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It’s no coincidence the three fastest bikes of the 2016 World Championships were all Mondraker Summum Carbon’s featuring innovative Forward Geometry. Shouldn’t you be riding the fastest MTB brand in the world?

To find out about the 2017 range, visit...

WORLD CHAMPION A WINNING PARTNERSHIP Not content with winning the last 3 World Cups of the season back to back, Danny Hart went on to win the World Championships in Val di Sole. That’s 4 for 4! For the most impressive season of his career, Danny Hart chose WD-40 BIKE to help him clean, lube and protect his bike. If it’s good enough for the world champion…


ting a r a l i h x e as s i ut c i o r d d n e u C o f h t i d Riding wt is daunting, asoEw him down as i e tried to foll es t tra ils when h some of the fasts to offer a A n dorra h R S LETTE EDITOR’ ometimes you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities. As soon


as we knew we were heading out to Andorra to sample some of its high adrenaline riding, we thought we’d take our chances and hit up our old MBUK mate and racing superstar, Cedric Gracia. Who better for a little extra local knowledge and a spot of legendary CG flamboyance? Sure enough, he got straight back to us saying he’d be stoked to come along and before we knew it we were literally bumping into him on the slopes of Vallnord bike park. Riding with Cedric is as exhilarating as it is daunting, as Staff Writer Ed found out when he tried to follow him down some of the fastest trails the area has to offer. Cedric’s one of the biggest personalities mountain biking has produced and we learnt a hell of a lot from trying to keep up with him as well as having a blast in the process – riding doesn’t get much better than that! Check out Ed’s experience on page 84. Bad news for anyone hoping to tame their mountain bike spending next year… We’ve got six whole pages full of the newest, shiniest, blingiest, most desirable bikes and kit just released for 2017, fresh from the show halls of the biggest bike show in the world. Sorry, but that wishlist of yours could just be set to stretch to another page. Turn to page 70 and start making your winter savings plans now!

THIS MONTH CROATIAN ISLANDS Blake Samson and Olly Wilkens hop around these Adriatic isles searching for a different kind of trail adventure – page 64 BEST NEW GEAR We’re at the biggest bike show in the world to bring you the must-have bikes and gear for 2017 – page 70 WATERPROOF JACKETS An essential for riding in the UK, we test 15 different styles of waterproof across different budgets to find out what works best for you – page 122




Mountain Biking UK 13

contents #335 NOVEMBER 2016


Epic riding and views on an all new adventure in Croatia – page 64




Dan Milner whisks Olly Wilkins and Blake Samson away on an island hopping adventure around the Adriatic Sea to explore the islands’ hidden delights

We check out the hottest new bikes, components and kit that you’re going to be wearing and riding in 2017 at the World’s biggest bike show

We caught up with the famously flamboyant French man, CG, in his hometown of La Massana, Andorra to find out what makes him tick on and off the bike


SEND it!

The UK is a buzzing hotspot of riding and racing – we head to Yorkshire to see what makes the ‘Ard Rock one of the most popular events on the calendar



& win!








Downhill World Champs Val di Sole ‘Ard Moors Enduro North Yorkshire Steve Peat retires Shimano SLX Groupset Red Bull Hardline

Red Bull Rampage preview Matt Jones MBUK goes klunking Danny MacAskill’s new film World Champs bikes Trailspotting beardy-weirdies

Your name up in lights. This month featuring an impressive faceplant, a hefty gash on someone’s arm and loads more great riding shots

This month’s trio of new bikes include the UK desgined hardtai from Stif Cycles, the Morf, a custom geometry Starling Swoop and a heavy hitting Giant Reign 27.5 1

The hottest new gear from Urge full-face helmets and RockShox’s SID World Cup fork to Box Components 11-speed mech and shifer and Shimano’s ME7 shoes

We check out Greg Callaghan’s Cube Stereo 140, an enduro racing machine that’s graced the podium at the Irish round of the EWS in 2015 & 2016

Mountain Biking UK 15

contents #335 NOVEMBER 2016

nnn q


BIKETEST p106 Suspension shoot-out – we take four classic suspension layouts to ind out whether pivot position really is pivotal to the quality of the ride WRECKED & RATED p89 Our test team report back on a host of kit, from e*thirteen’s TRS Race wheels to Thule’s latest roof-mounted bike rack

SIX OF THE BEST p98 We rate a selection of rear lights, from £30 to £38, to see which is the brightest and best to see you home safe


LONG TERM RIDES p100 The latest on our team bikes – where we’ve ridden, what we’ve changed on them and what we’ve broken this month!

GROUPTEST p122 We put 15 waterproof jackets, from £100 all the way up to £377, through the mill to find out which you can count on to keep you dry


Grime TIME

n q







How to… rail berms like a pro, learn how to sprint, pin it on flat pedals and release your inner wildman and go bikepacking

Braving the Scottish weather, we explore some locals’ trails around Ballater in the Cairngorms and find grippy granite a-plenty plus fast and furious descents

The answers to all your technical questions. Which tyres are the best all-rounders, how to replace snapped spokes and our bluffer’s guide to the drivetrain

We head to Revolution Bike Park in North Wales with Marc Beaumont and see why it’s earned its rep as the toughest in the UK

Officially the longest standing member of the MBUK team – more adventures from everyone’s favourite mountain biking sheep, Mint Sauce

16 Mountain Biking UK

p62 Subscribe to MBUK and get a bonus pair of Lezyne Hecto Drive lights worth £44.99

* Pull-out maps not available to overseas readers

Your questions answered




When the world’s best riders are struggling to keep their wheels rubber side down, you know it’s a tough course. The World Championships track in Val di Sole, Italy is one place where riders roll the dice every time they hit the track. This year, the sun-scorched ground gave some of the driest conditions the racers had ever experienced – the track was like a minefield of roots, rocks and holes. It challenged the best, and they gave it their all! Danny Hart took top spot on the men’s podium, adding a second World Champs title to his list of achievements. Danny’s teammate Laurie Greenland, only in his first year as an elite, has really shined this year and claimed the silver medal. “It feels so amazing to be world number two – I think it’s gonna take a bit of time to feel less surreal! I was more than stoked on my junior years, but until

18 Mountain Biking UK

you’ve done something in elite there’s quite a lot of pressure to secure yourself. I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be and more motivated than ever for the off season and 2017. Massive thanks to everyone in this rad sport, cheers for an unforgettable year!” In third, unassuming and very tall Frenchman, Florent Payet, rounded out the podium. Rachel Atherton sealed the perfect season, winning both the World Champs and all seven World Cup rounds. Rachel’s dominance is unparalleled and her confidence, skill and success is a brilliant showcase of the talent we have in the UK. “I am still totally mind-blown! I’m over the moon but at the same time it feels kind of crazy and not completely real. To have the perfect season is proof of the hard work that goes in from the whole team and of how they’ve all kept my head together when I’ve been too nervous!” The silver medal was awarded to France’s Myriam Nicole and bronze went to Australia’s Tracy Hannah. Sadly Brits Manon and Tahnee didn’t make the podium this time. But, from all of us here at MBUK, congratulations!

Photo: Dave Trumpore


Mountain Biking UK 19


Photo: Mick Kirkman

RIDING THAT’S JUST SO MOORISH Last month, Lordstones Country Park in the North York Moors hosted the inaugural ’Ard Moors Enduro – the ’Ard Rock’s new little brother. The race included some incredible trails, from natural moorland and sheep tracks to resurrected old downhill tracks and fresh-cut loamy turns. The North York Moors isn’t a big riding destination, but it has great potential and the ’Ard Moors showed this. Not only did we as riders relish the chance to ride normally inaccessible trails on private land, but races like this have wider benefits too in that they showcase to landowners and the local community the positive contribution mountain biking can make to an area. The ’Ard

20 Mountain Biking UK

Moors has hopefully paved the way for gaining permission for new trails in North Yorkshire and sets a precedent for similar areas around the country. Organiser Joe Rafferty has already promised that next year’s race is going to be even better, and we can’t wait to come back. At MBUK we’re big fans of the ’Ard Rock Enduro too – turn to page 77 to read our feature about this year’s event.


PEATY CALLS TIME Steve Peat announced his retirement from World Cup racing at the start of this year – check out our bumper feature on his career in issue 330 – and has now completed his last World Cup DH race of his career. Peaty’s passion for racing turned into a career that’ll go down in the history books. Riding for MBUK in the early days, then signing for global racing teams, travelling the


planet in pursuit of the fastest time on any given Sunday and chasing down the elusive World Champs rainbow stripes, he has inspired many young riders. Peaty has long been a staple on the thriving British mountain bike scene and we’re certainly sad to see him call it a day racing the World Cups – although we’re sure that this won’t be the last we’ll see of him at the races. But, as one legend retires, fresh blood takes his place – the World Cup results sheet is full of up and coming talent. So, who are you placing your bets on to become the next Peaty? You only need to take a quick look at the race results to find out…

Mountain Biking UK 21

Photo: Sven Martin




0 LX M700 S O N A SHIM

SLX STEPS UP A GEAR Looking at Shimano’s new SLX groupset, you wouldn’t think it was one of the company’s more affordable ranges. It’s seen some major upgrades for 2017, the main one being the move to 11-speed, with an 11-42t cassette to match. Taking styling cues from its more expensive Deore XT big brother, everything has been

22 Mountain Biking UK

slimmed down and made sleeker. We particularly like the look of the crankset and its rear-mounted narrow/wide chainring. The groupset weighs 1,604g on our scales, including the crankset (£129.99 with 32t ring), cassette (£74.99), rear mech (£69.99) and shifter (£36.99). It’s great to see SLX – and SRAM’s cheaper but heavier NX – making what was originally expensive technology accessible to everyone.




Photo: Redbull Photofiles

INVITE ONLY INSANIA Red Bull’s Hardline, designed by Dan Atherton and hosted in the Dyfi Valley in North Wales, is an event that blends the big senders of freeride and the technical sections of downhill into one limit-pushing track. This year’s Hardline showcased some of biggest jumps in a race course. With 50ft drops, 12ft step-ups over

24 Mountain Biking UK

30ft gaps and rocky sections that require Jedi-like skills to ride, it’s no surprise that World Champs fifth place finisher, Bernard Kerr, won the race. Bernard tells us, “Coming fifth at the World Champs after not thinking I was even racing two days before was an unreal feeling. Then straight back into Hardline [the next weekend]... “It’s the gnarliest event of the year but also one of the most fun, everyone just sessioning and sending the jumps. I won in qualifying and then I was last down the mountain in the finals. I could hear the crowd near the end so knew I was on a good one, but to come across the line and take the win was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had!”

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UTAH S! T N I A S Red Bull Rampage is kicking off again â&#x20AC;&#x201C; get ready for more cliff-riding craziness! THE BIGGEST FREERIDE event in the world, Red Bull Rampage, returns once again to the barren rocky mountainsides of Virgin, Utah for another round of deathdefying gaps, knife-edge lines and bone-crunching crashes. For its 11th edition the Rampage is in a brand new location, so the riders and diggers have a blank canvas on which to sculpt their lines. This year only hand tools are permitted, making the riders focus on creating natural lines, rather than big manmade stunts. The organisers have also reduced the number of competitors to 21 to prevent conflicts with line choice,

THIS MONTH World champs bikes, Danny MacAskill, klunker racing, Matt Jones, bicycle locks, DH young guns and more Mountain Biking UK 27


but the rider roster is packed with heavy hitters. It could be the last Rampage for legend Cam Zink, who earlier this year announced his retirement from slopestyle. Two Brits have made the cut – MBUK’s regular columnist, Sam Reynolds, and the fastest ‘freeracer’ on the planet, Brendan Fairclough. The natural emphasis of this year’s event suits his style and we can’t wait to see him attacking the hillside at 100mph. Previous victors Kurt Sorge, Andreu Lacondeguy, Kyle Strait and Brandon Semenuk will be there too and, whether we see a repeat winner or not, it’s guaranteed to go off! Watch Rampage live on Friday 14 October on

28 Mountain Biking UK

Opening page Kyle Strait is the only rider to have competed in every Rampage, and he’s won twice Top Remy Metailler proving he’s not just a park rat, pulling a suicide over the canyon gap in 2015 Above Szymon Godziek threads a narrow line at last year’s Rampage

CAM ZINK 2010 Cam blew our minds when he took the win by landing a huge 360 off the Oakley Icon Sender. Then in 2015 he stomped two 360s in both finals runs, landing on a terrifyingly narrow strip of dirt – wild! PAUL BAS 2015 Paul overshot a stepdown in his finals run, which sent him tumbling over another ledge to sustain serious spinal injuries. NICO VINK 2015 FEST Series regular Nico attempted a near vertical cliff roll drop. The line was too much for its

creator and he was bucked off after getting out of shape on the drop. NICHOLI ROGATKIN 2015 During qualifying, Rogatkin slipped out on the run-up to a big drop and fell down a 30ft cliff. He got straight back up and finished his run, even throwing in a backflip. ANDREU LACONDEGUY 2015 Huge drops, 450-degree hips and flatspin flips, for us Lacondeguy’s second placed run had it all. He rode a similar line to victory in 2014, but in 2015 he added in even more tricks.

GEE ATHERTON 2012 Hitting a massive blind stepdown gap for the first time in practice, Gee took off at the wrong trajectory and pile-drived headfirst into a cliff in mid air. Miraculously all he did was wind himself. KELLY MCGARRY 2013 Kelly stomped a huge backflip across a 72ft gap over a rocky canyon. He will be sorely missed in Utah this year. JOSH BENDER 2003 Bender is the undisputed godfather of hucking. He took a huge bail, ditched the bike in mid air and landed flat on his back. It still makes us wince.

You can count on Whistler to deliver natural highs!

Pro’s L ife

MATT JONES One of the UK’s hottest slopestyle talents, Matt lips out at the Red Bull Joyride Matt scales the heights of the Red Bull Joyride course in Whistler

This has been a crazy summer! At the Colorado Freeride Fest, a huge contest with massive features. I stomped my second run in finals, which included a 720, flat drop backflip and a double flip on the last big booter, and ended up winning! I also won a wildcard entry to the Red Bull Joyride in Whistler – it’s always been my dream to compete at Crankworx Whistler. I flew home to grab my DH bike then back to Vancouver. Whistler is like nowhere else on the planet, and Crankworx is pure mental. MTB events from every discipline all come together in one high-octane week, but the one that mattered most for me was the slopestyle. The course is just crazy – it all flows perfectly but the features are absolutely massive! I managed to land a clean double flip in my run, which was a real crowd pleaser, but then spun way too hard on a 720 and ended up knocking myself out so couldn’t take my second run. Despite not making it to the bottom, I’m still so happy to have ridden in front of such a huge crowd at the event I grew up watching. I’m now the highest ranked UK rider so I’ll be back next year to make it down the hill.

A to Z Y

YOUNG GUNS Three lads who’ve been making waves at this year’s British Downhill Series…

Even pro riders have to get their hands dirty from time to time



Henry won the youth National Champs at Revolution Bike Park earlier in the year by over four seconds, so he’s definitely one to watch. Hailing from the north of Scotland above Inverness, he’s been tutored by former World Cup racer turned coach, Ben Cathro, and so far it seems to be working well for him.

Huddersfield’s Kade has been racing since he was old enough to be allowed inside the tape. Before he reached Juvenile age he was winning races in the Rippers category. Now riding for the Atherton Academy/Trek World Racing programme, it’ll be exciting to see how he progresses with Gee and Rachel as mentors.




Jamie Edmondson is another pinner from the Highlands. Racing hasn’t been so easy for the Scot since he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011. But he’s not let this get in the way of his passion for racing, and his determination has seen him on the podium multiple times this year.

Mountain Biking UK 29


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30 Mountain Biking UK

Want T hat!


than getting e rs o w s g in , so a w th There are fetolen by thieving scusmtment your bike sk is an essential inve decent loc

Will Longden rocking Elvis sideburns on his beach cruiser – niiice


1 Squire MAKO Combi CN 8/900 At 1.7kg for the 90cm length, the MAKO is light enough to carry on rides. The links are only 8mm thick, but it still meets Sold Secure’s Bicycle Silver standard. £39.98

2 ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700 The 0.83kg Bordo is a nifty lock that folds down to 18cm long. Given a 7/10 ABUS security rating, it’s pretty solid with 5mm-thick steel bars. £39.99

3 Hiplok Gold Camo Awarded a Sold Secure Gold rating, this 10mm chain weighs 2.4kg for the 85cm version, and can be worn around your waist. £84.99

4 Oxford Alarm-D Mini


This mini D-lock with a 14mm shackle has a built-in anti-tamper alarm. It boasts a Bicycle Silver rating from Sold Secure and weighs 1kg. £ 64.99

We pay homage to the US fathers of mountain biking in true MBUK style – pro downhillers racing beach cruisers in wigs

5 ABUS Granit CityChain X Plus 1060 Weighing a hefty 3.26kg for the 140cm length, this 10mm chain with integrated lock has ABUS’s maximum security rating. £117.65

6 Knog Strongman This silicone-wrapped D-lock protects your bike, and its paintwork. Weighing 1.1kg and rated Sold Secure Gold, it comes in three colour choices. £79.99

7 Magnum Plus Mag Flex At 85cm long and weighing 249g, you could use this for extra security through your wheels. £19.99

8 Kryptonite Messenger chain & Moly padlock At 100cm this chain can secure multiple bikes. It has 9.5mm links, weighs 2.84kg and sports a 7/10 security rating from Kryptonite. £64.99

9 OnGuard Mastiff 8021 The longest chain at 182cm, this 10mm option weighs 4.65kg and has a 78/100 security rating. £84.69

10 ACOR ACL 21202 Small and compact, this 91g combination lock extends to 1.5m and will do as a back-up option. £7.95

11 Kyptonite Messenger Mini+ A nifty extender means you can lock your frame to a post and your rear wheel to the frame. With 11mm shackles, it’s rated 7/10 and weighs 1kg. £49.99

Marin County in California is widely acknowledged to be the birthplace of modern mountain biking. It was in the 1970s when a bunch of hippy motorcycliststurned-bikers started venturing into the backcountry around San Francisco on their cruiser bikers and illegally bombing down hills. A popular route was a steep 1.8mile dirt road littered with rocks, water gullies and off-camber corners. Soon they started running unsanctioned time trials down it – this was the beginning of downhill racing. The descent was named ‘The Repack’ because the hubs on the backpedal-braking klunkers needed repacking with grease after every run. So, some 25 years later in 2004, MBUK assembled a crew of World Cup DH riders to recreate The Repack. Only this time in Yorkshire, not California… It wasn’t that different though – there was a view of the sea and plenty of loose shale turns to be drifted. The location we chose was where we shot Jason McRoy’s video section for the first ever MBUK film, Dirt, and we assembled there eight years after his untimely death, in honour of the UK mountain bike legend. We dished out beach cruisers to Peaty, Warner, Minnaar, Wardell and Longden, dressed them up in wigs,

sideburns and ’taches then sent them up the hill to do their worst. In true Repack style, the riding was interrupted by some altercations with the landowner, but after seeing the shapes being pulled by the lads he relented and we got the shots. After that, there was just time for a surf before a night out in Whitby, by the end of which Minnaar had half his hair shaved off. There wasn’t a race winner, but we imagine if there had been a Stella drinking competition, Peaty would have clinched it.

