckler range, using the same CC Carbon frame as the top-end models, along with the Shimano power plant and integrated battery pack. 2020 Santa Cruz Heckler CC – R 27.5 Frame | CC Carbon, VPP Suspension Design, 150mm Travel Fork | RockShox Yari RC, 160mm Travel Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select Drive Unit | Shimano DU E-8000, 70Nm (250W) Battery | Shimano 504Wh Integrated Wheels | WTB ST i29 TCS 2.0 Rims w/SRAM MTH 746 Hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 3C Maxx Terra, 27.5×2.6in Drivetrain | SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 w/Single-Click Shifter, Shimano M8050 165mm Crank Arms & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Guide RE w/200mm Rotors Bar | Race Face Aeffect R, 25mm Rise,800mm Wide Seatpost | Race Face Aeffect Dropper, Travel: 125-175mm (Size Dependent) Claimed Weight | 21.66kg RRP | $12,999 We’ve been testing the ‘cheapest’ Heckler model for the past couple of days. We’d love to hear what you folks think of the new Heckler. Is Santa Cruz fashionably late to the party? And is this an e-MTB you’ve been waiting for? Or are there other e-MTBs you’re more interested in? Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below! Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post First Look | Santa Cruz Finally Announces First e-MTB, The Heckler appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
The New 2020 Specialized Turbo Levo SL Has Arrived! Today Specialized launches the latest addition to its Turbo electric mountain bike lineup. Called the Turbo Levo SL, this is a brand new full suspension e-MTB that joins the existing Levo and Kenevo models. Upon first glance, the Levo SL looks pretty much identical to the current Levo. Indeed both bikes are built around 29in wheels, 150mm of travel, and the distinctive Sidearm silhouette. With the exception of the chainstay length, even the geometry is the same. The new Levo SL has arrived! Where the two bikes differ significantly though is in the chassis, and in the power plant. The key story with the Levo SL is that it’s built around a unique motor and battery system, which sees complete bikes coming in four whole kilograms lighter than the regular Levo. That’s a big deal in the e-MTB world, and Specialized knows it. In typically humble fashion for the Californian brand, it isn’t calling the Levo SL the lightest bike in its class, but rather a bike that’s “in a class of its own”. To find out whether the Levo SL is as good as Specialized says it is, let’s take a closer look at what makes up this new high performance e-MTB. If you want to skip the details to hear about how it actually rides though, be sure to check out our first ride review of the 2020 Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon here. Inside is Specialized’s very own SL 1.1 motor. Upon first glance, it has a striking resemblance with the current Levo. There are some big differences though. 10 Years In The Making With most brands now onto their 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation e-MTB platforms, the market has largely been trending towards more powerful motor systems and bigger battery packs. But while others are pursuing more power, more range, and more travel, Specialized has also been thinking about going the other direction for some time. The original Turbo development project was first established back in 2010. Not even a year in, the team was already pondering the idea of building a lighter and lower-powered e-MTB. Every brand wants its e-MTB to ride like a ‘regular’ mountain bike, but the handling can only be so close when you’re carrying around an extra 8-10kg of mass. To test the theory, Specialized’s engineers took out first generation Turbo Levo prototypes around spring of 2014, and detuned the motor’s power output to simulate using a smaller and less powerful motor. They then removed the internal batteries altogether, pushed them up a local mountain range nearby the Swiss office in Cham, and rode them downhill to evaluate how a lighter e-MTB would perform on the descents. They liked what they rode. The first generation Turbo Levo was a popular bike for Specialized, and introduced many new riders to the world of e-MTBs. The 2nd generation Turbo Levo is currently one of the best e-MTBs on the market. Specialized has had something else cooking too though. Could Less Be More? Going beyond the in-house test team, focus groups were then established to find out what e-MTB owners (and non-owners) wanted from the riding experience. The biggest takeaways from those focus groups? That most riders just weren’t using the full Turbo/Boost mode on the trail. Not only that, they were also finishing their rides with quite a lot of juice left in the tank. This feedback was validated with data provided by the company’s own Mission Control smartphone app, which Levo and Kenevo owners use to control power output and manage the range of their bikes. There are now close to 100,000 people using the app, which has provided Specialized with invaluable data on average ride distances, elevation profiles, what assist modes riders are using, and how much power they’re consuming on an average ride. From all this data, Specialized’s team determined that a significant portion of e-MTB riders were hauling around over-powered bikes with far larger batteries than they actually needed. In 2016, Focus launched the JAM² – a full suspension e-MTB that featured a much smaller bespoke 378Wh battery pack to help it edge closer to the 20kg barrier. The Competition – Focus & Lapierre This was something that German brand Focus hit on when it launched the original JAM² back in 2016. A bike that was perhaps ahead of its time, the JAM² came with a much smaller and lighter 378Wh battery that allowed the complete bike to edge much closer to the 20kg barrier than anyone else at the time. While the overall bike weight was lower, the Focus JAM² was still built around the same Shimano STEPS E8000 motor as its competitors, which ultimately consumes the same Watts-per-hour regardless of the size of battery it’s plugged into. Focus was on the right track, but it could only achieve one part of the equation with an off-the-shelf motor. It’s a bit of a chicken & egg scenario, since you can’t really have one without the other. In order to really get the weight down and improve efficiency, you need to change both the chicken and the egg at the same time. Lapierre has more recently hit on a similar chord with its eZesty, though went one step further with the lightweight and fully removable Fazua Evation motor and battery system. The Fazua motor is less powerful than a Shimano/Bosch/Brose equivalent, but it still has a 400W peak power output and 55Nm of torque. Likewise, its battery is much smaller at 252Wh. The minimalist approach sees the whole system coming in at just 4.6kg, resulting in complete bike weights as low as 18.5kg for a 150mm travel full suspension e-MTB. With