Mountain Biking UK 31



S L L I K S A MEG Probably the Isle of Skye’s most famous native, Danny Mac’s rise to international fame is well deserved. As the brainchild and star of videos like Imaginate he’s long been bending the rules of what is possible on a bike. Danny’s been hard at work on his new film (which should be out by the time you read this) called Danny’s Wee Day Out. We caught up with him recently. “I always like to come up with something new, which is never easy. I wanted to get back out on my mountain bike and do ‘Danny MacAskill’s normal ride’ rather than something totally epic like in my last film. I wanted to use everyday obstacles in my tricks that people would encounter when they go for a ride.” But what counts as normal? “This new film is a fun look at riding – riding through a 6ft-deep puddle, for example. It’s not about upping the level, more having an idea and finding a way to do it. Doing this sort of riding and filmmaking is a bit like writing a song – you can’t compare one song to another, they’re different things. I like my films to have original ideas and to go all out on an idea.” You’d think this kind of riding would come easy to Danny, but he says, “I have to psyche myself up massively, especially with stunts that I’ve never been able to try before… like most of the stunts in my videos!” The pressure is on when the cameras are rolling. “It takes a lot of working through and practice. I normally try the tricks out with mats and pads to avoid injury the first few times. But I always commit 100 per cent every time I go for a trick.” We reckon the results are well worth it!

32 Mountain Biking UK

T I DO WHEHNE A H W O D O IRED ME T EADING T “MBUK INSINP G UP. I R EMEMBER WR O MARTINS. I WAS GROCWK IN 1997 WITH THEOTEVERY MONTH MAG BA T THE Y WER E UP T ER E AND R IDE” SEEING WIRHEAD ME TO GET OUT TH INSP K Y’S BOGOE DANNH D E E – AT T Left “The whole film is meant to be a like a fun afternoon spin the countryside. We’ve been working on it for five months prior to filming.”

Right “The bale roll was one of the hardest tricks in the film. It weighed 450kg and I had to balance on top – hopefully the crashes will show you how hard it was!”

“The book was a great opportunity to write down my stories of growing up and where I’m from and why I do the tricks that I do. I’m proud of where I’m from and how that’s made me who I am today. I can’t wait to see what people think of the book!”

Fred Murray/Red Bull Content Pool

Danny MacAskill has a new video out – he tells us about the inspiration behind it

UM HART’S DANNDYRAKER SUMM N O M This bike is worthy of being a world champion’s ride. Running a long 1,250mm wheelbase, custom 9-degree backsweep on the Renthal bar and wired-on grips, it’s certainly unique


WAR PAINT It take a special something to be good enough to compete at the World Champs – we take a look at some of the hottest custom bikes on show

ATHERTON’S RACHELSS ION SE TREK This murdered out black bike helped Rachel take the gold – again

IN’S N GW AARTOUES YT in’s erall winner Gw World Cup ov for the pt ce ex rd da TUES is stan int job hal bar, and pa custom Rent

AGRAVE’S TAHNEE SIOEN TR500 IT S N TRA Sparkles, lots of them. Yep, Tahnee’s ‘TS500’ looks about as flashy as possible

COMPETITION WINNER One of our lucky MBUK readers won the trip of a lifetime – to go and watch the World Championships on an all-inclusive holiday courtesy of WD-40 Bike. Milan Machacek won by submitting his ‘proudest workshop moment’ to us. Check out some snaps from his time at the World Champs…


Troy runs a psi in with up to 29 you tremble, tyre ck ba i in the the front, 33ps

34 Mountain Biking UK


Trail Spotting MBUK’s guide to the different types of rider you’ll encounter out in the hills

One of the beauties of biking is its individuality, the ability to make of it what you want. Although the industry is keen to pigeonhole products and riding styles into categories, there are plenty of riders who refuse to be labelled. The funny thing is that, like hipsters, by trying to look different they end up falling into a category of their own which, again like hipsters, is often signified by an abundance of facial hair





Beards are a must-have. There’s no excuse for not growing one, since the niche bike rider will be male and at least 30. Length is good, but bushiness is also requisite. A fluffy set of mutton chops or a goatee is a surefire way to ensure he doesn’t get bothered by girls when he’s out on the trails or down the pub. Tattoos are a recommended addition – a cog on the back of the calf is a good starting point, but skulls, flames and other bike parts are also approved. He will express his love of prog rock with a Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd Primal Wear jersey.

The beardy-weirdy will pick an outlandishly large wheel and tyre size and adamantly justify to anyone who will listen, and even those who won’t, that his choice is the future. “It’s way faster and more fun than everything else.” The fact that no pro has ever won a race on a plus bike or fatbike? Na, that doesn’t matter – in the eyes of the niche rider their beloved 36in wheeled, fat tyred beast is still the best. Suspension? No thank you. Who needs it anyway if you’re bouncing along on tyres as wide a tractor’s? If you must have suspension, it needs to involve dual fork legs, elastomers and lots of pivots.

For the specialist bike rider, singlespeeds are best. It’s totally impractical to run only one gear on a mountain bike so that makes him, in his warped world, more unique and means he can bond with other ‘special’ riders over their shared masochism. And forget standard shaped bars – this crowd go with something completely different. Cow bars, klunker bars, Jones bars, drops on a mountain bike – think of a shape you can bend aluminium into and some bewhiskered man is probably running it on the front of their bike.

36 Mountain Biking UK

The leftfield rider wouldn’t be seen dead at a trail centre or DH track. They prefer to ride unpleasantly long distances cross-country, ideally with unridable bog sections, in awful weather. The top dog of the species (in his eyes), the singlespeed rider, will put in hundreds of miles to achieve the skinny, malnourished look. The fatbiker needn’t worry too much about his real ale belly hindering performance because his slow-rolling bike will stop him venturing too far afield, and he certainly won’t be hucking any drops. The 20kg of luggage, camping equipment and coffeemaking apparatus he carries strapped to every tube of his frame makes sure of that.




send it!

David Siegfried’s face broke his fall on ‘Rabbit Run’ in Inverclyde – moment captured by biking buddy Michael ‘Django’ Johnson

and win!

YOUR MAIL, PHOTOS, IDEAS AND RANTS ! WINNER TTER STAR LE BANG AND A HISS On August bank holiday the wife and I decide to ride the Marin trail at Betws-y-Coed. We head up the trail to the first downhill rocky section, and at the bottom the wife shouts out I have a flat tyre. I stop to find both my tyres are flat so put two new tubes in. When I turn my bike over my front tyre has already gone down again, so I put a patch on the tube. Then the wife sees that her back tyre is flat! I check the tube and find a small split in the seam. I check the tyre and there’s nothing in it so I patch the tube. We get going, and after about 200 yards the wife’s back tyre is flat again! Again I check the tube and tyre and there’s nothing but a split on the seam, so I patch it again. Then I pick my bike up to find the back tyre is flat! I find a split in the seam, fix it and off we go. We get to just outside the second car park and the wife stops to have a drink, when we hear hissing… My back tyre is flat again! This time I fix the old tube (the first one) with the pinch flat. Being pretty fed up by this time, I’m thinking of going back to the truck and heading home (only 70 miles each way). We set off up the


38 Mountain Biking UK

STARR LETTEWINS... DMR Vault pedals worth £99.99

Jon Martindale took this photo of his 15-year-old son Ben flying over his 14year-old brother Josh at the 417 Project

Craig Smith sent in this pic of his 11-year-old son Ethan ‘the Goat’ above Scar House Reservoir

Stacey, Andy and Andy riding down to Patterdale with Ullswater below. Shot by their mate Neal Jarrett

T! STACKWIINS... Effetto Mariposa tubeless kit worth £49.99

THATH’S URT O G TTA WINS... Lezyne Port-A Shop tool package worth £99.99

OF SHOTON TH THE M WINS... Lezyne CNC Dirt Floor Drive track pump worth £89.99

climb and yes, you guessed it, the wife’s back tyre goes flat. I fix it and the wife calms me down. We decide to try to finish the ride with only three patches and no spare tubes. Miraculously, we get most of the way around and are on the final descent when, yes, I get another pinch flat! We reach the car park with big smiles on our faces. I put the bikes on the rack to find my back tyre flat again (sod it, I think) and we just go off to the pub for a beer and laugh about the day. So after 10 flats we still enjoyed a good day’s mountain biking in Wales. I would like to thank the lad from Manchester for offering us his patches (sorry, didn’t get his name) and to say that the Marin trail has got to be the best trail we’ve ridden so far. PS Can you tell us what the best tubes are, LOL? Yan Mills, via email

Martin Wells having a blast riding the Borrowdale Bash on his new plus-tyred Trek Fuel EX 8 27.5

Fin Thompson, who’s only 16, loves shredding his local trails and pulling big tricks off massive jumps!

Gaz Davies discovers the delights of Welsh trails (and glamping)



David Pulman sent us this shot from the Black Mountains Cycle Centre just as the light was getting to the ‘golden hour’. Great pic, David!

! WINNER ’S RT THATA U GOTT H Keith Borthwick, from Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders sent us this picture of his arm – it was a result of him having a run-in with a tree riding his local trails in Lanton Woods. It looks horrific!

Wow, that’s some impressively bad luck you’ve had there, Yan. Must have left you a bit flat too, eh? Maybe you should think about going tubeless to stop all those punctures. But be warned, going tubeless can be expensive if you go for top-end kit…

Well, that’s it. I’ve had enough now. The letter on e-bikes in issue 333 has tipped me over the edge. The fact that there is any debate at all is staggering and just goes to show what a selfabsorbed, snobbish, childish and blinkered bunch a large portion the MTB community is. Rob and his rant about how we will be ‘inspiring a generation of lazy, unskilled riders’ on e-bikes is genuinely a baffling and totally clueless point. Like it or not all you whingers, they need to be pedalled. Without that, they simply do not move. Getting a 40lb e-bike up a hill will take plenty of effort and be very good exercise for anyone riding them. The assist cuts out automatically at 15mph so anyone passing you on flat or downward gradients is likely just a better rider than you are. Going uphill? Not many people will be able to keep the speed at 15mph constantly turning the pedals anyway. Also, what do you care if someone gets to the top before you? What have you lost? What have they won? We know they don’t churn trails up. We know they are a way for anyone (not just the old or infirm) to get going and to go further than they normally might and, amazingly, we know they provide fun – lots of fun – for the riders. So what makes the naysayers think they have a right to deny people of that or to belittle them? Honestly, it is pathetic. MARTIN GOLDER, via email

Mountain Biking UK 39


WHAT YOU COULD WIN… Tag your Instagram pics with #mbukletters. We’ll pick four each issue and the best one will win a set of CrankBrothers Stamp pedals worth £116.99, courtesy of Usual TandCs apply. Immediate Media Company Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN Tel: 0117 927 9009 Email: Web: Blog: Facebook: Twitter:

! WINNER@bevsta69 broke her pelvis in June, but is already sending it with her son!

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@luci_smith1094 looks like she had a great holiday in Morzine

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Some of us in the office actually quite like e-bikes and have been caught riding them with guilty, deviant looks on our faces. But others can’t stand ’em – and this is what makes them a great talking point. The latest enduro bike certainly won’t divide opinion like an e-bike does. One thing we would say is don’t knock them until you’ve tried one.

STRAIGHT CAMP VIBES I saw an advert for Evans saying “Grab summer by the handlebars” with an MTB and a tent pitched next to it. This is what me and a pal did in Wales, taking in two awesome rides. Friday Penmachno loops one and two then Saturday the Marin trail. We camped about four miles away. I say camped... but we glamped! The tent, a yurt, was ready when we arrived. There were bottles of water, pots and pans, plates, cups and cutlery ready to rock, even electricity, kettle and a mini heater. All we needed was food and a sleeping bag, and loads of local Welsh ales! Glamping made this break away what it was. No faffing about erecting tents in the wind and rain. It was my first taste of Wales and I can’t wait to go back, this time for a week so I can ride Coed-y-Brenin and Llandegla too. Gaz Davies, via email

Good stuff, Gaz, let the explorations continue! Now we’re heading into autumn, don’t be discouraged by the colder days and longer nights – buy some good lights, a puffa jacket and go on some awesome adventures. Our resident bikepacker, Matt, loves getting dirty and back to basics in Mother Nature, whatever the weather. (We’re not so sure what his missus thinks, though.)

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I would love to see my photo in your groovy magazine and share a snap from my best ride ever on the most fantastic morning. Scafell Pike is the backdrop and I’m just about to drop down through Castle Crag on the Borrowdale Bash, on my fab new Trek Fuel EX 8 27.5 Plus (plus tyres rock!), my 50th birthday treat. I still love adventuring on MTB. Photo by passing cyclist braving the ride on a cyclocross bike, cheers dude. Thanks for the great mag. Keep it rad! Martin Wells, via email

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That is one epic ride you’ve done, Martin. Top effort and we hope you can conquer more of the Lake District’s peaks… And thanks for proving that you’re never too old (not that we think 50 is old!) to get out there and ride some gnarly trails.

Write to: MBUK Send it! Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN Email: Visit: 40 Mountain Biking UK

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Post SRP £349.99 Hop-Up Lever SRP £49.99








One of the UK’s newest bike parks, nestled in the heart of the Gloucester countryside

Some of the hottest new bikes get our testing treatment to ind out which is best

Chris Kilmurray races across Italy’s Rezia provence using helicopters and bikes

Ric McLaughlin heads over the Firth of Clyde to Dunoon – an upcoming riding hotspot

In the heat of the moment, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t limit your potential. Your kit needs to perform as well as you do. The Winter Storm Collection is designed and built for the Great British weather. Created to keep you warm and dry whilst slaying the harshest of trails.




It may not be ground-breaking but the Morf is spot-on if you want a take-no-prisoners ride

UK-designed by experienced riders

The ride

The ‘12 Bore’ chainstay bridge is so called because you can fit two shotgun cartridges in it

both Shimano XT, and although no chain device is supplied, there are tabs for fitting one. Finishing the bike off are some of the best British-engineered parts available – Hope Pro 4 hubs and a Burgtec seat, bar, stem and grips. Tubeless Maxxis Minion tyres give an indication of the type of riding that the Morf is intended for, namely ripping corners and finding the limits of traction.

46 Mountain Biking UK

Stif’s sizing means that a rider around the 6ft mark could go for either a medium or a large frame, dependent on their riding style. The large, with its longer reach and taller stack height, is undoubtedly the go-to for all-day trail riding, and having such a slack head angle, the bike feels composed even when blasting down high-speed sections. The medium shares the same angles, but with shorter top and seat tubes it definitely feels more playful. Slam the saddle and you have a bike that’s equally as at home on a pump track as a trail. The Morf’s short chainstays make it easy to kick the back end around tight turns and get the weight over the back wheel on steeper sections. With the relatively long reach, this is something that would have been difficult with a lengthier back end.

A clean, detailed frame with subtle, hand-drawn graphics Designed to take abuse

LOWS You can get a good full-sus bike for the same dosh It’s chunky and no featherweight

It also means that manualling sections and bunnyhopping trail features comes naturally. The build kit is reflective of a bike designed to be thrashed. The stiff wheelset, aggressive tyre tread, wide bar and short stem put you fully in control and encourage you to find your limits. Although there isn’t anything particularly ground-breaking about this bike, it’s the simple things that Stif have got right, like the bang-up-to-date geometry and solid spec choices, which help to give the Morf its edge and let you really ride it hard. ED THOMSETT

A great ‘one bike does it all’ hardtail for those riders who enjoy being on the ragged edge

On paper, the Decree is a trail bike. But in reality it doesn’t play nice with categories. You need a burly XC bike? The Decree’s carbon frame is super light (the FRD complete bike comes in at 11,2 kilos) for sharp accelerations. Day-long adventures in the saddle are more your thing? The patented )$67VXVSHQVLRQV\VWHPZLWKÀH[LEOH FDUERQVHDWVWD\VLVH[WUHPHO\HI¿FLHQWZKHQ pedaling uphill. You like descents? The 27,5“ wheels make the bike easy to throw around and the suspension can take bigger hits, too. So forget about categories and start riding a true mountain bike – the Felt Decree.

1 Bespoke geometry and a simple design that work well together on the trail

G N I L R A ST P SWOO £1,500 (frame only) Handbuilt steel enduro sled The man behind the Starling Cycles, Joe McEwan, has been grafting away in the shed at the bottom of his garden for some time now, applying his passion for bikes and aerospace engineering background in a bid to craft some seriously lust-worthy, bespoke handmade trail slayers.

The bespoke frame is lovingly crafted with standout details

and bottom bracket drop remain fixed (at 430mm and -10mm respectively), but you can choose the down tube length, which in turn affects the reach. Seat tube height and head angle can also be altered. External cable routing and beautiful detailing throughout the frame really underline the practicality and quality on offer.

The kit Both Swoops we’ve thrown a leg over are equipped with Funn build kits, available through Starling. If you aren’t keen on the Funn wheels there’s also a Stan’s option. Starling can provide X-Fusion or Fox forks and shocks, depending on your budget.

The frame There’s nothing overcomplicated or fussy on the Swoop. Its clean lines come courtesy of the skinny steel tubing, which Starling claim helps give a lively ride. At the rear, the Swoop employs a simple single-pivot design, with the main pivot sitting just ahead of the bottom bracket and in line with the chainline. A coil-sprung EXT Storia shock – which is no longer an option – takes care of the 155mm (6.1in) of rear wheel travel. As each Swoop is handmade, Joe is able to tailor the bike’s geometry to order. The chainstay

48 Mountain Biking UK

The ride One ride in and it was clear this handmade frame could easily compete with much of the mainstream competition. Joe has got the key ingredients more or less sorted. The suspension balance front to rear – after a bit of tinkering – coupled with the chassis stiffness, relaxed geometry and simple yet effective single-pivot design, delivers a blend of traction and that all-important feel and feedback through the bike in just about the right quantities. Throw it down a

SPEC Frame True Temper Supertherm and Columbus Life and Zona steel tubing, 155mm (6.1in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RCT3, 150mm (5.9in) travel Shock EXT Storia coil Drivetrain Funn Carbonation Solo crankset, Shimano Zee mech, (1x10) Wheelset Funn Fantom wheels, Maxxis Shorty 3C EXO 27.5x2.4in (f) and Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO 27.5x2.35in (r) tyres Brakes Shimano XT Bar/stem Funn Black Ace carbon, 780mm/ Funn Duro, 40mm Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb/ Funn Adlib Weight 13.6kg (30.0lb) without pedals (size N/A)

steep, root-infested hillside and the Swoop can more than hold its own as your speed increases and confidence builds. Though our 5ft 8in test pilot felt a little stretched aboard the longer Swoop, with its 480mm reach (we tried a shorter bike with a reach of 450mm, which we felt more at home on), during particularly tight, steep turns, the stability and pace carried when the trail opened up was staggering, and the traction through loose, roughed-up turns was plentiful. The supple stroke of the EXT shock helped keep the rear wheel glued to the ground, but it’s a setup better suited to hammering down and pottering back up. We also tried the bike with airsprung X-Fusion dampers front and rear, which made the Swoop feel more efficient on the climbs and a little more lively on the descents, even if you have to work a bit harder to maintain traction. ROB WEAVER

Beautifully made frame with custom geometry that really beasts it on the trail



MYST PRO £3,399.99 (PICTURED) MYST TEAM £5,299.99 MYST X £2,299.99

1 The Reign has a solid spec and is a ripper on the descents

G I A N T 27.5 1 R EIGN £3,999 A heavy hitter that's ready to devour downhills

The Monarch Plus RC3 controls the 160mm of rear wheel travel

preference to be heading down the hill rather than up. We shouldn’t overlook Giant’s proven, well-mannered, twin-link Maestro Suspension system, which delivers 160mm (6.3in) of travel via the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock.

The kit Over the last couple of years, Giant’s Reign has been steadily notching up some impressive results at the Enduro World Series, while continuing to be a regular sight on the trails around the UK.

The frame Part of the Reign’s popularity can be attributed to its decent proportions. A reach of 444mm in the medium certainly puts it right up there alongside the likes of the impressive Canyon Strive with its race-oriented geometry. Although those numbers are already towards the lengthier end of the spectrum when compared to many other mainstream brands, Giant will be introducing an XL Reign for 2017, which will be a welcome addition for taller riders. Geometry across the other sizes will remain the same, though. A slack 64.9-degree head angle and 343mm bottom bracket further underline the Reign’s

50 Mountain Biking UK

The Reign 1 isn’t cheap, but it does drop slightly in price by £200 for 2017, where it’s ditched the RockShox Pike fork and Reverb post we rode in favour of a Lyrik and Giant’s own Contact SL dropper. While the gearing and brakes remain the same, the 2017 Reign 1 also gets own-brand wheels rather than the DT Swiss numbers seen here.

The ride After experimenting with shock set-up, we ended up running around 33 per cent sag with four volume-reducing bands, to add a little more ramp-up at the end of the 160mm of travel. However, on the flatter sections of trail and up the climbs, we still found ourselves reaching for the low-speed compression lever on the Monarch shock, to help prop things up a little better at the rear and avoid that 73-degree seat tube angle feeling slacker.

SPEC Frame ALUXX SL-grade aluminium, 160mm (6.3in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air, custom offset, 160mm (6.3in) travel Shock RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir Drivetrain SRAM X1 (1x11) Wheelset DT Swiss M1700 Spline, Schwalbe Magic Mary Snakeskin TrailStar (f) and Schwalbe Hans Dampf Snakeskin PaceStar (r) 27.5x2.35in tyres Brakes SRAM Guide RS, 200mm (f), 180mm (r) rotors Bar/stem Giant Contact SL DH, 800mm/Truvativ Holzfeller, 50mm Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb Stealth/Giant Contact SL Neutral Weight 13.4kg (29.54lb), medium size without pedals

While it isn’t the sprightliest machine on the more sedate bits of trail, get the Reign 1 pointed downhill and it really comes alive. That said, it rides like more of a mini downhill rig than a trail bike on the edge. The Reign 1 will simply swallow up then spit out root spreads and trail chunder with relative ease, and offers more than enough stability at speed. It’s a case of just dropping your heels and committing. That surefooted feel also transfers to the turns – you can slam it into ruts or load it hard into berms with total confidence. Yes, there’s a bit of annoying cable clatter, which needs some attention to quieten it down, and the custom fork offset does take a little getting used to at slower speeds, but with a spec that’s hard to fault and arguably improving with the addition of the Lyrik next year, Giant’s Reign 1 is a seriously capable beast in the right hands. ROB WEAVER

Point the Reign downhill and it’ll be your con idence not the bike that's holding you back







£179.99 each Distinctive style from the French helmet brand Urge helmets have protected the heads of some of France’s fastest racers over the years, notably Fabien Barel. The Down-o-matic RR DH lid is 1,068g, while the Archi-Enduro RR is slimmed down to 1,030g, with a better vented chinguard. Both designs have been revised but retain the opinion-dividing Urge look. Unusually, the shell of both lids is a mix of glass fibre and natural linen fibres. RR means ‘Ready to Race’ so choose your discipline, strap on your lid and go as fast as a Frenchie!

52 Mountain Biking UK

R LD O W D I S X ROCKSHEODITION CUP R IO ÂŁ1,132 Blue forks that are going for gold The classic blue of the RockShox SID has long been synonymous with XC racing, which is why RockShox released this Limited Edition SID World Cup for the Rio Olympics. The fork is the same as the standard World Cup model, with 100mm of Solo air-sprung travel and a twoposition, remote-operated Charger damper. A one-piece carbon tapered steerer and crown contributes to the forkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impressively light 1,500g weight. In Rio, the battle for gold was tight, and the man flying the flag on these new forks, Jaroslav Kulhav , had to settle for silver.

Mountain Biking UK 53



£1,520 Wider rims mean more room to roam SRAM have upsized their top-ofthe-range trail/enduro wheelset considerably for 2017. The carbon rims now boast a 30mm internal width, which will give tyres a squarer profile, improving grip. They also now have hookless beads for better impact resistance. The rims are laced via 24 straight-pull spokes to SRAM’s versatile 900 hubs. With 52 points of engagement, pick-up should be almost instant. Despite being beefed up, the wheels are still impressively light – 1,673g for our Boost-compatible pair. We’ve had some durability issues with alloy ROAM wheelsets, but hopefully these carbon hoops are built to last.

54 Mountain Biking UK

BOX ONEG KIT SHIF TIN £249.98 Gearing up to take on the groupset giants Newcomers Box Components have released an 11-speed rear mech and shifter that they hope will challenge Shimano and SRAM’s dominance of the drivetrain market. The derailleur (£174.99) is similar to its rivals, featuring a clutch mechanism to tension the chain, but has a unique spring-loaded cable stop, which can deflect in a crash. Despite using an aluminium cage for durability, it’s only slightly heavier than SRAM’s top-end XX1 mech. The shifter (£74.99) is where the groupset differs from its competitors – it only has a single paddle, which is pushed in to downshift. Box claim this is a more intuitive design, but we’ll have to put some trail time in before we make our minds up. Total weight is 395g.

E7 SHIMANHOOMES TR A IL S £149.99 Michelin rubber for your feet For the ME7, Shimano have collaborated with rubber experts Michelin to create a high performing, feature packed clipless shoe aimed at enduro riders. A stiff midsole for efficient pedalling is surrounded by a burly rubber tread to give stability and grip on and off the bike. Extended cleat slots let you fine-tune pedal position and a ratchet buckle keeps the shoes secure. A lace cover and neoprene ankle collar help keep the elements out, and with rubber toe protection too, they look like they should be ideal for tackling tough terrain in changeable UK weather.

Mountain Biking UK 55



S ’ N A H G A L L A C G E #7 3 G R T E R E O 1 4 0 C : 6 8 ES CUBA German-designed Enduro World Series race machine it for the Emerald Isle’s inest… Opinion is still divided among racers on whether 650b or 29in wheels are faster, but Irish enduro star Greg Callaghan sits in the second camp. Despite only racing an enduro on a 29er for the first time at the Irish round of the Enduro World Series (EWS) in May, he must have taken to the wagon wheels like a duck to water, as he won the race for the second year running. He took the win aboard a stock Cube Stereo 140 and it’s the frame

he’s stayed with for the rest of the season. He’s not the only member of the Cube Action Team who’s had success on the big wheels either – teammate Gusti Wildhaber finished third in this year’s Trans-Provence on the same bike, while Nico Lau, another Cube pro rider, went two places better, winning the six-day epic also on the 29er Stereo 140. This isn’t to say 650b wheels can’t go fast, but these Cube riders prefer bigger wheels. Same frame Greg’s Stereo 140 frame is identical to the production model, except for the team-only grey paint job, but his bike boasts more beefed-up components to cope with the hammering of world-

WHY’S IT SUPER? Cube’s enduro riders have achieved some impressive results on the world circuit It’s a finely tuned machine, set up exactly to Greg’s preference It’s got a custom Cube Action Team paint job

Photos Matt Wragg

level enduro racing. Production bikes come with a 140mm travel Fox 34 fork, but Greg and the rest of the Cube team have upsized to a 160mm Fox 36. As a Fox-sponsored athlete he runs the Float X air shock at the rear and a matching Fox Transfer dropper post. The rear shock uses Fox’s EVOL (Extra Volume) air sleeve, which Fox claim improves the shock’s smallbump sensitivity. Greg runs his shock at 185psi with the biggest volume spacer fitted, which is designed to increase progressivity and give him a solid platform to make pedalling and pumping more efficient. In the fork he runs 78psi and adds two large and one small volume spacer to ramp it up. With this set-up, the

Mountain Biking UK 57




The Stereo’s 140mm of rear wheel travel is controlled with a Fox Float X rear shock. The combination of an EVOL (Extra Volume) air sleeve and Kashima -coated stanchion to reduce friction makes the shock as supple as possible in the first part of the stroke.

Power meters are a useful trainer tool. A crank-mounted meter is the most common and accurate type. Stages Cycling make meters in conjunction with Shimano and SRAM, and Greg has one of these built into his 175mm Shimano XTR crankset.



The drivetrain is all top-of-the-line Shimano XTR. Greg runs a 2x11 set-up. Shifting is taken care of by Shimano’s electronic Di2 system. He always uses a 11-40t XTR cassette but, depending on the track, he’ll switch the front chainrings from 26-36t to 28-38t.

Greg’s bike is finished in a custom grey colour scheme, with a snow camo top tube. He uses a Colorado Lager beer cap as the stem top cap.

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5. ALL SAINTS Greg has upgraded his brakes to Shimano Saints with Ice-Tech rotors to aid cooling.




air pressure can be dropped for front wheel traction, but it won’t bottomout through big hits. Compression damping is average and rebound is set moderately fast, with seven out of nine clicks open, to match the rear shock. During the winter Greg will generally run his suspension softer as his home terrain is mellower than where he races and he doesn’t ride so aggressively. In the spring, after testing with Fox, his set-up will probably change a fair bit, getting harder in preparation for the race season. As the year ramps up and the races head to the bigger mountains of the Alps, Greg will stiffen his suspension even more to deal with the faster speeds.

3 5


Doubling up Saving energy for long days in the saddle is a big factor to consider in enduro racing and one way Greg does this is by using a double chainring up front – something that’s pretty uncommon these days. He says he’d always rather pedal than push and running either a 26t or 28t small ring lets him spin the cranks and allows his legs to recover up all but the steepest of climbs. His other reasoning is that he’s been using the Shimano XTR Di2 syncro shift system for the past two years without fault and sees no reason to change it. The system is able to use a single right-hand shifter, which automatically shifts either the front or rear chainring to optimise the chainline. Greg says that with the rubber inserts in the front derailleur it’s quieter than a standard plastic chain guide. The bike runs on full Shimano XTR, with the exception of the brakes. Fourpiston Saint downhill stoppers are used to give Greg maximum braking power, along with Ice-Tech rotors to help dispel heat. The brake levers are clamped on to a pair of 780mm wide, 20mm rise RaceFace SixC carbon handlebars, which are in turn bolted to the forks through a 50mm Race Face Atlas stem. Greg always uses the same bars, but varies the stack height depending on the track. As well as downhill brakes Greg uses burly DH tyres, mounted tubelessly onto 25mm wide DT Swiss EX 1501 rims. He runs a Schwalbe Magic Mary up front for maximum grip and a faster rolling Hans Dampf at the rear. Both are in the TrailStar compound and Super Gravity casing. As one of the heavier riders on the circuit, he likes the strength of the double casing,

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S COURSE R O F S E HORS which allows him to push in hard and not worry about losing pressure or the tyre folding. Combine grippy rubber with the fast-rolling speeds and terrainflattening characteristics of a 29in wheel and you have a bike that can rip up corners and cover long distances equally well. It’s a raceproven bike and you can see why Greg loves riding it. There are no changes to the 2017 Stereo 140 apart from the colour scheme, so there’s no reason you can’t get yourself the full Greg Callaghan set-up. After that, you’ll only need some serious riding skills, extreme fitness and an Irish accent to complete the package.

SPECS Price: £5,199 (Cube Stereo 140 C:68 SLT 29, complete bike) Contact: Also try: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, £6,600,

We chat to Greg about the iner points of his set-up G R EG CA L L


After transitioning from elite level downhill to enduro in 2012, Greg Callaghan has risen through the ranks, riding for Nukeproof before signing to the Cube Action Team. In 2015 he won the Irish round of the EWS, fulfilling any pro rider’s dream to win a world level race on home soil, and won again this year. He’s not just a hometown hero though, as his results around the world attest.

How do you set your suspension up specifically for enduro racing? “I try to set my bike up so it can be ridden in most stage types and especially for when I’m tired. In a 15-minute stage you can gain or lose a lot of time in the latter parts of the stage depending how your bike is set up and how easy it is to ride. A super-harsh bike will be hard to hold on to with that fatigue and can lead to making mistakes. Conversely, too soft and it will be hard to ride fully committed into big compressions and be fully aggressive, so it’s about finding that happy medium.” What are your preferences when it comes to cockpit set-up? “My handlebars are 20mm rise, 780mm wide. When I switched to 29in wheels I moved up from a 35mm stem to a 50mm, to get my body more central on the bike. I run my cockpit quite high and will change the height

depending on where we’re racing, with spacers under the stem rather than switching the bars, as I like the feel of 20mm rise bars. I had it pretty low in Ireland and gradually raised it 20mm higher by the time we raced the EWS in La Thuile.” Are there any mods or set-up changes you’ve been trialling? “One thing we did change for the Whistler Enduro was our fork offset, making the wheelbase about 10mm shorter and the head angle about half a degree slacker. This made the bike more lively in the tight stuff but also more stable in the high-speed bike park berms, almost making it feel in between a 29in and 27.5 bike. I really liked it.” How do you run your tyres? “My base pressure is 22psi front, 25psi rear. I’d vary that by +/- 2 psi for different tracks. I’ve yet to try Procore (Schwalbe’s puncture prevention system) on the big wheels but I could see myself using it in the future. I love it on the 650b bike.”

Special thanks to Cube for their assistance with creating this feature 60 Mountain Biking UK

Photo: Jens Staudt / Location: Südtirol, Italy


THE WEIGHT IS OVER The world's first twin-tube inline coil shock. DB COIL [IL] offers linear spring action, consistent performance and exceptional low-speed sensitivity in a package that weighs 45% less than comparable piggyback shocks when paired with the featured VALT® lightweight spring.



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subscribe online at OR call our hotline on 0844 844 0387 quoting code MBP007 Lines are open 8am-8pm weekdays, 9am-1pm Saturdays (for overseas orders, visit TERMS & CONDITIONS: Full details of the Direct Debit Guarantee will be provided and are available on request. This offer is for new UK subscribers to the print edition paying by Direct Debit only. Gifts are subject to availability. Please allow 60 days for delivery of your gift. You will receive 13 issues per year. Your subscription will start with the next available issue. If at any time you are dissatisfied please notify us in writing and we will refund you for all unmailed issues. In the unlikely event your selected gift is unavailable, we reserve the right to send an alternative gift. *17% discount is based on buying 6 issues at UK shop price. Offer expires 11th November 2016

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64 Mountain Biking UK

olly wilkins & blake samson find their sea legs and join dan milner on an adriatic odyssey to explore the little-known trails of the southern croatian islands

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t’s only an island if you look at it from the water,” says shark-fighting police chief Brody in the film Jaws. It might only be his smart-ass justification for living on an island, but I follow his logic. Here on the small Croatian island of Hvar, surrounded on all sides by azure sea, the fact that I’m on an island couldn’t be further from my mind. Instead my focus is on the trail two metres in front of me. It’s the only thing that matters, just like on any trail, anywhere, island or not. I glance down at the harbour where our motor yacht, the San Snova, is moored, cold beers primed for our return. Lured by the thought of downing a cold one, the descent is fast and furious, loose slate clattering beneath our tyres like a cacophony of broken crockery. “It’s like riding through a Greek kitchen,” laughs DMR team riderturned-manager, Olly Wilkins, as he launches into the final ear-abusing section of rock-strewn chaos that spits us out at the seafront. Suddenly, the noise and carnage is replaced by the soothing swoosh of waves and an echo of seagulls, but the serenity doesn’t last long as, after a short dinghy transfer (how often can you write that?), we find our boat is energetically pitching up and down in the swell. Tonight there will be no ignoring the fact that we’re looking at this island from the water.

Low-hanging fruit

if we had wanted flow trails and berms we’d have gone to a bike park, right? The tight switchbacks lead us to a 15th-century monastery, where for 400 years the monks made wine and collected honey. Now a museum, we use the whitewashed buildings to escape the midday sun before tackling the climb out of the valley. At the top we’ll finish our traverse of Brac with a descent to our ship, which has sailed around to meet us. By the end of the day we’ve ridden 40km and climbed 1,500m – impressive stats for a loop that starts and ends at sea level.

Call the taxi! The ride on Brac is a solid warm-up, but it lacks enough singletrack rewards to offset the gravel road pedalling. Islandhopping, the company behind the trip, has been running hiking and touring bike holidays for years, but mountain bike trips are quite new to them. They are enthusiastic and this week is as much about them showing us the potential of these islands as us giving them feedback on the riding. And we begin our feedback on day two by getting our local guide and fixer, Tedi, to make some calls, swapping the planned gravel road climb for a taxi shuttle instead. The minivan drops us just shy of the summit, leaving us to pedal through

The trails we ride are more fulltrials than full-tilt... as natural, loose and unpredictable as the day they were first walked

Olly has joined myself, Saracen rider, Blake Samson, and Verbier mountain bike guide, James Brickell, for an aquatic adventure aboard a beautiful wooden yacht. For a week the San Snova is not only our hotel but also our restaurant, bar, solarium and shuttle bus for a unique salt-water road trip. With so much of mountain biking being centred around high mountains, it’s easy to forget the low-hanging fruit – and it doesn’t get much lower than sea level. Along Europe’s coastal fringes, people have carved out an existence for millennia, leaving its hillsides criss-crossed by footpaths and ancient mule tracks. “At least we won’t get altitude sickness,” I joke. I remind myself of this daft comment when we’re puffing our way up a steep climb on the island of Brac. We’re only 500m above sea level, but our descent is proving to be hard earned. After traversing much of the island on a rough gravel road, we dive into a singletrack descent whose rock gardens and tight switchbacks are more full-trials than full-tilt. It gives us a taste of what’s to come on an archipelago that is still to embrace mountain bike tourism. The trails we ride are as natural, loose and unpredictable as the day they were first walked. But then

Left No manicured trails here – just raw, natural goodness that'll test your skills to the limit Below What better way to end a day's riding than chugging back out to your luxury yacht with cold beers and hot showers waiting?