its smaller Fazua motor and removable 250Wh battery pack, the new Lapierre eZesty drops weight even further, creating a new hybrid e-MTB category. We haven’t ridden the eZesty ourselves, but we’ve heard good things from others who have. At the very least, its existence helps to legitimise the idea of a new class of lighter weight and lower powered e-MTBs. In 2016, the lead engineers behind the SL project, Marco Sonderegger (Turbo Product Manager), and Jan Talavasek (Turbo Engineering Director), took this idea to HQ. Of course Specialized’s engineers knew they could make a light chassis, but they would still be constrained by the size and weight of off-the-shelf motor and battery systems available to them at the time. While the Fazua system was an option, the performance, weight and packaging didn’t quite tick all the boxes. Marco & Jan’s answer to the power vs weight conundrum was to build their own motor – an enormous and potentially risky investment for any bike company. Specialized clearly believed in the concept though, and the project was given the green light. Shortly afterwards, a dedicated Turbo development centre was established in Cham, Switzerland. The facility now boasts over 35 engineers who are solely dedicated to developing e-MTB components and software, which is now starting to bear some serious fruits. Inside the Levo SL is a brand new motor designed and engineered by Specialized. The New SL 1.1 Engine The result of this huge investment is Specialized’s own SL 1.1 motor system. This motor was first implemented in the Creo e-Road bike, which Specialized launched last year. The Levo SL uses exactly the same motor and battery as the Creo. Weighing in at 1.95kg, it’s over a full kilo lighter than the Brose-manufactured 2.1 motor found in the regular Levo. To put the weight into perspective, both the Levo SL’s motor and battery combined are lighter than the Levo’s motor alone. As well as being lighter and more compact, the Levo SL’s motor is also less powerful. It has quite a lot less torque (35Nm vs 90Nm), and peak power output is under half that of the Levo (240W vs 565W). According to Specialized however, the SL 1.1 motor is drastically more efficient, which means it gobbles less Watts-per-hour in the first place. The SL 1.1 motor is lighter and more compact than the Brose-manufactured motor inside the regular Levo. Compared to the Levo’s belt-driven motor, the Levo SL uses a more compact gearbox design. It spins faster too, with a drive ratio of 1:50 compared to the Levo’s 1:27. Because of this, it has a higher-pitched whine that is more noticeable when riding, even if the actual decibel output is supposedly the same between the two motors. Support across a wide range of cadences was particularly important to the engineering team. They claim that other motors on the market, like the Fazua Evation motor, would lose support dramatically when cadences reached 80-90rpm. During testing though, they found that a mountain biker’s cadence could briefly spike to 140-150rpm, say when stabbing on the pedals out of a corner, or on a technical climb when you’re faced with a steep rock face that you need to quickly accelerate up and over the top of. The SL 1.1 motor is designed to provide maximum support through a wide cadence range from 10-120rpm, and the power curve has been tuned to have a more linear plateau that means it doesn’t drop off at those higher cadence ranges, maintaining support in those situations where you need it most. There’s no belt inside the SL 1.1 motor, which allows it to be made much smaller. In terms of construction, the Levo SL’s motor utilises a magnesium housing and an alloy axle to save weight. Huge marine-grade seals mean the motor is dust and waterproof to IP66 & IP67 standards, so you can ride the whole bike underwater if you fancy. Because it’s so airtight though, a Gore-Tex membrane is built into the motor to allow it breathe – a necessary addition to ensure that external water droplets aren’t sucked in past the seals under vacuum pressure as the internal motor cools down after a wet ride. As for longterm durability? Well, that’s yet to be seen in the mass market. However, Specialized claims the SL 1.1 motor is currently exceeding 100,000km in the torture lab. A Slimmer, Lighter Battery To power the Levo SL’s new motor, Specialized has spec’d its own 320Wh lithium-ion battery. It has less than half the capacity of the battery found on the high-end Levo models (700Wh), but at just 1.8kg it is also a whole 2kg lighter too. The smaller volume battery also allows the Levo SL’s downtube to be made considerably slimmer though, which further reduces weight. The internal battery is secured inside the downtube with two large bolts, where it becomes a structural member of the chassis. The integrated approach means it isn’t easily removable – you’ll have to unbolt the motor first before you can slide the battery out. Specialized tucks the 320Wh battery pack inside the downtube, where it’s secured by two bolts that you can spot on the underside of the frame. The 320Wh battery pack weighs just 1.8kg, which is a full 2kg lighter than the 700Wh battery you’ll find inside the Levo. That’s unlikely to be a concern for most riders. And if you do want more juice, a Range Extender battery can be purchased separately for $600 (the S-Works model comes with a Range Extender included, and the Founder’s Edition comes with two Range Extenders). This add-on battery pack comes in the shape of a water bottle and is designed to tuck into the cage on the downtube, before being plugged into the main charge port on the non-drive side of the frame. The 160Wh Range Extender battery weighs 1kg, and boosts the Levo SL’s total battery capacity by 50% to 480Wh. One thing worth noting here is that Range Extender IS NOT compatible with the standard Levo or Kenevo. This is because the Range Extender and the Levo SL’s internal battery run on 48V, and not 36V like you’ll find in the Levo and Kenevo. The 48V batteries operate with a lower current to minimise heat buildup, and they also rely on smaller plugs, meaning the battery pack can be made more compact. The S-Works Levo SL comes with an additional Range Extender battery – that’s the water-bottle shaped thing inside the mainframe. Come Fly With Me One last note about the Range Extender. Traditionally, flying with your e-MTB means removing the battery entirely and sourcing a rental battery at your destination, since most airline carriers prohibit you from taking large Lithium-Ion battery packs on the plane in the first place – checked or carry-on. However, both Qantas and Virgin Australia now allow you to take up to two 160Wh batteries with you as carry-on luggage (the batteries do need to be declared, and Qantas does require you to request approval in the first place). So in theory, you could remove the Levo SL’s internal battery before flying, and take two Range Extenders with you to your destination. That