SEA & SINGLETRACK German company Islandhopping host boat cruises combined with hiking and biking trips in Croatia, Greece, Scotland, Spain and Vietnam. We stayed aboard the rather luxurious San Snova, a 31m wooden motor yacht hand-built by its Croatian skipper seven years ago. At 8m wide, it has 14 ensuite, air-conditioned cabins and a permanent crew of six, including a chef and,

importantly, a barman. It’s one of the smaller boats in their fleet of 19. We signed up for Islandhopping’s South Dalmatia Special tour but reckon their Kvarna Bay trip is a more solid singletrack option. Trips start at 990 for a week including boat accommodation, food and guiding. The only extras are alcohol and your flights (fly to Split with Easyjet).

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Below A deserted town gives dirt jumpers Blake Samson and Olly Wilkins the opportunity to let loose urban style

Right One thing that’s guaranteed is you’ll be riding a lot of rock – rock slabs, rock gardens, rocky switchbacks, steep rock, loose rock…

Below right Never mind that you’re not in big alpine mountains, you still get ace descents, including one that lasts for 10km

evolve into pine forest loam on a trail that could have been purpose built, if the troops had mountain bikes 120 years ago.

Ghost town

beautifully cool pine forest to the 778m Vidova Gora, the highest island peak in the Adriatic. We stare down an untamed mountainside at the sea glistening far below, itching to get going.

A 10k dream downhill From the peak we flow along a spectacular ridge, dodging occasional rabbit-sized rocks that could catapult us off the 200m cliff, before zigzagging our way down a mule track to the port of Bol. Erosion has left the karst limestone hills scarred by deep gorges, and we traverse one of these on a trail littered with chaotic rocks and fun drop-offs. When we eventually emerge at the quayside we’re sporting the kind of grins only a 10km descent can deliver. As the week progresses we settle into a maritime morning routine: sipping coffee on deck while watching the sea slip past, scoffing breakfast while the ship glides into harbour then rolling ashore ready to ride as soon as the gangplank is lowered. By day five we think we have found our sea legs but, like the landlubbers we are, we have underestimated the might of the Adriatic. Two-metre rollers toss our boat around like a cork, leaving us either laughing at every roll of the ship or hanging on the deck’s railings, looking green. I think even the crew are glad to be on dry land again when we reach Vela Luka on the island of Korula. Still swaying – even on our bikes – we climb to a 19th-century fort built on prehistoric ruins by Austro-Hungarian forces. From its now peaceful ramparts, we look out across a chain of islands before launching into a jump-filled descent back to port. Rocky steps and switchbacks

It gives dirt jumpers Olly and Blake a chance to get their wheels off the ground at last. They are an unusual fit for an adventure like this – after all, we couldn’t be further from the manicured shapes of the Surrey Hills. And while the lack of loam is frustrating at times, each day brings its rewards. On the island of Hvar we roll through the ghost town of Malo Grablje. Deserted in the 1950s, it’s a sign that Croatia has had its fair share of tumultuous history, but it makes a unique playground for an hour – it’s like a Red Bull urban event with no spectators. After the four-hour crossing to the little island of Vis, we pull out the taxi card again, choosing to save our energy for riding laps on the singletrack rather than spend it traversing the island. We hire the only rental car on the island, a Dacia Duster. Squeezing five people and bikes into this little car is ambitious, but what it lacks in space is more than compensated for by the enthusiasm of its owner. We might be on a Croatian island but the taxi driver knows Wilkins’ and Samson’s names. He’s a keen mountain biker and is visibly excited to have other riders come and visit his island. “The trails by Komiza are world class,” translates Tedi from the owner's energetic gestures. Handing over the keys to his car the guy shakes our hands with the kind of grip that suggests wrestling bears rather than renting cars might be his main occupation. The little port of Komiza turns out to be a veritable gold mine. With Tedi at the wheel to shuttle us, we lap the most obvious footpaths that drop from the neighbouring hills back to the port. Thorny bushes exfoliate every inch of exposed skin in a classic Mediterranean way, but while some of the trails might be a little overgrown they open our eyes to the island’s potential. Venturing further afield, we ride a bigger loop to the north of Komiza’s rocky peninsular, picking our way through forests and down wild singletrack. As the sun begins its inevitable dive towards a glittering horizon, we swoop down what becomes the highlight of the trip – an uncontrollably writhing snake of a trail. As it nears the coast its drifty corners beg us to ride faster, but the drop to the sea threatens an early bath if we lose a front wheel. The forest echoes with our laughter. It’s dark when we finally get back to the San Snova to drink beer, compare wounds and swap anecdotes. From the gentle rise and fall of the deck we look back to where we’ve just ridden. Rocky, fast and loose, these trails could be anywhere – until you look at them from the sea. Then you realise what island-hopping is really about.

we settle into a morning routine: sipping coffee on deck, scoffing breakfast then rolling ashore ready to ride as soon as the gangplank is lowered

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DAN’S ADRIATIC ISLAND ESSENTIALS Madison Flux jersey £34.99 Long sleeves keep sunburn and scratches at bay and a loose but not overly baggy cut mean this jersey is comfortable in the heat. Mavic tyre sealant £8.50 Most hot, rocky islands are covered in angry thorn bushes. Going tubeless frees up your ride from those pesky punctures, but carry a spare tube for the inevitable rim dent. Chamois Butt’r £12.99 Long, hot days in the saddle can bring with them some unpleasant chafing. A liberal lube of the nether regions helps keep saddle sores away. It’s the roadies’ secret weapon. Madison Mission glasses £69.99 With three different shades of pinsharp Zeiss lenses to choose from the Missions are do-it-all eyewear. Seven iDP Flex knee pads £59.99 These enduro-orientated pads with hardshell caps deliver generous protection, stay in place when pedalling and aren’t too hot.

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Most Wanted Bikes & kit We headed to the world’s biggest bike show to bring you the hottest bikes, bits and trends for 2017… Words Robin Weaver Pics Dan Milner

Rocky Mountain Slayer 790 MSL We couldn’t wait to see the new Slayer in the flesh – or carbon, should we say? And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Taking design cues from Rocky Mountain’s Maiden DH bike, the latest Slayer’s smooth flowing lines, discreet pivots, Smoothwall Carbon C13 frame and droolworthy spec sheet could well make

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it one of next year’s most desirable bikes. It has 165mm (6.5in) of rear wheel travel, and 170mm (6.7in) of travel up front. Geometry can be tuned with Rocky’s Ride-4 system, via the chip on the lowermost shock mount. This can alter the head and seat angles by around one degree, and change the bottom bracket

height by 15mm. The top-flight Slayer 790 MSL boasts some seriously fancy kit, including Kashima-coated suspension units from Fox, Shimano XTR gearing and Shimano Saint brakes. There are three other models to choose from, all of which are available in sizes small through to XL.

KS LEV Circuit The LEV Circuit combines KS’s established air and oil cartridge with a wirelessly operated battery-powered actuator on the seatpost, and a Bluetooth remote. The battery itself sits at the base of the post, meaning you’ll need to remove the whole shebang from the bike in order to charge it via its USB 2.0 port. It’ll be available in 30.9mm or 31.6mm diameter with 125mm or 150mm drops. Pricing is still to be confirmed.

Formula Selva The Selva fork will work with just about every wheel size on the market and delivers 120-160mm of travel in the standard version, or 170-180mm in the extended version. It’s the Selva’s CTS (Compression Tuning System) that really intrigues us here. Formula offer the Selva with three different valve heads which will alter the overall compression (soft, medium and firm) and are, according to Formula, dead easy to swap between.

LOOK OUT FOR! The Shimano Di2 compatibility

Five Ten Hellcat Pro Greg Minnaar is a man who knows what he’s talking about. After all, he’s won the most (men’s) World Cups ever. Greg was instrumental in the development of the new Hellcat Pro. It has a new sole, which should be stiffer under pedalling but also offer a touch

more toe flex for improved walking, while the tread now uses Five Ten’s more durable C4 rubber compound. The uppers get a wraparound plastic toe guard and the strap looks closer to that used on the Impact VXi CL.

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Endura MT500 lid The Scottish brand has added another helmet to their range in the shape of the MT500 lid. In a bid to boost protection, Endura have used a layer of 3D formed Koroyd (the honeycomb-like structure). There’s also a goggle clip and an adjustable visor among other handy little features.

Cane creek Double Barrel Coil Inline This lighter, more compact version of the popular Double Barrel coil shock might not have a piggyback but it still gets twin-tube damping, oodles of adjustment and the highly acclaimed Climb Switch.

Giro Terraduro Mid If you were a fan of the old Terraduro shoe then this vesion will no doubt appeal. A raised ankle cuff improves protection and it also switches to laces, where a huge new lace flap should help keep the elements out that bit better too.

Sunn Kern LT Finest It’s so good to see Sunn properly back in the game again. Their latest Kern LT enduro bike offers up 160mm of travel and, as the name suggests, is adorned with some of the finest parts from SRAM, Mavic and Race Face. Interestingly, the top bike is the only model to come with a beautifully sculpted, super-stiff chainstay. Fingers crossed they’ll be available in the UK soon.


Devinci Marshall While plus bikes are still taking time to catch on, there was no shortage of them at the Eurobike show. Like Devinci’s new Marshall 27.5+ which sports 110mm of travel at the rear, and 120mm up front, using the Split Pivot suspension system. The Marshall comes with Race Face Æffect+ rims (40mm internal width) and Maxxis Chronical 3in tyres, plus some slack angles and adjustable geometry.

Adjustable geometry lets you raise the BB by 7mm

Orange Strange 135 This new prototype from Orange pumps out 135mm of rear wheel travel which is paired with a 140mm-travel fork up front. Both ends use the Boost hub standard and a wider spaced pivot for improved stiffness. It’s slack too with a claimed 66.5degree head angle and low 335mm bottom bracket. There’s a 150mm-travel prototype too.

LOOK OUT FOR! There’s no size small, just medium, large and XL

DMR VTWIN pedals At the centre of DMR’s new VTWIN pedal nestles the spring-loaded, SPD-compatible mechanism. This sits at an angle, leading edge raised, to help with clipping in, similar to what we’ve seen on Shimano’s caged pedals for a while. Tension can be easily adjusted but, more interestingly, so too can the contact between the pedal cage and the shoe. This is thanks to the nylon guards that sit at the front and rear of the platform. Using small shims, their height can be altered, which in turn will affect how the pedal supports your shoe. If you want maximum traction, DMR offer traction pins to replace the screws that anchor the nylon guards, and all for £130.

Liv Hail 1 Liv, Giant’s women-specific sister brand, certainly know a thing or two about producing great bikes. The Hail 1 is their latest hard-hitting trail bike, with 160mm of travel both the front and rear. The aluminium frame uses the same twin-link, highly acclaimed Maestro suspension

system as across the Giant range, with a RockShox Deluxe R shock complete with Trunnion mount taking care of the hits. Up front, a RockShox Lyrik RC Dual Position fork can be toggled down to 130mm of travel when tackling the climbs. It’s a solid spec for £3,099.

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Yeti SB5+ Turq This is an entirely new frame for Yeti, who weren’t keen on adapting any of their other models to simply accommodate the fatter plus tyres. Yeti claim the new SB5+ Turq frame weighs just 2.42kg, which is pretty impressive. The Boost rear triangle will accept up to 3in tyres, although complete bikes will ship with 2.8in Maxxis rubber. There’s

zero provision for a front mech, the bottom bracket is a press-fit number and the frame is available in medium, large and XL sizes. The top-end model comes equipped with SRAM’s 12-speed Eagle but there’s also cheaper Shimano build options available, or you can simply buy the frame.

e*thirteen TRS+ dropper post e*thirteen’s new dropper breaks tradition and doesn’t offer the ‘stop anywhere’ adjustment we’re becoming accustomed to. The TRS+ can be run fully extended at 150mm, then dropped and stopped at 110mm, 75mm or run fully dropped. Mechanical guts, including a coil negative spring plus a paddle-style remote, certainly make this appealing.

LOOK OUT FOR! More aggressively treaded tyres for the UK soon

Nicolai Argon-GLF Why GLF? It’s short for Geometron Low Fat. A slack 63-degree head angle, plump 2.8in tyres, steep seat angle and a serious amount of reach (the small frame has 435mm – that’s more than most medium trail bikes) mean this hardtail is going to be a beast in the hills. It’s all designed around a 160mm-travel fork too.

Leatt DBX 3.0 Enduro V2 helmet With enduro racing booming, it’s no real surprise to see more convertible helmets cropping up, such as the DBX 3.0 Enduro. Aside from the removable chin bar there are 18 massive vents, a magnetic closure plus it’s compatible with Leatt’s hands-free hydration kit. UK pricing is to be confirmed.

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Magura MT Trail Carbon brakes While running a smaller disc rotor at the rear is commonplace, running a smaller rear calliper isn’t. That’s not stopped Magura doing something a bit different with their MT Trail Carbon brakes. Magura have decided to use a beefier, more powerful four-piston front calliper paired with a lighter two-piston rear caliper. Then there’s the flashy carbon

lever, which helps reduce weight to a claimed 330g all in. Like all Magura brakes, the MT Trail Carbons use mineral oil and they are compatible with Shimano I-Spec and SRAM shifter mounts to help keep your bars looking clean and tidy. Now, the scary bit… a complete set of MT Trails will set you back a whopping £699.

Norco Optic Carbon 9.1 LOOK OUT FOR! The Quarq ShockWiz app is coming soon

Quarq ShockWiz SRAM obviously saw potential when they spotted the ShockWiz Kickstarter project and acquired the technology earlier this year. It is, in essence, a portable fork and shock tuning device. The little black box contains a pressure sensor and microprocessor that connects to the air spring by simply screwing on to the Schrader valve. It then

samples the air pressure within the fork or shock 100 times per second. This data is fed back into a smartphone app which can advise what changes you need to make to your settings, whether it be compression, rebound, spring rate or progression. Quarq still have some work to do on the system, so no release date yet.

The Optic is available in both wheel sizes and a variety of specs. We were particularly taken by the 29in version. At the rear there’s 110mm of travel which is matched to a 120mm-travel fork. It’s no surprise to see Boost axle spacing at both ends to maximise stiffness. This rather fancy high-end bike comes with Fox suspension and SRAM’s 1x12 Eagle X01.

ION Rascal Aside from looking cool, the Rascals boast raised inside ankle for better protection, a nifty strap system which is meant to properly lock your foot in place and a sole that’s grippy for walking but flat around the cleat pocket to prevent it interfering with pedals.

Cannondale Moterra The distinctly shaped Moterra is Cannondale’s take on what an e-MTB should look like, with a low-slung battery and motor thanks to the elaborately shaped alloy frame. Interestingly, the Moterra is one of just a few e-MTBs that will fit a water bottle cage. Aside from that, this 130mm-travel beast gets 2.8in plus tyres and Fox’s e-MTB ‘optimised’ 34 fork. There’s also a 160mm LT version available for riders after a bit more excitement.

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One bike to rule them all

And its ass kicking big brother

Now with 130mm of travel and 29 or 27.5+ wheels, Fuel EX is your everyday, everywhere bike.

Not to be outdone, Remedy has been redesigned as a 150mm hard-charging, up-for-anything bike.





With trails and scenery like this enduro riding doesn’t get much better

In just four short years the ’Ard Rock Enduro has cemented itself as a must-do event for British mountain bikers, and this year’s race sold out in less than 10 minutes. bring on the best of yorkshire…

t’s late Saturday afternoon at the ’Ard Rock Enduro and we’re sat atop Fremlington Edge in the Yorkshire Dales, hands gripping the bars, waiting to drop into the final race stage of the day. The view is spectacular. Above us, the sun is illuminating the valley with golden light and below us is a mosaic of undulating fields framed by stone walls and craggy outcrops. It’s just possible to see the parallel lines of course tape winding their way into the distance, guiding us, via three intense minutes of riding, to the race finish. Before we’ve had too much time to think about the cold pints that await us at the campsite, we’re lining up at the start gate and need to concentrate our minds on the rock-strewn singletrack and flat grassy turns that lie ahead. We’ve arrived here at the back end of a 45km ride, knackered from a day spent beneath the blazing sun and our legs heavy from long climbs and all-out sprints. At this point we don’t know how we’re positioned in the results, so it’s no time to let our minds wander. We’ve got to focus for one last run, finding the fine line What other race is it okay between riding flat out and holding it together, to stop off for a quick pint? which is the holy grail of racing. However much we talked it down in the lead-up to the race, secretly we all want to beat each other and, of course, there’s office pride at stake! After a clichéd fist bump, the three of us from MBUK drop in and in turn disappear over the horizon.

Pint and packet of crisps What the ’Ard Rock manages to do so well is find that perfect balance of competitiveness and fun – it’s a race for people who don’t like racing. The ever-growing popularity of mountain biking means that racing gets more serious with each year. Gone are the days where you can turn up, drink a few pints the night before and still pull a good result on the day. But that grassroots spirit of racing is what the ’Ard Rock has managed to rekindle. The only pressure is what you impose Great atmosphere against on yourself. Of course, at the front of the field a stunning backdrop the times are tight and the top guys are pushing it full gas, but you can make of it what you want. It’s really just a big day out in the hills with your mates, punctuated by timed downhill sections. Chatting and joking around on the transfer stages, it’s sometimes hard to get yourself into the racing mindset at the start line. This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s a pub halfway round the route. We arrived there to find a good chunk of the field sitting in the sun with a pint and a packet of crisps. It took one of the race marshals coming over to remind everyone that they’re midway through a race to stir them into action. After setting out from the tiny village of Fremlington, the ’Ard Rock takes you across the breadth of the Swaledale valley. With their intricate local knowledge, Joe Rafferty and his team put together a route that opens up normally inaccessible terrain. . Clever positioning of course markers turns the undulating grassy fields into racetracks, with flat-out turns and off-cambers to test your tyres and cornering confidence. You ride a large part of the course blind, which throws another challenge into the mix. It calls for some splitsecond decision making, as often you’ll come over a crest and be faced with the choice of pulling up for a ballsy double-up, or gripping the bars and bracing

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Cold ’Ard Facts What is the ’Ard Rock? It’s an enduro race comprising five timed stages spread across the ruggedly beautiful Swaledale valley in North Yorkshire, much of it on privately owned land you can’t ride on any other time. This year the loop was 45km long with 1,440m of climbing and descending over the course of the day. There was a total of 2,214 finishers across the weekend. The fastest time of the day was 15mins 1sec by Welsh enduro racer Leigh Johnson. The race starts and finishes in Fremlington at the Dales Bike Centre. If you want to explore the Dales outside of the race, then there are loads of mapped rides starting from the centre. There’s also a cafe, bike shop and luxury bunkhouse on site. www.dalesbike

Up for the challenge? There are three races to choose from: the main enduro on Saturday, a Sunday race on the same course for less competitive riders, and the sprint, which races on only three stages of the full course. Next year’s race is 4-6 August 2017. Entries open 28 October 6.30am. Make sure you’re waiting, keyboard at the ready. www.ardrock

Our Jimmer getting his roost on down the brand new stage two, which was killer

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How not to race the Rock Don’t bother with that training nonsense. It’s much less effort to train vicariously, watching Richie Rude and the other EWS pros via your screen. Race winner Leigh Johnson, with the ’Ard Rock campsite below

for a hard compression. At the bottom of the final stage we reconvene, happy to have made it through the day unscathed. We’ve had our fair share of crashes and mechanicals but it’s been a helluva day out. Rolling back into camp, the beer is flowing, a band is playing, the rodeo bull is bucking and everyone is sat around on hay bales, recounting their exploits. The queue at the bar is building and the pizza van is firing out pizzas as fast as they can throw the cheese on, refuelling the dirty, hungry, happy competitors. Stories fly around of out-of-control moments, burning lungs, near misses with sheep, tumbles through the rocks and punctures… lots of punctures. Each person has a different story to tell, but everyone has one thing in common – the width of the grin on their faces. One of the great things that strikes us about the event is its inclusivity. There aren’t many races where you’ll get pros and beginners brushing shoulders on the same course. We did see a few first-timers pushing their bikes down the steep sections, lamenting their decision to tackle the race, but we’re sure that afterwards those feelings would have turned into a sense of achievement.


It’s not called the ’Ard Rock for nothing…

mbuk at the 'ard rock Ed Thomsett, Staff Writer

James Blackwell, Art Editor

Seb Stott, Technical writer

“Despite being a North Yorkshire native, this was my first time at the ’Ard Rock. Even though a couple of crashes and mechanicals did away with my hopes of a good result, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face and I was savouring the chance to ride race tracks so completely different from the norm.”

“Again the ’Ard Rock delivered the goods. The weather was amazing, the trails even better than last year (especially the brand new stage two) and the vibe in the event village was pumping. I had some altercations with rocks on practice day, but come race day I fared pretty well in my category, nailed all my lines, didn’t crash and had the best day’s riding on some of the best trails I’ll ride all year.

“This was my second successive year racing the ‘Ard Rock, and it somehow worked out even better than last time! The sun shone on us, the atmosphere was friendly, and the racing was flat-out fun. I rode a 29er Mojo/Nicolai Geometron, which was nigh on perfect for the race, taking me to 10th overall. Pleased with that!”

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Bike maintenance is boring; your bike will be able to handle it just fine as it is, right? Definitely drink plenty of beer the night before. Pretty sure it’s carb loading… Let your tyres down a bit for some extra grip. Yorkshire’s not that rocky, is it? Don’t bother taking any spares, it’s not likely to be you who has a mechanical. Eating’s cheating. Cereal bars and energy gels are only going to weigh you down. Go a s fast as you can. Give it death into the first blind corner and hope for the best. If there are no race marshals around, cut inside the poles. It makes the corners way easier and saves time. If overtaking mid stage, yell abuse to let them know you’re there, until you find a spot where you can elbow them off the track.

Festival spirit It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the festival atmosphere. At the end of the day the ’Ard Rock is a bike race, but it’s unique in recreating a festival vibe missing from the sport since the days of the Malvern Classic in the early 90s. After the initial buzz of completing the race, the fact that we’ve been racing all day catches up with us later. Suddenly the prospect of climbing into a sleeping bag seems very appealing, and one by one we skulk off to our tents. The weekend has been a blast and we’re already looking forward to next year.

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Cedric Gracia may be off the World Cup scene but he isn’t slowing down just yet. We catch up with the legend to see what he’s up to… Words Ed Thomsett Pics Andy Lloyd

rying to hang on to a pro rider’s back wheel is guaranteed to put you firmly outside your comfort zone, and today we don’t stand a chance. We’re at the Vallnord Bike Park in Andorra, doing our best to keep up with Cedric Gracia, the legendary, flamboyant (some might say crazy), race-winning Frenchman who now calls the tiny Pyrenean principality home. Chasing him down the trail, we can just make out a patch on the back of his shorts that reads ‘Semi Retired’. The next second, with a flick of his back wheel, he disappears round a corner in a cloud of dust and we’re left for dead. This isn’t how any other semi-retired person I know rides, but then Gracia isn’t just anyone, he’s one of the fastest and most charismatic riders to ever swing a leg over a bike.

We catch up back at the ski lift, blinking the dust out of our eyes. On the way up for another run, Cedric gesticulates enthusiastically and points out features of the peaks that surround us – the amazing ridgeline descents and enduro routes plus, of course, his favourite mountain-top spots for a mid-ride glass of wine. Andorra is his playground and he’s passionate about living here and wants everyone else to enjoy it too. Since retiring from full-time racing, Cedric’s been focusing much of his attention on turning Andorra into a mountain bike mecca. It was he who initially approached Vallnord about building a bike park and hosting a World Cup, and now it’s fast becoming one of Europe’s top riding destinations. However, Cedric’s got grander visions and wants to open up the whole valley for riding, and offer gnarly DH tracks, epic all-mountain descents and lots of beginner trails to get everyone involved. On our second run through the park we come across some first-timers on hire bikes. Cedric is straight in there, offering advice and doing his best to get them stoked on riding. This group all just happen to be young, attractive girls and, although he probably does this with everyone, we can’t help but smile, given Cedric’s reputation as a bit of a ladies’ man.

Vallnord hosted another World Cup round in September and Cedric told us about the new features for the downhill track, which he designed to impress and scare the world’s best riders. He paid almost as much attention to designing his bar at the bottom of the hill, the Podium Cafe Lounge, to make sure the post-race party antics exceeded the precedent set by last year’s debauchery. Behind the facade of the wild party animal, you can tell

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WHO IS CG? Although Cedric Gracia is first and foremost a racer, it’s his style and rock ’n’ roll attitude that’s won him favour with the fans. He appeared on the World Cup DH scene in 1995 and won the Junior World Champs that year. Since graduating to the Elite category, he’s won three World Cups and scored podium places in downhill, 4X and enduro. There’s no one else who’ll casually throw a suicide or a backflip mid-race and still go on to win.

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cedric gracia


How to ride and live it up like the French wildman… Pack your tricks bag Style out every jump, even in race runs. Staying low may be fast but, let’s be honest, boosting a big one-footed table looks way cooler. Going big will also get you noticed by the opposite sex, and what’s the point of putting it all on the line if you’re not even getting any action out of it?

Party on, dudes You should never be one to miss a party, even the night before a race. Hangover? Na, think of it as Dutch courage. A training tip from Cedric is to party hard and that way you know you’ll need to train even harder to work off the alcohol – seems to work for him.

Be the bad boy (in a good way) Pulling a one-footed table is classic Gracia-style showboating

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Get loose… all the time. You’re partying before the race, but you’ve got to go even harder afterwards. Prank people, get naked, get kicked out of bars – these are all good ways to get noticed by sponsors. Oh and if you get kicked out of too many bars, do what Cedric did and open your own.

Cedric’s a shrewd businessman. He knows the career of a pro downhiller is short and that there’ll always be fresh faces willing to lay it all on the line just that little bit more than the old guard. For this reason, he’s diversified his income streams and invested in Andorra. In addition to his bar in La Massana, he part-owns the town’s Probikeshop which, as well as being a place to buy parts and chat bikes, is like a monument to his racing career. A collection of his racing jerseys, plus frames and complete bikes, hang from the ceiling. Some are immaculate one-offs with custom paint jobs and others tell a story, bearing battle scars from races – it’s obvious Gracia’s a big part of the scene here.

In the hills above La Massana is Cedric’s lavish mansion, complete with a set of wrought iron gates displaying a massive ‘CG’ logo. Whether they’re out of vanity or just to assist the local postman, they probably helped Cedric find his way home after the monumental drinking session he had planned with Rob Roskopp, Peaty and the rest of the Syndicate at the World Cup! Not content with owning one of the most impressive ‘cribs’ in mountain biking, Cedric’s planning on building a second home further down the valley, alongside one for his father. He says that with the political unrest in France, his family have decided that Andorra is the place they want to settle. With such a relaxed way of life and surrounded by stunning riding, who can blame him? In addition to promoting the Andorran riding scene he’s helping out local bike companies. Production Privée are a two-man company that he helped kickstart who make a range of hardcore hardtails and innovative parts. And on top of everything else, he still races the EWS (Enduro World Series). Our day riding with Cedric confirmed that his signature ‘CG’ style is still as abundant as ever. On every jump, he was boosting higher than everyone else, throwing out one-foot tables and having as much fun as if it was his first time on a bike. Making the most of life while you can is what he’s all about. Although Cedric mightn’t be threatening the top step of the World Cup podium these days, he’s far from hanging up his SPDs just yet.


Here are some of our top CG moments, and some he’d probably rather forget …

The ‘no-skin’ skinsuit Between 1999 and 2002 Gracia rode for Volvo Cannondale. In 2001, at the Swiss World Cup round in Leysin, the team made him wear a muscle-patterned skinsuit, much to his disgust. If anyone could pull it off, it was Gracia, and he finished third on the day.

Fort William 2003 At his second Fort William World Cup, Gracia beat off the likes of Minnaar, Rennie and Pascal for the win. He then went on the celebrate in true CG style, back when it was compulsory for World Cup downhillers to back up their wins with an equally rowdy performance in the pub.

Red Bull Rampage 2003 After making his Rampage debut in 2002, Gracia returned to Utah, intent on bringing raw speed and racer style to the competition. He ended up taking the win, landing his first ever backflip during his winning run! He really is the original ‘freeracer’, winning races and styling it out in slopestyle events the same weekend.

Val di Sole 2012 During World Cup practice, Cedric lost control on a steep off-camber section. He broke his pelvis and femur and severed an artery. Over the next two days in hospital, he nearly died twice from blood loss.

La Réunion Island 2013

Cedric rules the roost…

Gracia was riding the Maxiavalanche race with a few friends when he had an OTB and severed his femoral artery. It was thanks to his friends’ medical knowledge that he’s still here today!

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With over two decades of riding experience, Rob knows what works and what doesn’t

With two liners it’s probably one of the most protective open face lids on the market


LOWS It looks pretty chunky on your head

We base our scores on value for money and performance

EXCEPTIONAL A genuine class leader

VERY GOOD One of the best you can buy




Our Kes’s relentless test schedule quickly exposes kit that doesn’t measure up

It’ll do the job and do it well

BELOW AVERAGE Flawed in some way



POOR Simply put, don’t bother!

Riding nearly as fast as he talks, Jimmer’s been testing kit for MBUK for over 13 years



The best product on test, in terms of performance, quality and price

Our in-house weirdy beardy likes long, hard rides and kit that challenges convention



An exceptional product for the money – you’re getting a fantastic deal

Always on the hunt for new technical challenges, Ed gives his kit some serious abuse



He may look meek and mild, but ex What Mountain Bike editor Jon is a real kit thrasher

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A truly outstanding product, regardless of price

6D ATB T1 helmet £159.99 When a new aggressive trail helmet lands in the office, it generally gets compared against our long-term favourite, the Troy Lee Designs A1. The 6D definitely is expensive but it ticks the style box with its aggressive shape that takes its influence from the company’s motocross background. These looks are not just for show though, because the helmet has been designed to offer maximum protection. The way it does this is via 6D’s unique Omni-Directional Suspension system. The helmet has two EPS liners, rather than the usual one, and elastomers between these separate your head from rotational forces in a crash. This isn’t noticeable when you’re wearing the helmet, which is only a tiny bit heavier than most trail lids. We can’t fault the fit and comfort either. Vision is also good, with an easy to position peak that’s flexible so shouldn’t snap in a crash. The strap closure uses a magnetic buckle, which we found intuitive to use. It must be said that it’s not the best vented helmet, but it’s no sweatier than its main rivals. Our only real gripe is how big it looks on your head. The double liner makes it stick out pretty far, but this is a purely aesthetic criticism and if it’s the solution to making a more protective helmet, then it should be a sacrifice we’re willing to make. Ed

While the looks or venting aren’t to everyone’s taste, the it, comfort and details are really impressive

Truvativ Descendant stem £54 This sturdy little number weighs in at just 143g for the 40mm sample we tested. The Descendants uses 4mm Allen bolts and the max torque setting for the 31.8mm bar clamp is etched into the stem to remind you. There’s also a centre marking to help line your bar up, providing of course you have markings on your bar too. Thanks in part to the 42mm stack height, the Descendant feels plenty stiff enough on the trail, even when paired with an 800mm bar, and it’s comparable in feel to heavier stems with similar dimensions. Rob



HIGHS Tough, accurate, super-responsive and very versatile performanceboosting wheels

LOWS Similar alloy and carbon wheels for less money

e*thirteen TRS Race Carbon 29er wheels £1,298 We’ve been hammering e*thirteen’s new carbon all-rounder wheels all year and they’ve proved an impressively durable and versatile performance upgrade. £1,300 is certainly not cheap, but it’s a lot less than you might expect to pay for a pair of carbon wheels from an aspirational brand like e*thirteen. The carbon rims are ‘only’ 27mm wide (internal) but they’ve got no hook to crimp the tyre inwards, so they effectively shape and support like a hooked 30mm rim. The unique two-piece e*thirteen tubeless valves are a sheer joy to fit – they screw together internally for a guaranteed secure seal, rather than making you fight with leaking external collars like every other valve out there. The smoothly curved pre-taped rim profile has inflated and sealed easily and instantly with every tyre brand we’ve tried and held firm even when we’ve been ripping them sideways at low pressures. And it’s not just the rims that are carbon

– the central drums of the massive hubs are too, keeping them usefully light despite their size and stiffness. The big hub flanges mean shorter, wider angled spokes for precise and surefooted cornering and tracking feel. An ultra-quick six-degree pick-up gives instantaneous power transfer through the fat hubs and short spokes that makes the wheels pop and accelerate as if they’re much lighter than their 1,800g (820g front, 980g rear) weight. The rim build and triple-butted spokes mean they’ve never felt jarring or stuttered over rocky terrain like some super-stiff wheels can. We’ve never had to touch the spoke tension or use any of the spare spokes supplied, and the rims themselves are still structurally rock solid despite a lot of cosmetic scuffs and scratches that show just how hard we’ve been riding them. The impressive structural performance of the e*thirteens is no surprise, but the great news is that their previously poor

mechanical reliability has been massively improved with new lipped V-seals, and a grease, rather than oil, lubed freehub. That means the bearings are still spinning sweetly even though other cosmetic bolts on the bike have rusted badly. They have a no-questions-asked oneyear bearing guarantee and a five-year materials and workmanship warranty if you do manage to find worse conditions than us. There are also 650b and 29er versions in either QR and 15x100mm and 12x135/142mm convertible or 110mm and 148mm Boost fit. Guy

A great balance of stiffness, accuracy and responsiveness with user-friendly practicality

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Fox Flexair DH LS jersey £60 As far as breathable, lightweight jerseys go, the Flexair DH is easily up there with the best of them. The soft material feels great against the skin, while the huge mesh panels that run up the sides and under the arm help to keep things cool and breezy when the temperature does rise. We do have a couple of minor niggles though. The lightweight material snags quite easily and the bonded cuffs have very little stretch in them, which means you can’t roll them up – and if you have big hands, it’s a squeeze to even get your hands through them. Still, the overall styling, cut and fit make the Flexair a pleasure to wear. Rob

USE Vyce stem £79.99 The Vyce is a beautiful looking, lightweight and uniquely designed stem. It does away with a conventional stem body in favour of an aluminium bracket and an expanding cam to secure the bars and fork steerer. We really wanted to like it, but unfortunately it was frustrating to use in practice. Fitting it compared to a conventional stem isn’t exactly straightforward, but our biggest gripe is with the adjustment. With only one bolt controlling steerer alignment and bar roll, we found that knocking the bars in a crash meant loosening off the whole stem and resetting everything from scratch. Equally, travelling with your bike can be more of a faff. The bolt’s position close to the bars makes it awkward to access and correctly torque (something we feel is important when there’s only one bolt), especially if using a multi-tool out on the trail. The deep 47mm stack height and zero rise also mean you need to be sure you’ve enough steerer tube showing to get your preferred bar height. While some riders will appreciate the light 118g weight, the Vyce’s complex installation and set-up feels like it adds complexity to a problem that already has a simple solution. Ed

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Fabric Scoop Flat Pro saddle £114.99 The Scoop comes in three profiles, four rail/base combinations and starts at £44.99. Our pricier Scoop Flat Pro uses a nylon base and carbon rails and tips the scales at a scant 190g. Fabric say their Shallow and Radius profiles offer more comfort, but we’ve had no issues using the Flat profile when banging out the miles. There’s still enough give through the base and cushion in the foam to alleviate any pressure points and even on really long climbs it was never particularly uncomfy, although the nose is quite shallow. The Scoop’s smooth curves and lack of sharp edges meant we never snagged our shorts either. Rob

USWE Airborne 9 hydration pack £109.99 Inside the main pocket of the Airborne 9 sits the three-litre bladder which, when full, can be pretty tricky to wiggle back into its zipped inner compartment. It also means you’re eating into your nine litres of storage. There are another two pockets, the bigger of which includes organising pouches, handy for stashing tools. USWE’s No Dancing Monkey harness buckles securely across the chest, and on the trail the pack was stable when fully laden. But as soon as the bladder was less than half full, the Airborne 9 would move around when tackling any kind of trail undulations. To stop this movement, we needed to cinch the straps up really tight, something you can feel across your chest especially when breathing hard. It also sits the pack up high on your back, which not everyone will find comfortable. Rob

HIGHS Durable, high value steel construction, conventional freehub fit

LOWS Occasional gear grumble, steel weight

SunRace MX8 cassette £64.99 SunRace’s MX8 is a very durable, high value, wide-range 11-speed cassette. Conventional Shimano or SRAM freehub and lockring fitment (rather than XD standard) mean an 11-tooth minimum with 40, 42 and 46t (tested here) bottom gear. At 418 per cent it gives an almost identical gear range to SRAM’s 420 per cent 10-42t cassettes, but with a lower ratio crawler gear and less top end for a given chainring size. The bigger cog can require a longer chain so checking chain length and mech cage angle at full travel is essential. It did fit OK on our Evil test bike without extra links and a few turns of the B-tension screw to increase top jockey wheel clearance, but an extended mech hanger is a wise addition for most systems. While it growled noticeably in the bottom cog when new, some lube and a couple of big days out sorted it, now it only grumbles slightly in ninth gear. Shifting is prompt, quiet and predictable in both directions and the steel sprockets are impressively durable, which boosts already good value. An alloy big cog and red anodised spiders supporting the seven largest cogs mean its 473g weight is lighter than the £68 SRAM NX (545g) but heavier than the £115 SRAM GX (327g). Guy

Durable, affordable alternative to the usual wide-range cog collection options

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Troy Lee Designs Ruckus gloves £34.99