makes the Levo SL the first e-MTB (that we’re aware of) that you can properly fly with. How Much Range Do You Get? That’s the million dollar question with every e-MTB, and the answer continues to be as varied as the people who ride these things and the terrain they ride them on. Rider weight, riding style, elevation, your chosen assist mode, and how hard you work the pedals will all have an impact on what kind of distance you can expect out of a fully charged battery. That’s not the answer that potential customers want to hear though, so Specialized jazzed up some numbers for us. Relying on the internal battery alone, you can expect anywhere from 1 hour on Turbo mode, to 3 hours on Eco. Add on a Range Extender, and the runtime grows to 1.75 hours (Turbo) to 5 hours (Eco). This is particularly impressive since those latter numbers are basically the same as the range on the regular Levo, even though the battery capacity is considerably less (480Wh vs 700Wh). Sure, your average speed will be a bit slower on the Levo SL, but it’s otherwise able to hit a similar range to its bigger brother because the new SL 1.1 motor is so efficient. The Turbo Connect Unit (TCU) houses the brains of the system. Inside is a USB port for connecting the Levo SL to a laptop for diagnostics. The Brains Of The Whole Operation As with the Levo and Kenevo, the Levo SL locates the Turbo Connect Unit (TCU) on the top tube just behind the stem. As your first touch point with the Levo SL’s motor, the TCU features the on/off button, another button for changing between the three assist modes, and an LED array that displays remaining battery life. Each LED bar represents 10% of the battery capacity. The TCU is also the brain of the whole system. Using ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, the TCU can pair with Garmin GPS head units to display riding speed, distance, cadence, the chosen assist mode, remaining battery life, and even the rider’s power output. Alternatively, Specialized sells a Turbo Connect Display (TDU) head unit for $150 that’ll put all of that info right in front of you. For $150, the Turbo Display Unit gives you all of the info. However, the TCU will pair wirelessly with Garmin GPS head units, and Wahoo is apparently working on connectivity too. All Levo SL’s come fitted with a remote switch on the left hand side of the handlebar, which is exactly the same used by the Levo and Kenevo. This remote allows you to change assist modes on-the-fly without removing your hand from the grip. If you prefer a cleaner setup though, the remote and its cable can be removed entirely. This means you’ll need to adjust assist modes using the TCU, or in the most millennial way possible, with your phone. New Mission Control Tunes Specialized has continued to evolve its Mission Control app, which allows users to control power delivery and battery range via their smartphone. You can use the app to log your rides, and it’ll sync to Strava to upload them automatically – as an e-MTB ride of course. For those who want to get really nerdy with their e-MTB, you can adjust both the support level and the peak power output for all three power modes. Specialized calls this Infinite Tune, and it allows you to tailor the bike’s power delivery to your preferred level. (Fun Fact – Infinite Tune is what Specialized’s engineers used with the early Turbo Levo prototypes when they wanted to simulate riding with a smaller motor). If you’re particularly sensitive to range anxiety though, simply select the Smart Control function and tell the app how far, or how long, you plan on riding. The motor will then automatically deliver the maximum assist level possible to ensure you finish your ride without running out of juice. The really clever part? The more you ride your bike, the smarter the Smart Control function becomes, as it learns the consumption demands of your riding style. Additionally with the launch of the Levo SL, Specialized has introduced two snazzy new metrics into the Mission Control app. One is the elevation slider, where you can input how much climbing you expect to be doing on your ride. This improves the system’s precision significantly, so it can more accurately predict your range throughout the ride. You can also now connect a heart rate monitor to the app, and – get this – you can tell your bike that you want to ride within a specific heart rate zone, and it’ll automatically adjust the assist levels to ensure you don’t go below or above that range. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it could be useful for pro riders who still want to go on a training ride but need to keep their heart rate below a certain level. Infinite Tune can be used to adjust the support level and peak power output of each assist mode. This particular example comes from the personal bike belonging to the Turbo Product Manager, Marco Sonderegger. When in ECO mode, Marco will only get strong support from the motor if he’s pedalling hard and putting in the effort. Levo vs Levo SL Given the striking similarities, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that the Levo SL was developed in parallel with the regular Levo. And since they’re both e-MTBs with 150mm of travel and 29in wheels, there’s obvious overlap between the two. Will they be able to survive alongside each other? Specialized thinks there’s enough differences that they’ll happily coexist. For those who want maximum power and range for big mountain brawling, the Levo is still the obvious choice. It’s got a lot more grunt with a huge battery, and it features burlier components along with the ability to take up to a 160mm travel fork, properly chunky tyres and even 27.5+ wheels. In comparison, the Levo SL has a more focussed operating window. It isn’t 27.5+ compatible, and 150mm is (currently) the longest travel fork you can fit to it. Instead of brutish 36 forks and 2.6in wide tyres, all Levo SL models come with lightweight Fox 34 forks and 2.3in tyres. Specialized says a 2.4in tyre should fit in the back, though this will vary from brand-to-brand. While both the Levo and Levo SL feature 150mm of travel front and rear, the Levo SL comes with a Fox 34 fork on the front to help bring the weight down. The compact motor allows for much shorter chainstays – another key difference between the Levo and Levo SL. This is in part due to the short chainstays, which measure just 437mm long. This is exactly the same length as the regular Stumpjumper, and considerably shorter than the Levo’s 455mm rear centre length. Otherwise geometry is pretty much identical between the Levo and Levo SL, with a 66° head angle and a 75°-ish seat tube angle. Along with lighter components and its smaller motor and battery, the Levo SL comes in 4kg lighter, with complete bike weights ranging from 17.3-19.4kg. That’s a hefty difference to the regular Levo. For a new e-MTB customer who’s just walked into a shop and picked up a few bikes, it’s certainly far less intimidating. It might also be light enough to win over more traditional trail bike customers who up until this point haven’t been tempted by the prospect of an e-MTB. Telling is the fact that Specialized isn’t worried that the Levo SL will steal sales from the regular Levo. Instead, it is much more concerned about how it will impact on sales of the regular Stumpjumper. Specialized claims the new Levo SL weighs between 17.3-19.4kg, which is around 4kg lighter than the regular Levo. The Lineup There are five Levo SL models available for 2020. The entry level Comp model utilises an M5 alloy frame and comes in five sizes from X-Small to X-Large, while the other four models are built around a FACT 11m carbon fibre chassis and come in four sizes from Small to X-Large. All Levo SL models utilise exactly the same motor and battery system. For those who want to get their hands on one ASAP, the good news is that most of the Levo SL models are already available in Australia through the Specialized dealer network. The only bike that isn’t available immediately is the extremely limited Founder’s Edition. This is a special model that turns the spec up to 11 and features an extraordinary Spectraflair paint job with gold foil graphics, along with two Range Extender batteries. Specialized is obviously very proud of what it’s achieved with its own motor and battery technology, and this model is all about celebrating that milestone in a suitably over-the-top fashion. Only 250 of these will be available worldwide, though with a price tag of $26,500, they will only be for the most well-heeled riders. There are only 250 of the Founder’s Edition Levo SL models available worldwide. As for the price? Well, if you have to ask… 2020 Specialized S-Works Levo SL Founder’s Edition Frame | FACT 11M Carbon Fibre, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 34 Float, Factory Series, FIT4 Damper, 51mm Offset, 150mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPS, Factory Series, 210×52.5mm Drive Unit | Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm Battery | Specialized SL1-320 (320Wh) & 2 x SL1-160 (160W/h) Range Extenders Wheels | Roval Traverse SL, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3in Front & Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3in Rear Drivetrain | SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 1×12 w/Praxis 30T Carbon Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM G2 Ultimate 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors Bar | Specialized Trail FACT Carbon, 27mm Rise, 780mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb AXS, 30.9mm, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (M), 170mm (L/XL) RRP | $26,500 The S-Works Levo SL gets lots of gold bits, a wireless Reverb AXS dropper and a $600 Range Extender battery included. 2020 Specialized S-Works Levo SL Frame | FACT 11M Carbon Fibre, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 34 Float, Factory Series, FIT4 Damper, 51mm Offset, 150mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPS, Factory Series, 210×52.5mm Drive Unit | Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm Battery | Specialized SL1-320 (320Wh) & 1 x SL1-160 (160W/h) Range Extender Wheels | Roval Traverse SL, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3in Front & Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3in Rear Drivetrain | SRAM XX1 Eagle 1×12 w/Praxis 30T Carbon Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM G2 Ultimate 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors Bar | Specialized Trail FACT Carbon, 27mm Rise, 780mm Wide Seatpost | RockShox Reverb AXS, 30.9mm, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (M), 170mm (L/XL) RRP | $19,000 Sitting in the middle of the five model range is the Levo SL Expert Carbon. 2020 Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon Frame | FACT 11M Carbon Fibre, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox 34 Float, Performance Series, GRIP Damper, 51mm Offset, 150mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPS, Performance Series, 210×52.5mm Drive Unit | Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm Battery | Specialized SL1-320 (320Wh) Wheels | Roval Traverse Carbon 29, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3in Front & Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3in Rear Drivetrain | SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 w/Praxis 30T Alloy Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM G2 RSC 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors Bar | Specialized Trail Alloy, 27mm Rise, 780mm Wide Seatpost | X-Fusion Manic, 34.9mm, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (M/L), 170mm (XL) RRP | $13,200 Utilising the same FACT 11m chassis as the S-Works model, the Levo SL Comp Carbon opts for alloy wheels and a SRAM NX drivetrain to bring the price down. 2020 Specialized Levo SL Comp Carbon Frame | FACT 11M Carbon Fibre, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox Rhythm 34, GRIP Damper, 51mm Offset, 150mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPS, Performance Series, 210×52.5mm Drive Unit | Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm Battery | Specialized SL1-320 (320Wh) Wheels | Roval Traverse 29, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3in Front & Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3in Rear Drivetrain | SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 w/Praxis 30T Alloy Crankset & 11-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Guide R 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors Bar | Specialized Trail Alloy, 27mm Rise, 780mm Wide Seatpost | X-Fusion Manic, 34.9mm, Travel: 125mm (S), 150mm (M/L), 170mm (XL) RRP | $11,200 The Levo SL Comp is the only alloy model available. It’s also the only Levo SL to come under the $10K mark. 2020 Specialized Levo SL Comp Frame | M5 Hydroformed Alloy, 150mm Travel Fork | Fox Rhythm 34, GRIP Damper, 51mm Offset, 150mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPS, Performance Series, 210×52.5mm Drive Unit | Specialized SL 1.1, 35Nm Battery | Specialized SL1-320 (320Wh) Wheels | Roval Traverse 29, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 2.3in Front & Eliminator GRID Trail 2.3in Rear Drivetrain | SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 w/Praxis 30T Alloy Crankset & 11-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Guide R 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors Bar | Specialized Trail Alloy, 27mm Rise, 780mm Wide Seatpost | X-Fusion Manic, 34.9mm, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (S), 150mm (M/L), 170mm (XL) RRP | $9,800 Wil’s been riding the 2020 Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon – check out his review here. So what do you folks think of the new Specialized Levo SL? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below! Head to specialized.com for further info on specs and geo. Otherwise, if you’re keen to know how the bike rides and how that new motor system feels on the trail, take a gander at Flow’s first ride review of the 2020 Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon. Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post First Look | The Specialized Levo SL Represents A New Class Of e-MTB appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