HIGHS Increased outer palm comfort

LOWS Reduced support and feedback, excessive expensive fitting faff

WTB PadLoc Thinline grips £22 We hate grips slipping round and it seems like WTB have a particular problem with it happening. The PadLoc grips have a standard inboard clamping collar and a hard sleeve beneath the grip rubber. The outboard end of the sleeve slopes down diagonally, syncing with a similar cut on the bar you’re teaming them with (they’re on a Truvativ BooBar here but you can trim any bar down). Presuming you’ve cut them accurately, it’ll stop the grip rotating even if the inboard collar comes loose. It also leaves space for a deep, softcompound wedge on the outside top of the bar. This is specifically designed to reduce pressure on the nerves at the edge of your palm to increase comfort, and to be fair they are a comfortable grip for cruising. They also come in Commander, fat Clydesdale and centrebulged Ace models in different colours. The soft outer portion of the grip means your hand can roll and slip outwards under hard cornering loads though, reducing feedback and confidence when you need it most. You (or your local shop) will also need a Park SG72 saw guide (£44.99) and specific SGI-7 PadLoc cutting insert (£9.99) to cut down your handlebar accurately. Guy

Softer on your palms, but reduced support and a very complex solution to a simple problem

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Thule ProRide 598 roof rack £99.99 This rack sets the benchmark when it comes to transporting your bike. The alloy beam fits easily to roof bars with the modern T-Track system, but also fits older bars with an adapter. The biggest changes Thule have made to this rack are the contact points. The main frame clamp has soft pads in the jaws to prevent frame damage and give a much stronger hold. Overtightening is a thing of the past thanks to an easily reachable torque-limiting dial at the base of the arm. The clamp also has a barrel lock to prevent opportunist thieves. The wheel trays use a diagonal ratchet strap that keeps the wheel straighter and gives a much tighter hold. The raised far edge makes it easy to locate the wheel in the tray, which is now much larger than before. The ProRide will happily take any wheel and tyre size, and there’s a fatbike adapter too. Its features put this rack head and shoulders above any other we have used and justifies the price. Matt

There’s a lot going on with the Ruckus gloves. Light TPR armour covers the two outside knuckles, the index and middle fingers get a patch of silicone print for improved brake lever traction, the index finger has touchscreen compatibility, a reinforcing patch runs across the base of the fingers and there’s some serious padding at the outer edge of the palm. We were worried that both the chunky padding – which initially feels quite stiff – and additional layer on the palm would hinder the feel through the gloves, but it went almost entirely unnoticed whenever we were riding. While the Ruckus might not be the super-breathable, second skin kind of glove that we tend to prefer, the fit is pretty good and the extra protection along with many features mean you feel you’re getting your money’s worth. Rob

HIGHS Super secure, even when fully laden

LOWS Only good for short rides due to limited water storage

Mavic Crossride belt £45 The Mavic Crossride belt is all about simplicity, stability, comfort and freedom of movement. It’s designed for shorter rides where you only need to carry the essentials. Thanks to the lightweight 210D nylon construction, it is durable and water resistant. The belt’s preshaping contours your lower back, while the thick, channelled padding adds comfort without getting too hot. The large buckle attaches to an elasticated section of the waist strap so you can really cinch it in. When it comes to storage, it is seriously well designed. We managed to squeeze a 650b tube, wallet, iPhone, and a small pump in the easy access zip pockets, as well as two tyre levers and small multi-tool in the pocket next to the bottle slot. There’s even an elasticated pouch to stash snacks in. The bottle compartment sits diagonally to house the triangular 600ml bottle that’s designed to sit flat against your back. We were really impressed by how well the Crossride stays put, even on rough trails. The belt is designed to integrate with the Mavic Crossride shorts, which have a higher waisted rear and belt loops to improve stability further. Jamer

An extremely well thought-out way to carry your essentials without getting a sweaty back

Lezyne SV11 multi-tool £43.99 We’ve always got on well with the solidly built, high quality Lezyne multi-tools and the SV11 is no different. All the essentials are covered here, including seven Allen keys from 2-8mm, T25 and T30 Torx keys, a small flat-head screwdriver and a chain breaker. Thanks to the 63x43mm body, it’s easy enough to get some decent torque down through the bits when working on particularly stubborn bolts. Although the tab on the chain tool isn’t the easiest to grip – especially when you’re wearing gloves – it’ll still get the job done when it counts. Our only minor niggle is that the 2mm and 2.5mm Allen keys are L-shaped, which can make them more fiddly to use than they ought to be. Rob

Topeak Joe Blow Dualie £47.99 The Dualie is a high-volume track pump specified for mountain bikers, who don’t need the higher pressures that roadies require. The high-volume alloy shaft got a 2.4in tyre up to 25psi in just 14 strokes. While the shaft is oversized, the long hose isn’t, and while the pump is bedding in, it can feel quite stiff and slow to use – so if you need a quick blast of air to inflate tubeless tyres, you might want to look elsewhere. The two large base-mounted gauges are easy to read – one shows up to 30psi and the other 80psi. The smaller ranged one should cover most bases, so a single, slightly wider range dial would probably be the optimum for mountain bikers. Topeak’s construction is spot on. The wide rubberized handle gives lots of grip and the plastic base plate is wide enough to give plenty of stability, while the head is ready to plug straight on to either Presta and Schrader valves. Tom

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Specialized Grail gloves £35 IXS XACT full face helmet £119.99 The XACT may look nearly identical to its pricier brother, the XULT, but its moulded ABS shell and lack of Xmatter foam help keep the cost down. Look more closely and you’ll see it’s missing some of the little details too, like the mesh over the vents, which are smaller by comparison. On the plus side, it does use our preferred double D-ring closure and EPR (emergency pad release) system. Also, the XACT feels a lot like its more expensive counterpart on the trail in terms of fit and comfort, yet we prefer the XACT’s shorter peak, which goes totally unnoticed when riding. IXS boast that the XACT uses the Vortex in-moulded ventilation system, but it still heated up pretty fast and didn’t feel quite as airy as the XULT, even if it is 70g lighter at 1,100g in M/L. Still, at this price we’d consider overlooking that. Rob

The Grail gloves are incredibly well shaped and properly hug your hands, both front and back, feeling more like a second skin than bulky glove. The stretchy mesh back is also incredibly smooth and feels totally unrestrictive, offering just the right amount of ventilation without letting your hands freeze on early morning autumnal rides. It’s a similar story with the stretchy cuff and perfectly proportioned fingers. In fact, there’s not really a lot to dislike here, with the exception of one thing. Grip the bar and the Body Geometry gel pad that sits slap bang in the middle of the palm is extremely hard to ignore. We tried and tried to forget it was there but that bulky pad just can’t be overlooked, and feels awkward on the bar, especially when the going gets technical and your grip tightens. Without it, we’ve no doubt that the Grail gloves would be some of our favourites. Rob

Giro Blok goggles £59.99 While the Bloks may not look like the fanciest goggles, they still tick a lot of boxes and do come with two lenses. The flexible frame and soft double-layer foam make them incredibly comfy, and even on sweaty days in the saddle we had no major issues with the lens fogging. The Bloks also fitted every lid we tried them with, and thanks to the silicone strips on the strap, we had no problem with them slipping either. While the clear lens is decent enough you do, on occasion, notice the squared off, angular nose bridge in the bottom of your view. Rob

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HIGHS Plenty of usable adjustment and some great, well considered features

LOWS Damping not quite as refined as on pricier options

SR Suntour Durolux R2C2 20QLC fork £604.99 If you want a fully featured long-travel fork but don’t want to sell a kidney, the all-new Durolux could be the answer. Not only is it hundreds of pounds cheaper than big-name rivals, but this R2C2 model offers more tuning and tweaking potential than any of them, with both high and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment from the sealed cartridge damper. The chassis uses 36mm stanchions – it’s super-stiff and tracks very precisely through gnarly terrain. But, at 2,360g it’s a fair bit heavier than a comparable RockShox Pike or Fox 36. Nice touches include a bolt-on mudguard and quickservice lube ports for oiling the seals. Adjustable high and low-speed rebound damping is probably overkill, but as a whole the adjustments are set within a usable range and make a noticeable

difference to performance. The fork offers plenty of support and never felt out of its depth even on really rowdy terrain. It’s not quite as supple and sensitive as the best on small bumps and can feel like it chokes slightly on repeated big hits, but that’s splitting hairs considering the price differential. The quick-release 20mm axle is pretty fiddly to use, with a tendency to get jammed in hubs. Still, at this price, it’s got an awful lot going for it. Jon

A solid fork with good, predictable damping and a lot of adjustment, very impressive at the price

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BEST A bright rear light that’s easy to charge will see you safely home 6 OF THE

Lezyne Strip Drive £29.99

Cateye Rapid X £36.99

Topeak Redlite Mini USB £29.99

SO GOOD... The Strip Drive fits securely via a chunky rubber strap that’s easy to use with gloves on, and its robust rubber exterior is weatherproof. With a claimed maximum output of 25 lumens and nine different light modes – three of which are constant – as well as well-sealed, cablefree USB charging, it offers a lot. NO GOOD... The chunky strap means it’s tricky to mount to the base of a dropper post if there’s not much showing from the frame. Side visibility isn’t quite as good as others here. For a tenner more, we’d choose the Strip Drive Pro.

SO GOOD... Cateye claim the Rapid X will pump out 50 lumens and, in the most economical flashing mode, last up to 30 hours, which is the second longest on test. Its long, curved design and dazzling flashing modes make it one of the most visible from the side too. The large button on the side is easy to use, even with thick winter gloves on. NO GOOD... The thin rubber mounting band only just makes it around a 31.6mm seatpost and proved fiddly to fit securely. And as the light is quite long, we tended to fix it to our seatstay instead.

SO GOOD... The Topeak is the smallest light on test and can easily be mounted to a bike, bag or helmet using the rubber strap or sturdy plastic clip supplied. Though there are just three modes to choose from, navigating them is easy using the chunky rubber button to toggle between them. The Redlite’s curved face offers good levels of side visibility too. NO GOOD... The single constant mode only dishes out a claimed 11 lumens for 2.2 hours so it needs recharging pretty regularly. That said, it does seem brighter than the numbers suggest.

Knog Blinder MOB Four Eyes £37.99

Blackburn Central 50 £34.99

Moon Comet-X Pro £30.99

SO GOOD... The standout feature of the Blackburn is that it claims to maintain a constant output of 50 lumens for three hours – pretty impressive. Operating the light is very easy as the face of the light itself is the switch. The large surface area means good side visibility and we like the way it clips securely to bike, bag or helmet with a robust clip that holds it proud of whatever you’re attaching it to. NO GOOD... It’s not cheap and with just three lighting modes and a maximum claimed run time of seven hours, it’ll need charging more frequently than some of the others here.

SO GOOD... The Moon offers the most options for mounting to your bike, bag, helmet, belt or even the underside of the saddle using a unique bracket. This means even though it’s long, it can be attached somewhere that’ll easily be seen. It has seven lighting modes, with a claimed maximum constant output of 40 lumens and 80 lumen bursts in ‘Day Flash’ mode, which lasts 19 hours. We’re big fans of the in-built safety feature that switches the light to a more economical flashing mode when the battery is nearly dead to ensure you get home safely. NO GOOD... It’s pretty hard to fault.

SO GOOD... The compact Knog comes in a robust rubber casing that claims to be 100 per cent waterproof. It includes three sizes of rubber band for fitting to your bike or helmet, and is secured by a small clasp that’s easy to use. It has five modes and a claimed maximum output of 44 lumens. In ‘Eco Flash’ mode, Knog claim the MOB is good for 53.3-66 hours. NO GOOD... The USB charger is integrated into the body of the light, and only covered by the small clasp. After any hint of a muddy ride you’ll need to clean this diligently before charging.

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D E Z I L 0 A I 0 C 5 , E 2 P £ S N S MATTO’ Y COMP CARBO FATB Matt uses his enforced time off the bike to give it some TLC I’ve been off the bike more than on it for the past month. After a spill a few weeks back I’ve been nursing a bit of a wrist sprain. With less time in the saddle there’s more time for fettling and fixing, though. After 10 months of maintenance-free riding I decided it was time for a full stripdown and inspection. The custom SunRace 11-40t cassette is showing signs of wear but should see me through until spring. Spesh’s stout XC hubs are still super-smooth. The lower headset bearing does need replacing. I’ve noticed that headset lowers don’t seem to last long on fatbikes, probably due to the sheer amount of crud and muck thrown

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up at them. To save your face and headset it’s worth investing in a decent mudguard like the Fathugger from Mudhugger. At £36 it isn’t cheap but gives much more protection than folding guards and should significantly extend your bearing’s lifespan. A new set of sintered pads is all that’s needed to spruce up the brakes. Considering they are humble Shimano Deore they have been faultless. I’ll admit that the main reason for sticking with them is that the fiddly internal routing would make it a faff to change. They may not be the first choice


HIGHS I’m back in the saddle after a really crappy wrist sprain After a good once-over all the bits ’n’ bobs are in great order

LOWS Don’t forget your frame bumpers!

for weight weenies but they have performed impeccably and would be the last component that I’d look to upgrade in the long run. The Maxxis Colossus tyres remain the best upgrade to date and are yet to puncture, even at pressures of 7-9psi. They strike a great balance between rolling resistance and grip, which is important for 4.8in rubber. Despite being a winter tyre it’s proving versatile for year-round riding. I noticed a bit of frame strike on the down tube from the Rockshox Bluto fork crown at extreme turn angles. Make sure you check your box for the included bumper guard. I didn’t and am now awaiting a replacement one from Specialized to prevent damaging the frame.



9 4 2 , 3 £ 1 5 . 7 ED 2 C N A V D A THEM MY MONTH

The Anthem’s been letting Al pedal longer and harder The Anthem just loves plugging on and on. I’ve been clocking up some longer rides recently and can’t get enough of those fireroad and bridleway climbs. When I’m hitting up mega XC loops around my home county of Dorset (think our Seatown Big Ride loop in issue 332, times five), the bike really comes into its own. Churned up and sun-dried bridleways are consumed by its 100mm of rear suspension. That’s not something you’d normally say for a bike with this amount of travel, but that’s the magic of the Anthem – it’s in its element on long XC adventures but doesn’t feel out of its depth even if you find some gnarly cliff edges.

You can even huck it (albeit while wincing slightly). The frame isn’t the only resilient part of the bike – the stock build has fared well too. I’ve only changed the saddle, stem and grips and added a POWA DFender mudguard, and so far the bearings haven’t needed any attention. There’s just one thing I feel this bike could do with – bigger wheels. Giant used to make a 29er Anthem X but it looks to have been discontinued. This is a shame. If they could combine the speed and agility of this bike with the improved rollover and traction of 29in wheels, it would be even better.

HIGHS Clocking up the miles on epic coastal paths A maintenancefree bike

LOWS Al’s longing for bigger wheels on this XC machine

GE N A R O S ’ R JIMMERO £2,800 FIVE P It’s back to familiar rubber After last month’s ’Ard Rock Enduro, I’ve needed to swap the rear Maxxis Tomahawk tyre back to the original High Roller II. It’s fair to say dusty and dry conditions aren’t its forte. With the familiar grip of the High Roller II out back it’s been a great finish to a damn good summer. I’ve changed nowt else, as unfortunately my time with the Five is nearing its end, and it really doesn’t need it. That said I’ll be riding it as much as possible into the ensuing shitty weather with as much excitement as the first time I rode it.

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Y H W S ’ W C J

99 2 , 2 £ R C S T E T 12 9

The Whyte’s been getting JCW out of some scrapes this month The T-129 really is incredibly capable for a bike with so little travel (120mm). Since I stumbled across a new DH track in my local woods, I’ve been hitting it on a regular basis, but a wrong turn can leave you pinballing down a steep, rocky chute. What the Whyte lacks in travel it makes up for in geometry, and the stiff chassis of the RockShox Yari fork means that once you’ve spotted

a line through the chaos you can just point and shoot, keeping light on the pedals to skim over the worst of the rocks and relying on the bike’s length and slack head angle to see you through safely. Phew. It did feel slightly out of place at the jump and berm-riddled FlyUp 417 Project, where I like to think its big wheels and sheer length counted against it. I’ve fitted one of Fabric’s cageless

DA L E N O N N A C ROB’S 2 £3,499.99 H A BIT I’ve been having a lot of fun aboard the Habit. While it sports just 120mm of travel, it’s proven to be just about enough to handle everything on my local loop, which includes fast, rough and rooty singletrack. Kit wise, nothing’s changed lately. It’s holding up well enough though I’m yet to bleed the shock remote and the cranks look pretty secondhand now. One issue I am having is keeping air in the tyres. Even just a week between rides and they’ll go flat. My next job will be retaping the rims to try and seal a little better.

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water bottles. The design works well but on this frame the proximity of the rear shock makes it tricky to push the bottle back onto its special studs and too easy to knock the shock into ‘pedal’ mode without noticing. I’m still running mismatched grips – they both feel good, so I’m not sure which one to stick with.

nly) L THE GUY’SWEVINI G £2,699 (frame o FOLLO After a seriously hard summer of hammer it’s time for some changes. A new QR rear axle will hopefully sort the linkage bolt loosening I had after the ’Ard Rock Enduro and I’ve switched to a more cable-friendly under-bar remote on the Race Face Turbine dropper. I’ve got a fresh e*thirteen TRSR crank to fit, but I’ve had no issues with the TRS carbon wheels (see review on page 91). For testing purposes, I’ve switched to the latest 30mm DT EX1501 Spline wheels, with SunRace’s latest widerange cassette fitted.

SOM ED’S VI.9T9US £2,849

It may not have much travel but the long and slack Whyte is just the ticket when you find yourself off track and out of your depth

LOWS Big wheels and an even bigger wheelbase can make it a bit of a handful on tracks filled with jumps and berms – though it worked surprisingly well on the 417 pump track


This month I’ve treated the Vitus to a Ridge Components carbon wheelset, which matches the carbon frame nicely. It’s my first time on composite wheels and I can see what all the hype is about – they’re much stiffer and the bike is rolling super-fast. The other benefit is increased cornering traction, thanks to the 30mm width of the rims. Look out for a full review soon, once I’ve done my best trying to destroy them with some sideways landers! The rest of the bike remains unchanged, as it’s all working as it should.



Image © 2016 Specialized Bicycle Components. All Rights Reserved.


DIFFERENT STROKES Is pivot position or geometry and overall suspension performance most important on these cutting-edge examples of four classic suspension layouts? 106 Mountain Biking UK

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OUR RATINGS We base our scores on value for money and performance

EXCEPTIONAL A genuine class leader

VERY GOOD One of the best you can buy

GOOD It’ll do the job and do it well

BELOW AVERAGE Flawed in some way

POOR Simply put, don’t bother!