It was nearly four years ago when the original Pivot Switchblade hit the market. Using a carbon fibre frame and dw-link suspension, the Switchblade was built from the ground-up as an All Mountain bike that could happily take 29in or 27.5+ wheels. It was one of the earliest full suspension mountain bikes on the market to do so, and it was also the very first bike to feature the controversial Super Boost 157x12mm rear hub spacing. The original Pivot Switchblade first hit the scene back in 2016. The wider hub and chainline allowed Pivot to keep the rear chainstays ridiculously short (428mm), while offering enormous tyre clearance. The frame itself was an engineering marvel, and when we tested and reviewed the Switchblade, we were impressed with both the efficiency and effectiveness of its 135mm of rear travel. Fast-forward a few years, and as innovative as the Switchblade was when it first debuted, its swoopy frame design has been starting to show its age. The 140mm travel All Mountain 29er market is of course an important segment for a boutique bike company like Pivot Cycles, and the Arizona-based brand needed something lust-worthy to slot in between the current Trail 429 (120mm) and Firebird 29 (162mm) – two models that have enjoyed terrific commercial success for Pivot. The solution to Pivot’s Goldilocks problem? A completely revamped Switchblade. As you’ll see though, not much has carried over aside from the name. Four years on, and Pivot is ready to unleash the new Switchblade. The New Pivot Switchblade With nearly three years of development behind it, the new Switchblade emerges in 2020 with an entirely new carbon fibre chassis that is free from the swoopy-droopy lines of old, favouring straighter and sharper tube shapes instead. Of course this helps to reduce weight, though we think you’ll agree that it’s created a vastly better looking bike too. The new Switchblade has been designed specifically for a 160mm travel fork, and rear travel has been lifted to 142mm on the rear. It still utilises a dw-link suspension design, but the shock now mounts vertically in front of the seat tube, just like the Mach 4 SL. Without the additional shock clevis, it’s simpler and lighter, and it also allows the top tube to be stripped of excess carbon, since it no longer needs to brace the end of the shock. Pivot has changed the shock orientation, though the dual-link suspension platform remains. Furthermore, the more compact shock layout sees a reduction in standover height. So much so that a new XS frame size has been added to the range, which we’re told will fit riders down to just 152cm (5ft) tall. And good news for pack-phobic riders – all frame sizes, including the XS, will take a full-size water bottle inside the mainframe. Yiew! Just like the original, the new Switchblade will accommodate 29in or 27.5+ wheels. However, there’s now a geometry adjustment chip in the upper rocker pivot that offers high (27.5+) and low (29in) positions. The new frame has more chainring clearance, more heel clearance, and it can run narrower cranks down to a 168mm Q-Factor. Despite this, tyre clearance is still huge – you’ve got room for big 29×2.6in or 27.5×2.8in rubber in the back. With the updated layout, the new Switchblade has gotten a touch lighter. Pivot claims a small frame without the shock weighs 2.57kg, so expect that to be right around 3kg by the time you add the Fox Float DPX2 rear shock. The Switchblade retains the 157x12mm thru-axle dropouts along with 29/27.5+ wheelsize compatibility. The swingarm has more heel clearance, more tyre clearance, and more chainring clearance too. Custom Suspension During the development phase, Cocalis and his engineering team went through 20 different iterations for the Switchblade’s design, much of which was spent fine-tuning the rear suspension performance and getting the shock dialled in to suit. Given Pivot’s close working relationship with Fox Racing Shox, the DPX2 piggyback shock was an obvious shock for an All Mountain bike like the Switchblade. Cocalis had mixed results with the DPX2 shock though, and generally preferred the more poppy and lively feel of the non-piggybacked DPS shock. In order to achieve that same feel, while still benefitting from the traction-rich and more consistent descending performance of the DPX2 shock, Cocalis’s team went to Fox and ended up completely redesigning the compression circuit. We’re not just talking shim stacks here either, but rather an all new base valve design and selector plate that’s designed to improve oil flow. Ten samples later, and the Switchblade now has a shock that looks like a DPX2, but has a little extra special sauce on the inside. It looks like a DPX2 shock, but the insides are a little different. Also worth noting is that the shock is the first trunnion mount that Pivot has ever employed. With the vertical orientation, the trunnion mount helps to pack more stroke into a shorter eye-to-eye length. The result is a compact arrangement that sees the rocker link driving the rear shock via two big cartridge bearings. The leverage rate has been made more progressive to improve support for the huckers, and it also means the Switchblade is coil shock-friendly. Massaged Geometry Given that Pivot already has a successful enduro race bike in the Firebird 29, Cocalis was conscious that he didn’t need another one. Instead, he wanted the Switchblade to be a true All Mountain bike. Something that was capable enough for enduro-style riding, but still handy and comfortable enough for all-day pedalling too. As such, the Switchblade’s geometry has received a gentle massage rather than a radical reorientation. The head angle slackens by over a full degree to 66º, while reach measurements have grown by 10-20mm per size. To improve the pedalling position, the seat angle has been steepened by over a degree to 75.5º. There’s half a degree of adjustment in those angles by flipping the geometry chip. Brought over from the Firebird 29, this two-position chip is keyed into the frame and raises or lowers the BB height by 6mm. Further adjustment can be had by running a taller lower headset cup (just like the old Switchblade), which would lift and slacken the front of the bike. On the note of adjustability, you can choose between 29in or 27.5+ wheelsize setups, and Pivot will offer both across all six of its build kits for the Switchblade – just like the Trail 429 and Firebird 29. However, the Switchblade is the first Pivot model that has been actively promoted as being Reverse Mullet ready, which