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he way the rear wheel interacts with the rest of a suspension bike in terms of pivots, linkages and the wheel paths they create used to be the dominant part of any performance discussion. Inevitably that meant a ton of marketing claims, as well as a vast range of patents to protect each manufacturer’s secret suspension recipe. More patents meant more diverse designs to get around them, and more potential confusion for bike buyers. The way the rear wheel moves in relation to bumps, pedalling forces and the rest of the bike, as well as what leverages and rate curves the shock has to work with, are only a part of the bigger performance picture. So how much difference do different suspension systems really make? How much overlap is there in performance if you start playing around with shock tunes? Can a theoretically primitive system


actually be a great way to interact with the trail? Can some systems be too complicated for their own good? What implications do suspension systems create in terms of chassis design, durability, tyre clearance, set-up and overall ride character. To keep things even in suspension feel we’ve used four bikes with between 140 and 150mm of travel running on 650b wheels. We’ve got a wide range of frame materials though, including both hydroformed and hand-folded aluminium alloy, carbon fibre and even steel. There’s a broad spread of geometry from the conservative to the radical and suspension units from RockShox, Fox, X-Fusion and Cane Creek. We’ve hammered them all round the same brutal boulder runs, loose bends and senders of Stainburn trail centre and other trails to find out how they perform in every situation and which bike – not just suspension system – will suit you best.




Guy has been testing bikes since suspension systems looked more like anglepoise lamps or the hinge of a folding bike. The reliability, control and stiffness of the suspension set-ups and the frames have improved massively over two decades and they’re still getting better. That means Kes and his team of northern testers had to push these 2017 bikes even harder and dig deeper into the tech than ever before to bring you trail-based test results you can totally rely on.


JUMPER,000 P M U T S D E 3 SPECIAMLIPZ CARBON 650B £ FSR CO Specialized held and fiercely defended the patent for Horst Leitner’s four-bar suspension layout for decades. Even now the patent has lapsed it’s still the kinematic keystone of all their suspension bikes. The Stumpjumper Carbon Comp




is a well proven all-round trail machine available in a wide range of wheel sizes. Do unique suspension set-up and internal storage features help this naturally neutral machine defeat more dynamic-riding bikes though?

CO twin-linkage Zero suspension system. Both innovations created the perfect 1, 2, 3 podium for Mondraker at the DH World Championships, but can the same elements put them on the top step on the trail too?


The earliest suspension bikes generally used a single pivot point with the shock mounted directly between the swingarm and the mainframe, and that’s still the layout used by Orange. Their latest Five has a tweaked pivot and


Mondraker’s radical long top tube, super-short stem Forward Geometry concept is the stand-out feature of their Foxy trail bike. Crouched low and centrally between the split seat tube and ‘basket’ of the Foxy frame sits their



shock position, a new frame to save a chunk of weight and its overall geometry is altered too. So can competitively priced and upgradable build options help prove this outwardly simple design is actually the smartest of all?


If a bike doesn’t have a second pivot on the swingarm between the wheel and the mainframe, you can still do a lot to affect shock behaviour and suspension character by using a seatstay pivot and/ or separate shock-driving

linkage. That’s exactly what Cotic have done with their ‘Droplink’-actuated, 150mm travel hardcore hellraiser. It also has a Reynolds steel frame, but can this ferrous flyer iron out the trail as well as the competition?

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DETAILS SWAT TEAM The removable panel under the bottle cage reveals a ton of internal storage space complete with custom bags to stop your bits rattling out of sight NICE ’N’ NEUTRAL Specialized’s chainstay pivot and fourth shock-driving Horst Link suspension set-up give a naturally pedal and brakeneutral performance SLAYER TYRES Specialized Butcher and Slaughter Grid tyres are some of our favourites, but low spoke count makes the wheels flexy

R E P M U J P M U T S D E Z I B L 0 A 5 I 6 C E N P O S OM P CA R B FSR C £3,000 Spesh’s latest Stumpy is a feature-loaded smoothie pecialized’s Stumpjumper FSR Comp Carbon family covers every possible modern trail bike base, including 29er and plus versions, but it’s a conventional cruiser rather than a radical charger.


The frame A mid-range composite front end is mated to an M5 alloy back end, and the down tube features Specialized’s unique SWAT internal storage hatch under the bottle cage. The RockShox Monarch RT shock gets a bespoke ‘Rx Trail Tune’ and ‘Autosag’ side valve for easy set-up of the 150mm stroke. The rear of the shock uses a custom cradle to connect to the shock driver yoke, which in turn connects to the U-shaped linkage of Specialized’s FSR kinematic. A curved seat tube and 148mm wide

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Boost rear hub allow super-short asymmetric chainstays, and gear and dropper post cables are all routed internally. The down tube sports a big protective plate in front of the PF30 bottom bracket shell and there are also chain guide mounts.

The kit The tight grip of the SRAM GX rear mech and Race Face direct-mount chainring meant we never felt the need for a chain guide, though. The RockShox Yari RC fork is a seriously tough unit, while the Specialized Butcher and Slaughter tyres get reinforced Grid casings. The 200mm front rotor on the size L and XL bikes amplify power of the SRAM Guide R brakes. Specialized’s bar and stem suit the trail character and the own-brand dropper is reliable, if eye-wateringly rapid in action. Specialized’s 29mm internal width wheels add tyre volume, but reduced spoke count affects stiffness.

JARGON AUTOSAG Specialized’s unique secondary valve system that automatically sets the air pressure of the rear shock. KINEMATIC The arrangement of pivots and linkages in a suspension system and how they interact.

The ride While the Autosag shock drops you into the right sag spot in percentage terms, the RX Tune is very keen to push through its travel. That meant we soon added air pressure and volume-reducing bands to the Monarch shock body to increase support. It’s still a very mobile ride under pedalling, though – it could use an additional low-speed compression damping setting between the fully open or almost locked options of the RT lever. With the carbon mainframe, oversized bottom bracket, stiff Boost rear end and semi slick tread on the Slaughter rear tyre we were expecting prompt acceleration and easy momentum maintenance. But it’s not significantly lighter than the other bikes on test and wattage wasted by the soft rear end meant it struggled in power play situations. While the 67-degree head angle and 620mm top tube look good

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on paper, the Stumpy felt more compact and prone to stumble in aggressive turns than the other, longer wheelbased, bikes. Even the stout 35mm legged, Boost width Yari fork can’t add sharpness to the manners of the heavy but flexy front wheel. When we tried to bully the front end out of understeer situations or drag it in to an apex it felt vague rather than visceral. While ragged-edge riding might not be its forte, there’s still a lot for less radical riders to like about the Stumpjumper. The relatively conventional geometry doesn’t feel as initially intimidating as the stretched and slack-angled bikes here if you’re used to an older bike, and the shorter wheelbase and back end make it easier to steer through tight, slow speed singletrack. The Autosag feature takes the guesswork out of shock set-up, and the linear shock character and very little chain influence on the

Naturally neutral, well balanced and supersmooth ride Sorted trail spec at a good price Unique easy shock set-up and internal storage

LOWS Heavy, twangy wheels and soft suspension sap responsiveness and short wheelbase undermines flat-out stability

suspension action leaves the rear wheel to roll up and over roots and rocks with consistent connection so you don’t need to manage technical terrain traction yourself. The long negative spring in the Yari fork means an equally smooth ride up front and the tubeless-ready wheels and tyres add more potential float. There’s the option to add even more float by choosing the plustyred Stumpjumper 6Fatty or get a faster rolling, more stable ride from the 29er model. They’re both still short and nimble, so if you want a more radical feel try the new Enduro.

Super smooth with user friendly features but softfocused rather than responsive when pushed

FOR A LITTLE MORE Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 650b £4,000 The same chassis has the far lighter RockShox Pike RC fork, Monarch RT3, not RT, shock and Roval Traverse wheels.

FOR A LITTLE LESS Stumpjumper FSR Comp 650b £2,200 The M5 alloy frameset has the same ride character as its semi-carbon siblings, and a Revelation fork helps save weight.

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DETAILS LONG AND SHORT Mondraker’s Forward Geometry is based around a super-long top tube and super-short 30mm stem SHOCK LOADED The Zero suspension system compresses the shock between the upper and lower linkages, isolating the mainframe and swingarm from direct loads and keeping weight low and central TWIN RING Foxy R reverts to a double chainset for 2017 but converting to a single direct-mount chainring is easy and the front mech fixtures are fully removable


R Y X O F R ONDR A K E £3,499 The Foxy is a radical, ef iciently tuned trail weapon ondraker haven’t altered the radical Forward Geometry of the Foxy for 2017, but it gets a stiffer frame, the latest Fox shocks and a dual-ring transmission for a visceral and versatile ride.


The frame The all-new frame uses a slimmer tubeset with a far less pronounced hump behind the head tube, and a 148mm wide Boost back end for increased stiffness. The Zero suspension system still works through the angular open-basket seat tube, compressing the shock between the two linkages rather than stressing the mainframe, and falls into the virtual pivot category. An external bottom bracket (BB) and external cable/brake hose routing keep servicing simple.

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The kit Mondraker have clearly got XC riding in mind with the decidedly European spec here. Fast rolling, big volume Maxxis Ardent semi-slick tyres gift easy speed whether you’re cruising or charging, and a double chainring plus wide-range cassette mean even the steepest climbs won’t beat you. The Fox 34 fork and Float shock are tuned for an efficiently firm rather than flowing action too.

The ride While longer, lower, slacker has been a universal mantra for geometry updates on most aggro bikes for several years, Mondraker’s Forward Geometry still has a unique feel. That’s because while the reach is massively long (45-60mm longer than the other bikes on test), the head angle is the steepest on test. Add the super-quick steering of the 30mm FG stem and a steep effective seat angle pushing you forward,

JARGON BOOST 110mm front and 148mm rear hub width that allows a wider stance spoke placement for a stiffer wheel. REACH The horizontal distance between vertical lines through the centre of the bottom bracket axle and the centre of the top of the head tube.

the initial sensation of stretched but nervy can be unsettling at first. In fact, whenever we jumped on to the Foxy from the other bikes it felt like it had a travel-adjust fork that someone had forgotten to re-extend. It doesn’t take long to realise that even while the steering might be more active and agitated, the superlong wheelbase gives it hugely stable handling. As sketchy moment trust rockets, the light steering comes into its own for micro-adjusting lines to milk as much traction out of the trail as possible. That’s a good job as the semi-slick tyres start sliding early, particularly on the front. The tightly controlled feel of the Fox suspension also gives a consistently firm edge to carve corners on and with bodyweight shunted forward it’s surprising how hard you can push the small side knobs before they start to slide out predictably. That short fork feel and steep seat angle do pitch you forward right

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into the thick of any impact action on rock heaps or speed-choking root spreads though. That conspicuously supportive mid-stroke means that even though you can force the travel indicator right off the rear shock – even when running cross-country levels of sag – it struggles to suck up blunt force trauma. That obviously impacts its ability to carry speed through staccato trail debris and the upper linkage bolts actually shook loose on a long downhill, although they stayed tight once reinstalled. If you’ve got the skill to pick the bike up and pump it through rollers and boulders or scythe round the upper lip of berms with the brakes open, then you can use its precision and rich feedback to skim maximum speed out of the trail. This confirms the Foxy R as a pilot- rather than passenger-oriented machine, but the adjustment period after hopping off the other bikes during testing was often filled with thoughts

Forward Geometry gives outstanding stability and quick steering Stiffer, lighter frame has external BB and cabling Pedalling efficiency and 2x11 gearing eat climbs with ease

LOWS Suspension tune undermines chaos control and 2x11 drivetrain adds weight

that the Foxy XR, with its longer travel fork, slacker head and more aggressive front tyre, would feel significantly better. While freehub pick-up is slightly slow and weight the highest on test, the Zero suspension is super- stable and efficient under the lumpiest pedalling onslaught. The Boost back end means the narrow stance lower linkage and open basket frame design don’t noticeably affect power transfer. Add fast tyres and it never struggled to run with the pack when the hammer went down or keep things easy when the trail went up.

Surefooted yet agile and ef icient trail bike but unforgiving suspension undermines con idence

FOR A LITTLE MORE Mondraker Foxy XR £3,699 The same frame has a 160mm Fox 36 fork, DT Swiss M1900 wheels, a single-ring and SRAM GX transmission and Guide R brakes.

FOR A LITTLE LESS Mondraker Foxy £2,599 The most affordable Foxy uses the same Stealth Zero frame with a RockShox Monarch RT damper and Revelation fork.

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DETAILS REAL STEEL The Reynolds 853 steel mainframe includes Cotic’s signature Ovalform top tube as well as a custom heat-treated seat tube to carry the 15mm linkage pivot axle RAMPED UP The Droplink suspension uses short pop-up linkages to give the simple swingarm wheel path a progressive shock rate SWEET VIBRATIONS There’s so much subtle damping from the suspension and frame that the fast rolling tyres grip like supertacky rubber

D L O G T E K C O R C I T O C £3,599 An unstoppable, super con ident steel grin machine

tuned right. Cables, hoses and bottom bracket are all external for easy maintenance and longevity.

heffield-based Cotic have expanded their ‘Droplink’ suspension range with the 130mm travel Flare and 29er/27.5+ wheeled ‘Max’ models, but their 650b Rocket is still an absolute glued-to-the-ground ripper.

The kit


The frame Cotic are one of the few designers using steel, with premium airhardened Reynolds 853 mainframe tubes and steel seatstays. The chainstays are alloy to allow the extensive shaping to fit the Boost rear end. Rear pivots on the seatstay mean the wheel follows a simple arc around the main pivot. The two Droplink arms on the subtly kinked seat tube create a progressive shock feel for plush traction but powerand-play ‘pop’ when the shock is

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Our bike was based around the midrange ‘Gold’ kit spec, well worth getting for the fork and shock. Cockpit and wheel pack were spot on, Shimano XT is noticeably stiffer in feel than SRAM shifting but the rear brake wasn’t totally consistent. Extensive kit upgrades and a custom build menu are available.

The ride The tubes might be thin and the fork narrow compared to 35mm-legged Boost units, but there’s no doubt the Rocket is a bike with serious trail presence and gravity swagger. You can really feel the difference in the way the steel frame and advanced dampers connect to the trail. There’s a palpable ‘stickiness’ in the way they mould around the smallest

JARGON AIR HARDENING Metal alloys that actually become stronger when air cooled after welding rather than needing water quenching to maintain their strength. LINEAR Suspension that has the same resistance to compression throughout its stroke (unlike progressive which gets firmer) so tends to use lots of travel.

surface bumps and suck the Rocket down on to the ground like a DH bike. The first turn shows this rich connection extends to the tyres – WTB’s ‘Fast Rolling’ compound and ‘Light’ carcass boots feel like super tacky chewing gum on the Cotic. Tangible twist in the long, skinny mainframe means it finds its own flow around high cornering load or blunt-impact situations, rather than crashing and clattering over the top. That gives a sense of the bike snaking around beneath you as you lock the 785mm bars on to target, but together with the outstanding damper performance it creates an unshakeably confident ride. The geometry maximises the rewards of all this grip. The tall fork rakes out the head angle to nearer 65 than the published 65.5-degree angle while the long chainstays stretch out stability further. We were initially concerned about the tall bottom bracket, but it squats down

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into the Cane Creek DBinline shock as soon as you’re rolling and never felt like it was going to high-side us out of corners. There are moments that the frame flex and sheer length of the bike act against it when you’re turning it in hard, and it’s not the easiest bike to whip around. Occasionally the temptation to let it tank ahead on its own course got us into trouble, but we shouldn’t have been going that fast anyway. What surprised us, given the steel frame and the way the Rocket hunkers down on to the trail, is that it doesn’t need gravity to get its groove on. The shock’s Climb lever, which slows down both compression and rebound, helps firm up pedalling manners when you’re grunting up a climb. Even with plush compression settings the shock is stable under power and, once you’ve dialled the pressure, its progression is spot on for support without spitting traction. It’s not overly heavy either, although

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Slack and long steel frame gives very surefooted stability and trail connection Excellent fork and shock sensitivity and support Lighter, livelier and more trail happy than you’d expect for its gravity swagger

LOWS Needs accurate suspension tuning and twisty, long frame won’t suit everyone

the Gold spec build makes it the priciest bike here. Having ridden the more basic X-Fusion fork and rear shock last year we’d say the extra dosh for the superbly controlled Roughcut fork damper and DBinline shock is worth it. Expect to spend extra time as well as money getting the fork and shock set up as, even though we got on great with Cotic’s default damping tune, balancing shock and fork pressures to hit the spot between over-firm and suddenly linear took us a while. Other Fox units are available as upgrades though.

Supremely planted gravity plough that’s still surprisingly playful under power

FOR A LITTLE MORE Cotic Rocket Platinum £4,299 The same shock and wheels as the Gold bike, with a Fox 34 Factory fork, Joystick carbon bar and Shimano XTR gears.

FOR A LITTLE LESS Cotic Rocket Silver £2,799 Has a more basic X-Fusion Sweep fork and an X-Fusion 02 RCX shock and Continental Pure Grip tyres on WTB rims.

OUR NEW ProBuild CUSTOM VISUAL BIKE BUILDER IS LIVE! Want a website where you can visually customise your own ride, one that offers you all the best components, see informative videos on the parts, see the weight change as you spec the bike? Now available on 0% Finance. Check out


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DETAILS RAINBOW COLOURS Tough in-house black or orange paint jobs and decals are free, with a choice of eight other colours for £100 extra and four decal choices for £10 more SHAVED TUBING Mainframe changes include a curved, ribbed and tapered top tube and reduction of wall thicknesses from 1.6mm to 1.4 or even 1.2mm in places SORTED DESIGN Orange have been using a simple single pivot swingarm since the 1990s, but this update is the best yet

B R E V E R S E V I F E G OR A N range have totally overhauled their Five trail bike without disturbing its proven dynamic ride DNA and its addictively enjoyable and interactive character.

shorter swingarm and 6mm wider main pivot for a significantly stiffer rear end. Reach is 5mm longer at 455mm and the bombproof external bearing BB is 8mm lower to compensate for 150mm travel forks. Production models will have neater internal cable routing and weld details than our sample.

The frame

The kit

Orange are now owned and headed up by the metal working company who’ve always made their custom monocoque frames a couple of miles down the road from their HQ in Halifax. The new frame pushes the limits with its folded and moulded fabrication process to shave 290g – more than the difference between carbon and alloy versions of some frames. The single pivot has been moved slightly up and back and the direct-mounted shock nose lowered to give a more progressive spring rate. Boost spacing means a 4mm

Considering it’s fully hand-built in the UK the Five S is excellent value even with the RockShox Reverb dropper (£290) and wider Kore Realm 2.7 rim (£20) upgrades here. We’ve no complaints about the Race Face/Shimano stop and go kit, the Race Face 35mm cockpit or the RockShox suspension double act.