means you can run a regular 29in wheel on the front and a 27.5in wheel on the back. Along with the flip chip and headset cups, there’s a tonne of options to explore for those who want to. Other numbers to note include the 430mm rear centre length, which is actually 2mm longer than the old bike, but still quite compact. You’ll also see that the seat tubes have gotten significantly shorter, and Pivot has straightened it out to allow for greater insertion depth when running longer dropper posts. Dropper travel is specific to each size though – the XS size gets a 100mm post while the XL goes up to 175mm (the longest currently available in the Fox Transfer). Likewise, the cockpit setup also changes for each size. Bar width ranges from 760-800mm, and stem length is 35-45mm. Even the saddle is different – bigger sizes come with a WTB Pro Vigo saddle, while the XS and SM sizes get the WTB Pro Hightail Trail. The latter of which has a specific cutout at the rear to allow for more tyre clearance when the rear shock hits full travel – an important consideration on a long travel 29er fitted with a dropper post. All Switchblade models come with a Fox Transfer dropper post. The Lineup Pivot will offer the Switchblade in six different spec levels, all of which are centred around the same carbon fibre chassis. Regardless of price point, all models come with a 160mm travel Fox 36 fork on the front, and the custom Float DPX2 shock on the back. You also get the same Maxxis Minion tyre combo, with a 2.5in DHF on the front and a 2.4in DHR II on the rear. They’re wrapped around 30mm wide rims and slowed down by big 4-piston brakes with a 200mm rotor on the front. Pivot takes care of the cockpit, with its own Phoenix-branded low-rise bars, forged alloy stem and new lock-on grips. Stem length is 45mm on all frame sizes, except for the XS, which comes with a 35mm stem. As mentioned above, each Switchblade can be had in 29in or 27.5+ setups, though Pivot expects the vast majority of sales to go with the big wheel setup. There’s a $2,000 carbon wheel upgrade available on the Race and Pro models, which otherwise come with alloy DT Swiss hoops as stock. You can also choose to upgrade to Fox Live Valve, as Pivot has engineered the Switchblade frame to easily integrate the electronic suspension package. The upgrade price? A cool $3,000. For those doing the math, that means the absolute top-of-the-range Switchblade, complete with SRAM XX1 AXS and Fox Live Valve will sell for $19,999. If that’s just a little too much pocket change for you, the good news is that entry point is considerably lower at $8,999 for the Race XT model. If you want the best, this is it – a Switchblade Team with SRAM XX1 AXS wireless shifting and seatpost dropping, along with the optional Fox Live Valve upgrade. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Team XX1 AXS Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Factory Series, 185x55mm Wheels | Reynolds Black Label Enduro Wide Trail, 30mm Inner Rim Width, Industry Nine Hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS 1×12 w/XX1 32T Carbon Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM G2 Ultimate 4-Piston w/203mm Front & 180mm Rear CenterLock Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Carbon, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Factory Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $16,999 ($19,999 w/Fox Live Valve) For a Shimano build, the Switchblade Team comes with an XTR 1×12 drivetrain, 4-piston brakes, carbon Reynolds wheels and a Race Face Next R crankset. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Team XTR Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Factory Series, 185x55mm Wheels | Reynolds Black Label Enduro Wide Trail, 30mm Inner Rim Width, Industry Nine Hubs Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | Shimano XTR 1×12 w/Race Face Next R 32T Carbon Crankset & 10-51T Cassette Brakes | Shimano XTR M9120 4-Piston w/203mm Front & 180mm Rear CenterLock Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Carbon, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Factory Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $14,999 The Pro X01 build kit still gets Kashima suspension, though moves to alloy wheels as stock. You can still upgrade these to carbon for $2,000 if you fancy. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Pro X01 Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Factory Series, 185x55mm Wheels | DT Swiss M1700, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | SRAM X01 Eagle 1×12 w/X01 32T Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM G2 RSC 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear CenterLock Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Carbon, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Factory Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $11,999 We expect the Switchblade Pro XT/XTR will likely be the most popular option of the lot. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Pro XT/XTR Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Factory Series, 185x55mm Wheels | DT Swiss M1700, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | Shimano XT M8100 1×12 w/Race Face Aeffect R 32T Crankset & 10-51T Cassette Brakes | Shimano Deore XT M8120 4-Piston w/203mm Front & 180mm Rear CenterLock Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Carbon, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Factory Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $10,999 Skipping the Kashima suspension, the Switchblade Race X01 kit brings the price down below the $10K mark. Just. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Race X01 Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Performance Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Performance Series, 185x55mm Wheels | DT Swiss M1900, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | SRAM GX/X01 Eagle 1×12 w/GX Eagle 32T Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | SRAM Guide RE 4-Piston w/200mm Front & 180mm Rear 6-Bolt Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Alloy, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Performance Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $9,999 Using exactly the same carbon chassis as the XTR/XX1 builds, the Switchblade Race XT is the entry-point into the range. 2020 Pivot Switchblade Race XT Frame | Hollow Core Carbon Fibre, 142mm Travel Fork | Fox 36 Float, Performance Series, GRIP2 Damper, 44mm Offset, 160mm Travel Shock | Fox Float DPX2, Performance Series, 185x55mm Wheels | DT Swiss M1900, 30mm Inner Rim Width Tyres | Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.5WT Front & DHR II EXO 3C Maxx Terra 2.4WT Rear Drivetrain | Shimano SLX/XT 1×12 w/Race Face Ride 32T Crankset & 10-50T Cassette Brakes | Shimano SLX M7120 4-Piston w/203mm Front & 180mm Rear 6-Bolt Rotors Bar | Phoenix Low Rise Alloy, Width: 760mm (XS), 780mm (SM-LG), 800mm (XL) Seatpost | Fox Transfer, Performance Series, Travel: 100mm (XS), 125mm (SM), 150mm (MD), 175mm (LG/XL) RRP | $8,999 We’ve been riding the new Pivot Switchblade for the past week – click here to read the review. As you’ve no doubt gathered, there are a lot of changes on this new bike. For more detail on how those changes are felt on the trail, be sure to check out our first ride review of the new 2020 Pivot Switchblade right here. For availability info and details on your nearest Pivot stockist, get in touch with Aussie Pivot distributor, Jet Black Products. Otherwise, be sure to tell us what you think about the new Switchblade in the comments below – we’d love to hear what your thoughts on it, and feel free to leave us any questions you might have too. Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post First Look | Pivot Cycles Launches All-New Switchblade For 2020 appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
With bushfires causing damage and closures to large parts of the Victorian High Country, they’re well and truly open for business, and it’s time to #RollOnBack and support the regions that need us. Here is the official word from Ride High Country: Victoria’s High Country has long been known by cyclists as one of the most well-rounded destinations for a cycling holiday. With Australia’s largest rail-trail network, seven mountain bike parks, the toughest road climbs in the country and more gravel grinding than you could ride in a lifetime, this part of Victoria has something for every cyclist, no matter their ability or preferred riding style. And did we mention the incredible scenery, a bevy of local producers of beer, wine, cider plus the regional produce and food it is top-notch. The High Country was devastated by bushfires that traversed the region. But whilst their key cycling towns including Bright, Beechworth, Mansfield, Mt Buller and Falls Creek have not been physically damaged the economic damage is unparalleled. Why not heed Ride High Country’s request to #RollOnBack and start planning a cycling holiday to this incredible pocket of Australia, which is home to the largest rail-trail network in the Southern Hemisphere. The extensive network covers close to 300kms of easy to ride cycle-specific paths with three signature rail trails to explore. Only the High Country Rail Trail has sustained physical damage. The longest continuous trail in Victoria at 134kms is The Great Victorian Rail Trail. From Tallarook through Yea to Mansfield, ride through the Cheviot Tunnel, explore the Trawool Valley and enjoy the stunning scenery on offer. The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is Australia’s longest sealed rail trail and the High Country’s most popular. Winding through the stunning Ovens Valley from Wangaratta to Bright, it also has a number including offshoots to Beechworth, Wandiligong and around Rutherglen. The ‘M2M’, as the locals call it, passes right past cafes, cellar doors, breweries and local farm produce gates. The unaffected section of High Country Rail Trail runs for 44kms from Wodonga to Old Tallangatta hugging the shoreline of Lake Hume, crossing the spectacular Sandy Creek Bridge. Experience the High Country’s historic towns, gourmet food and wine, spectacular scenery and local events all by bike. Farmers markets, festivals and cycling events mean you will never be short of things to see and do when you Ride High Country. The post Bushfire Update | Roll on back to Victoria’s High Country appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
You step inside, it’s dark, the music drones over the rumble of voices, taking a look around the bar, you notice an area off-limits reserved for the cool kids, hipsters and trendies. Huddled in a club, dressed to impress, indulging in top-shelf liquor is the Santa Cruz Tallboy. To the right is a confident Norco Optic snacking on poutine, a Pivot 429 shares a bowl of nachos with a Trek Top Fuel, occasionally flicking a corn chip to the Giant Trance 29. The Tallboy obligingly engages in polite conversation with the Yeti SB 100 but turns a shoulder to all onlookers with their petty sharp head angles and grossly short reaches, while a forlorn double chainring aluminium bike peers through the window from outside in the cold and dark night. Hey, Tallboy. “Hey, whassup, Tallboy’s the name, what’s your story?” Humans like trends, recognising and following them is healthy, it comes from our youth and early adulthood when we’re most socially self-conscious. It’s especially worth taking note when such trends develop a name; in this case, we should all get used to the term ‘underbiking’. We’re not sure where it originated from, but its already stuck and we dig it. Who else put riser bars on their XC bikes back in the day? Was that underbiking, long before it was cool? Were we trendy without knowing it? Damn, it! Let’s go ‘underbiking’. I chose to purchase the Tallboy for a few reasons, but without riding, I put a lot of faith in the geometry chart, and the way it seems to have been built similarly to the Megatower which I rode and got along with well. Appreciating how limited they are and in high demand, I snapped it up and attempted to extinguish the gut-wrenching buyer’s remorse that was washing over me. It’s an elegant frame, I love its deep purple colour, like some kind of rich organic eggplant, and the lowly-slung top tube and compact shock area. The finish is sublime, well, it would have to, considering the price. Looking back over the last three years, the bike’s that I’ve gravitated to and spent the most considerable time on have been the Norco Sight and Giant Trance 29. Short on travel but not race-oriented, lightweight in the chassis, and lively to ride. The Tallboy should mostly feel that way too, but on paper, it’s quite a lot slacker, longer, lower and has two points of adjustability. The fourth-generation Tallboy, what’s new? When released to the public in August last year, we compiled an in-depth look at what’s new. I won’t repeat myself, here is the link to that article, and a few key points below: Visually speaking, the new Tallboy bears a striking resemblance to its bigger 29er siblings; the Hightower and Megatower. Structurally speaking, the new frame is chunkier, lower and more aggressive in its stance. The Tallboy kisses goodbye 2x compatibility, with the rigid one-piece swingarm adding a vertical upright in place of where the front mech would have sat, which boosts back-end stiffness. The Tallboy 4 uses the lower link design with the business down low and very central. Geometry pushes well into the future with a significantly longer front centre, a reduced fork offset, a pretty-steep 76° seat angle, and a very-slack-for-its-category 65.5° head angle. Bear in mind that’s the same head angle that the Hightower has, and only half a degree steeper than 160/160mm travel Megatower. Pwoar! SRAM Eagle AXS, Zipp Moto 3Zero, SRAM G2, FOX 34, FOX DPS, RockShox Reverb AXS, yikes! After returning recent long term test bikes; Focus SAM and Trance 29 to original spec, I had two complete groupsets on hand, Shimano XTR and SRAM Eagle AXS. I chose SRAM because I’m a big fan of wireless shifting, not only electric, its the wireless element that gets me. The clean aesthetic is like nothing else. And I wanted to give the Zipp Moto 3Zero wheels a proper spin, and currently, they don’t provide a Shimano Micro Spline freehub body to use with new 12-speed Shimano. The Eagle AXS derailleur shifts with such power and consistency, the robots rule this domain. The SRAM AXS derailleur in an impressive machine, super sturdy and concise. Fitment is a snack without a cable to thread and trim, and fine-tuning is child’s play by just pressing buttons to trim the position. There is no match for the consistency of shift that this system provides, I don’t think it has the same seamless shift as XTR, but it always shifts the same time, every time and without the chance of a half-shift due to a fast of slow thumb action, it’s very confidence-inspiring. The large shift paddle feels a little foreign, to begin with, and the way it shifts can feel counter-intuitive, and other users tend to agree, but I’ve stuck with it and am now used to it. Some fellow AXS users have swapped the shift action around using the SRAM AXS app, but this setup is in its original configuration. In the pursuit of ultimate cockpit cleanliness, all roads lead to AXS. For up and down seat control, I’ve gone with the RockShox Reverb AXS dropper. While the name Reverb may induce horrific hydraulic memories from users over its long history, the new-gen Reverb’s are a mammoth improvement. The button is so light to press, perhaps too light at times, but you gain ultimate responsiveness from the wireless function, and the post drops with very little pressure required from your backside to make it move. It’s also the best pairing to te AXS drivetrain, leaving only the brake lines on the bars. At nearly $3500 we’d prefer to fly to Tasmania and hire a Corvette to drive to Derby than buy a pair of wheels, but these low-profile single-wall carbon wheels from Zipp are so beautiful to ride. Aimed to deliver a composed and compliant ride, the single-wall construction feels totally different to regular carbon wheels. Intended for the all-mountain and enduro crowd, fitting them to a 120mm travel Talloy may seem a little overkill, but it’s all an experiment at this stage. Solid-yet-compliant wheels with 2.3″ tyres on a short-ish travel bike is a unique experience, hard to explain. Think; upgrading to Reef sandals from Havianna thongs, still light but more sure-footed at a push. Check out our in-depth look at the Zipp wheels here – Zipp Moto 3Zero Wheels. The Quark TyreWiz is another totally unnecessary item, but the way you can set the tyre pressure parameter on your phone, and if the pressure leaves that range the valves will flash red. If they are flashing green, you’re good to go. Sure, a tyre gauge isn’t a poor choice, but this is super trick technology, and it brings the tally of batteries to six on this bike, and it’s not even an e-bike. We also like the way they spelt TyreWiz with a ‘Y’… Zipp’s new MTB wheels are phenomenal. Expect to see more of them on pro’s bikes in 2020. For brakes, I chose the SRAM G2, which have been met with a mixed response around the traps. Introduced as a replacement for the somewhat troubled SRAM Guide, and touted as a ‘mini Code’ they blend aspects from both parties. The lever feel is very lovely, no lumps or clicks as you pull the lever, and the bite is certainly enough for a bike like this. Though on long descents with heavy braking, I’ve found them to fade quicker than I’d like. I plan to replace the organic pads with the metal option, so stay tuned to hear how that improves heat dissipation for my weakling hands. Other notable mentions are the stunning stem and bar from Deity, the new 35mm clamp cockpit. Bringing a touch of bling and class to the build and the low-rise carbon bars feel just right with a familiar shape, and compliant ride quality. Maxxis Minions in the classic DHF/DHR combo in 2.3″ width, and the moderately light EXO casings. I always carry a Dynaplug tubeless repair system in the back pocket; these tyres strike a right balance of support and weight. However, the light casing can slice if pushed into sharp rocks the wrong way, filled with Stans Sealant and a Dynaplug ready; I’m confident in most cases and happy to risk lighter tyres for a smoother ride and faster rolling wheels. Pressures are generally 17psi and 19psi for regular trails. A perfect tyre is a tyre that you know well. First rides; dialling, twiddling, and that new bike buzz. The Tallboy is short on travel but big on muscle. It’s engaging, solid, confident and the chassis feels super-high quality. The front feels as strong as the rear, and under hard efforts of heavy slams, there’s a great deal of comfort in the way the frame doesn’t shake or shudder beneath you. Riding a bike that feels so solid, yet not long on travel is a hoot, you feel the terrain and can work with it, instead of feeling isolated from it. Pumping the backside of rocks, hopping from one side of the trail to the other, and jumping over obstacles is easy due to the low weight and short travel, but you tend to ride it more aggressively due to long front end and robust chassis. It doesn’t feel as light and zingy as the super-light Trance 29 in comparison, but the rear end is far stiffer laterally, so pumping through the turns and steering off the rear wheel doesn’t result in an unnerving pinging sensation. It’s terribly cliche to say, but it rewards hard riding. Like it states on paper, the steering is super-slack, too slack for the 140mm fork that I fitted, so the plans are to drop it to 130mm as soon as possible. Riders with more descending options may opt for a 140mm fork, but the climbs I’ve been tackling don’t like the wandering front end, and despite slamming the stem low, I still wish for a shorter fork for a more balanced cornering and climbing position. Some Tallboy riders opt for a 140mm fork like this, but a 130mm fork is my goal. I’ve lifted the lower shock mount to the higher setting to help with the head angle, until I drop fork travel to 130mm. Not bad weight either, the bike weighs 13.2kg as pictured with pedals, the Zipps are 1960g, so there’s a little bit more weight than necessary at the wheels. Fine and powdery summer dust christens the new Tallboy, welcome friend. Keep an eye out on Flow’s Instagram Stories for more adventures with the Tallboy, it’s already racked up serious kilometres this summer, and that new bike buzz is still buzzing hard! Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up to our Facebook page and the Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post Mick’s Custom Build | Santa Cruz Tallboy 4 appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.