£3,010 Orange’s fresh Five is a brilliant mix of old and new


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The ride The Five was the bike all our testers synced with the fastest. It’s not quite as slack as the Cotic, stretched as the Mondraker or compact as

JARGON FOLDED FABRICATION Frame sections that are formed using multiple precision-angled folds over a shaped mould to create a 3Dshaped segment or complete seam-welded tube. PROGRESSIVE A suspension system that naturally increases the load needed to compress it when it’s pushed deeper into its stroke.

the Specialized, but the overall balance is a superb Goldilocks mix for most situations. The 66-degree head angle is relaxed enough for confidence boosting, self-correcting stability. The long reach keeps trouble at arm’s length when you’re straight-lining steeps and drops, but there’s loads of room to get forward and make shapes if you want to. Despite the dramatic weight loss there’s still plenty of rich and accurate feedback from the frame. There’s much less of the trademark twang from the shorter, wider back end too, although it still has enough deflection to find the path of least resistance through rock and root sections. While the back end stays short (or even shortens) under power for an agile feel, bigger hits pull the rear wheel backwards for extra stability. As long as you’re not hard on the gas, the higher pivot arc also lets the bike roll with the punches so flat-faced hits don’t

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BLE AT U O R T S P E ACH K E E R G N O L LINING E T H TH G I A R T HEN S W H T G TO N E M L O O R F O ARM’S S ’S LOAD E R E H T T U ES TOO P A H S D R O P S, B E K A AND M D R A W R O F GE T HIGHS Tough, tight, ultra practical frame with impeccable geometry

smash speed out of the Five like they can on the Foxy and Stumpjumper. While kinematic theorists might be distraught at the idea of obvious pedal pull or braking influence on the suspension, the level of interaction the Orange has with the trail is one of its greatest strengths. Press the pedals and it naturally stiffens and pulls the Maxxis rubber on to the ground for extra grip and a positive power reaction. Drop the saddle, bend your legs and coast, and the shock is free to sag deeper or suck up bigger hits. Brake hard and weight will shift forwards, increasing front end traction and commitment and making the rear tyre more likely to slide out speedway style. None of this is anything you have to think about – it’s all totally intuitive and continually communicated so it soon feels like the High Roller tyres are actually the soles of your feet in terms of being able to judge how much traction you’ve got and alter

Simple but intuitively interactive, set up and forget suspension character Excellent value for a hand-built UK frame

LOWS Neutral ride fans might find the obvious suspension feedback crude

weight balance and speed to match. The suspension is totally sorted, with the progressive shock rate creating a broad bandwidth of acceptable pressure that makes set-up easy, and the Yari is equally accommodating. Even with the stout-legged fork and 35mm cockpit it’s still lighter than the more expensive Mondraker and Cotic and essentially the same weight as the Specialized. Add that positive power connection and it’s as responsive and eager uphill as it is elsewhere, completing its superbly balanced, confident and playfully communicative character.

Lighter, tighter, sharper update of an already involving, tough and user-friendly trail classic

FOR A LITTLE MORE Orange Five Pro £3,200 You get a Fox 34 Performance fork and Float DPS Performance shock, and direct-mount Race Face Æffect crank.

FOR A LITTLE LESS Orange Five S £2,700 Leaving all the upgrade boxes unticked gets you the same bike as ours but with a non-dropper post and Alex MD25 rims.

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14.12kg (31.13lb)

14.37kg (31.68lb)

14.34kg (31.61lb)

14.18kg (31.26lb)


‘Fact 9m’ carbon fibre mainframe, ‘M5’ aluminium rear end, 150mm (5.9in) travel

(5.5in) travel

Reynolds 853 chromoly mainframe, 7000 series aluminium rear end, 150mm (5.9in) travel

Custom 6061-T6 aluminium monocoque, 140mm (5.5in) travel


S, M, L*, XL

S, M, L*, XL

S, M, L*, XL

S, M, L*, XL


RockShox Yari RC Boost, 150mm (5.9in) travel

Fox 34 Float GRIP Performance Boost, 140mm (5.5in) travel

X-Fusion Sweep RC HLR, 160mm (6.3in) travel

RockShox Yari RC Boost, 150mm (5.9in) travel


RockShox Monarch RT Autosag

Fox Float DPS LV Performance

Cane Creek DBinline

RockShox Monarch RT DebonAir



FSA No.57


Cane Creek


Specialized Roval Traverse DT Swiss Industry 15x110mm (f), 12x148mm (r)

MDK MDK-EP1 TLR MDK stainless 15x110mm (f), 12x148mm (r)

Hope Pro 4 Hope Tech Enduro Stainless 15x110mm (f), 12x148mm (r)

Formula Kore 2.7 Stainless 15x110mm (f), 12x148mm (r)

2.41kg (f), 2.9kg (r), including tyres

2.04kg (f), 2.71kg (r), including tyres

1.97kg (f), 2.83kg (r), including tyres

2.09kg (f), 2.89kg (r), including tyres

Specialized Butcher Grid (f) and Slaughter Grid (r) 27.5x2.3in

Maxxis Ardent DC EXO TR 27.5x2.4in

WTB Vigilante TCS Light/Fast Rolling (f) and WTB Breakout Tough/Fast Rolling (r) 27.5x2.3in

Maxxis High Roller II EXO TR 27.5x2.3in


Race Face Æffect, 30t/ PF30 adapter

Race Face Æffect SL, 36/26t/ Race Face external

Race Face Turbine Cinch, 30t/ Race Face external

Race Face Ride, 32t/ Race Face external



Shimano Deore XT M8000 rear, Shimano SLX M7000 front

Shimano Deore XT M8000

Shimano SLX M7000


SRAM GX (1x11)

Shimano SLX M7000 (2x11)

Shimano Deore XT M8000 (1x11)

Shimano SLX M7000 (1x11)


SRAM XG-1150, 10-42t/ SRAM PC-1110

SRAM PG-1130, 11-42t/ Shimano HG601

Shimano Deore XT M8000, 11-42t/ Shimano HG701

SRAM PG-1130, 11-42t/ SRAM PC-1110


SRAM Guide R S4, 200/180mm rotors

SRAM Level T, 180/180mm

Shimano Deore XT M8000, 180/180mm

Shimano M615, 180/160mm

Specialized, 750mm/Specialized Trail, 60mm/Specialized Sip

Mondraker 1.0, 760mm/OnOff Stoic FG, 30mm/OnOff Diamond 1 lock-on

Race Face Respond, 785mm/ Race Face Chester, 50mm/ Race Face lock-on

Race Face Chester M35, 780mm/ Race Face Ride M35, 50mm/ Strange lock-on

Specialized Command Post IRcc (125mm stroke)/Specialized Body Geometry Henge Comp

RockShox Reverb Stealth (150mm stroke dropper)/Mondraker

Race Face Turbine (150mm stroke dropper)/Cotic

RockShox Reverb Stealth (150mm stroke dropper)/Kore Durox IE

ETT: 660mm

ETT: 620mm






Surefooted yet agile and ef icient trail bike but unforgiving suspension undermines con idence

355mm 1,215mm

Supremely planted gravity plough that’s still surprisingly playful under power

RE AC H: 45 HE AD : 66° SE AT: 74°


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Super smooth with user friendly features but soft-focused rather than responsive when pushed





0m m RE AC H: 45 HE AD : 65.5° SE AT: 73°



0m m RE AC H: 50 HE AD : 67.5° SE AT: 75°




0m m

47 0 m

47 0 m

RE AC H: 44 HE AD : 67° SE AT: 74°

ETT: 635mm

425mm 335mm 1,200mm

Lighter, tighter, sharper update of an already involving, tough and user-friendly trail classic

5m m

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he question we asked was how much suspension design affects overall performance, so what did we find out? The Stumpjumper’s four-bar FSR suspension is impeccably balanced for pedal and brake-independent smoothness and tough, highgrip tyres underline its confident traction. Soft power response and safe geometry leave it feeling steady not shreddy on the trail, though. The Mondraker is pretty much the polar opposite, with unique aggro geometry and normally excellent twin-linkage suspension repackaged in a lighter, tighter frame. The rear shock tune and overall spec focus it more on fast miles than flat-out fooling. While a steel frame and linkage-driven shock on a single-pivot bike might sound like something from the


80s, Cotic’s retro looking Rocket is actually a FFWD button into a future of much faster, fun loaded riding. Slack and long geometry combines with the subtly damped frame and superbly damped suspension to glue the Rocket to the ground, but it’s still a great laugh on techy singletrack or day-long epics. The ‘simple’ Cotic creating more of a buzz than the Speshy or the Mondraker suggests you don’t need a sophisticated linkage system for full-gas fun on a bike. What absolutely proved it was the single-pivot ‘Halifax hinge’ of the Orange Five. While the classic layout looks the same, Orange have evolved every dynamic detail to put this classic, intuitively interactive, addictively visceral trail machine right back at the top of the pile in terms of tough, practical value and pure enjoyment.

NEXT MONTH 2017 headline bikes We test six £2,000+ bikes that are best in class for their discipline ON SALE 10 NOVEMBER

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T S E T P GROU OUR RATINGS We base our scores on value for money and performance

EXCEPTIONAL A genuine class leader


With the weather more unpredictable than ever and winter on its way, we put the latest rain-cheaters on trial…

VERY GOOD One of the best you can buy

GOOD It’ll do the job and do it well

BELOW AVERAGE Flawed in some way

POOR Simply put, don’t bother!


A waterproof jacket is fundamental for UK riders – if it isn’t raining when you set out, chances are it will be at some point! Generally, the more you spend, the higher the quality will be and the more features you’ll get, as lightweight, extra-durable or really breathable materials cost extra to make. Lots of pockets, zips and construction details also increase the price, so think about your requirements. For instance, if you blast XC trails, focus on a top-notch fabric – Gore-Tex Active or Polartec NeoShell – in a slimmer cut, with pared-down details, to maximise breathability and minimise weight. In contrast, if you spend your time at the bike park, you styling and breathability won’t be so much of an issue but durability will, so opt for a more casual fit and a heavier, warmer fabric. For regular, all-day rides over exposed terrain, look for a more protective, longer cut that rides light. You want the best of both worlds: durability and breathability. Unfortunately, these jackets don’t generally come cheap, but they tend to be versatile enough

for commuting and off-bike use. If you’re on a tight budget, look for vents, the longer the better, which create airflow through less breathable jackets. Also layer properly, as using a good baselayer and/or jersey means that sweat can be wicked away from your skin until it can disperse through the jacket. Once you’ve got those variables sorted, just make sure the jacket fits, and not just in the mirror. Slim styles may look a bit weird, chest-wise, off the bike but are transformed once you’re in the saddle, while the reverse can be true of more relaxed fits. Beware of too-short sleeves – those that articulate with your arms are good – and back hems which aren’t long enough. Before buying, assume your riding position, on a bike if possible, and check for proper coverage! We tried to stick to the same trail for the first-wear of each jacket, to provide a roughly even playing field, and our main focuses were on the functionality of the fabric, the quality and practicality of the construction, and value for money, because we want to be sure that you’re making a wise investment!



Russell rides for miles every month, in pursuit of perfect pics. This means that his kit has to be comfy and perform well all day, making him an ideal tester. If gear passes muster with him, chances are it will with you, too.

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The waterproof coating or membrane has a backing to provide a smoother inner surface, making for easier layering and extra durability.

A fabric that has no backing to the waterproof coating inside the jacket, which makes it lighter but can feel slightly rubbery against the skin.





A pull-tab that’s used to open and close a zipper on the jacket. The longer and grippier the pull the better, especially when you’ve got cold or gloved hands.

These neatly named, vertical zips run under the armpits and down the side of a jacket. Opening up a jacket’s pit zips provides extra ventilation.

Similarly, vents are operated by long zips on the front or side of a jacket that can be opened to create airflow. They’re useful on heavier or less breathable styles.

An extra-long rear hem extending over the back of the saddle. Some jackets have a fold-up version that tucks away, which is handy if you’re also going to the pub.

DETAILS FABRIC Ultra-light and super-breathable or heavyweight and durable – there’s a material that’ll work for every riding style. ARTICULATED SLEEVES Cut to follow the shape of your arms when in the riding position, these make for a slimmer jacket which won’t flap like a sail on descents. HOOD If you’re out all day, you’ll want a hood. Make sure it can be tweaked to fit over or under your helmet. A peak will keep the drips out of your eyes. WATERPROOF ZIPS These do away with the need for any ‘covering flap’, and also reduce weight and bulk. They’re rubberised strips which cover the teeth when the zip is closed, but they can be slower to operate, so do be gentle.

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Dakine Caliber 16s £155


This is a seriously substantial and casually good-looking jacket with lots of slouch appeal, but it’s one to keep in the van to wear while setting up or throw on at the end of a ride, rather than something to reach for every time you hit the saddle. The voluminous level of coverage the Caliber 16s offers does provide protection from the elements but that also makes it feel bulky and shapeless when riding. A good length through the body and a

generous hood keep you covered, and although there are underarm vents, it’s hard not to get hot. That said, the two-layer fabric does feel more durable than most. There are mesh-lined hand-warmer pockets and a single one on the chest, though that has a weirdly small zip opening. We’d keep this jacket for après-bike wear and short rides.

Pearl Izumi MTB WRX £129.99 Although the WRX is made from what looks and feels like a two-layer waterproof fabric, the material is only billed as water resistant and it isn’t actually seam-sealed. However, we can confirm that it is very, very water resistant – in fact, and it took a long ride in sustained rain for any water to seep through at all. We’d expected an upside to the WRX’s construction, in the form of better breathability, but it’s still pretty warm so we were grateful for the

inclusion of underarm vents. The cut is good – long in both sleeve and body, with good articulation – and the fabric’s proven to be durable. This is a jacket that’s well executed, in terms of cut and design, but does seem caught between two performance requirements – it should either be lighter and more breathable or a full-on waterproof.

Vaude Tremalzo £100 As it’s made from bluesign-certified fabric, the Tremalzo not only boasts eco credentials but also manages to cram a lot of features into a pretty reasonably priced jacket. The features includes pit zips, two mesh-lined chest pockets, waterresistant zips, a drawcord hem and reflective details. The fit leaves room for layers but manages not to be oversized – an advantage if you’re looking for something that’ll also work for commuting, for which,

despite its substantially protective feel, it’ll pack down. The downside, as you might expect at this price, is that it isn’t the most breathable of jackets, but the pit zips do allow some air through. The two-layer fabric also feels slightly rubbery against bare skin. This is a good all-purpose waterproof at a bank manager-pleasing price.

Berghaus Hyper Hydroshell £119.99 Although it’s probably the lightest jacket that we’ve ever tested, the Hydroshell is fully seam-sealed and kept us dry through a mix of determined drizzle and sudden showers. That said, it probably wouldn’t be our pick for all-day, cold-weather rides on exposed trails, but for moving fast and light, or as an emergency jacket to stick into your pack when heading out, it’s ideal. The Hydroshell folds up into such a compact size that you

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can stuff it into a jersey pocket and it also provides a surprising amount of extra warmth. The styling is minimal – no pockets, a hood that can be rolled-up so that it doesn’t flap about and water-resistant zips, that’s about it – but that keeps things light and works in the context of its intended use. We’ll also be taking this trail-running.

Altura Five/40 £169.99 This is what we’d normally think of as full-on winter jacket. The Altura Five/40 made from a bombproof, three-layer fabric with a heavier-weight feel and it boasts a generous cut which provides good level of movement through the shoulders, even when you’re layered up underneath. The drawcord hem and adjustable cuffs keep warmth in and the wet out, and we especially liked the detail of the angled cuffs. Cinching the

Five/40’s hood in gives snug protection but actually maintains visibility on the trail. Okay, so this isn’t the most breathable of the jackets we reviewed, which makes using the pit zips a total must, but when you’re talking about a long day spent riding in the worst weather, it provides substantial protection from the elements.

Madison Zenith £99.99 The first thing we noticed about the Zenith was the cut. It’s neat but maintains complete freedom of movement through the shoulders. This is a standard feature of more expensive jackets but rarely found at this price point. It’s well specc’d, with features including a dropped back hem with a drawcord to keep it in place, vents plus chest and rear pockets with water-resistant zips, a wicking collar-lining and siliconeprint shoulder patches for pack

wearers. True, we don’t really love the clunky, white-coloured front zip but that’s more of a personal whine. The main trade-off with this jacket comes with its level of breathability – we needed to ride with the vents open most of the time. But for the money it offers a great combination of bike-specific cut and waterproof protection.

Race Face Agent Softshell £119.95 Race Face nailed the styling here, with such well thought-out features as a soft-lined front collar, extra-long zip pulls and zip end-covers, the latter to stop chafing, which quietly add to its comfort and ease of use. The water-resistant zips make the Agent look like a heavyweight but the soft-handling, two-layer fabric lends it a much lighter feel when you’re riding – even all day – than its appearance suggests. The long front vents, combined with a

full-width one across the shoulders at the back, are very efficient at promoting airflow through the jacket. Comfort reigns here, with even the rubberised inside feeling fine against bare skin. Our only quibble is that the sleeve length feels a mite short, compared to the generously long body. High on comfort and low on price, this is a good all-rounder.

Upper Downs Neo £269 We’re always excited to try jackets made from Polartec NeoShell, because it offers an excellent combination of breathability and waterproof protection. The clean lines of the Neo conceal a surprising level of pocketage – two handwarmers, one with an inner security pouch; a rear zipped pocket; and an inner chest pocket with an attached lens wipe. The rear pocket doubles as a stuff sac but you’d have to be feeling pretty unkind to want to

scrunch this jacket into it. The shape is good – slim, with enough room for layering and a sleeve shape that articulates correctly. However, this otherwise superb jacket has one poorly considered detail – the lack of a drawcord means that trail wash makes its grotty way under the Neo’s drop tail, and that could be a deal breaker for some riders.

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Dainese Atmo-Lite £199.95


It’s hard to create a ‘worst weather’ jacket that performs well on the bike but also looks ‘everyday casual’ off it without some compromise, but Dainese may just have done it. The Atmo-Lite is made from a threelayer waterproof material that’s flexible, light to wear and even feels comfortable on bare skin. The easy cut allows for layering, it’s a good length through the body, the sleeves provide full coverage and the hood cinches in place. We were impressed

by the all-round protection offered by the Atmo-Lite, which is much lighter in weight than similarly specified styles. What’s more, the level of breathability is really very good. Even in warm autumn rain we stayed comparatively comfortable, the only negative being that the see-through watch/GPS viewing panel on the arm fogged up.

Mission Workshop The Meridian: Alpine US$490 inc. postage. San Franciso-based Mission Workshop have something of a cult following and their jackets don’t come cheap. Wearing the Alpine, especially on warmer days, we began to appreciate why. Made from Polartec NeoShell with a ripstop finish, it has a highly durable feel but remains comfortable all day. The Alpine boasts the usual chest pockets (inner and outer), along with unusual cargo pockets on the side, which proved easier to access

on the bike than the usual handwarmers. The hood is removable but it’s no afterthought, with drawcords back and front so you can tweak the fit. Because the cut articulates when you’re on the bike, this jacket feels sleeker there than its relaxed look would suggest, making it versatile enough to also be used on your commute – if you can afford it.

7mesh Revelation £300 These relative newcomers are establishing a well-founded reputation for the fit of their garments and that’s apparent in the Revelation. It combines a neat, but not skinny, fit through the body with independent movement across the shoulders and through the arms. That makes for a jacket which doesn’t twist round the body when you’re riding, which keeps you both warmer and drier. The three-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric really does make

a difference in terms of breathability, as we came to appreciate while testing the Revelation in a range of temperatures. And just in case you need additional airflow, the back vents are extra-long, with convenient two-way zips. Other extra detail that makes a difference come in the form of a soft-lined collar and a removable hood.

Sweet Protection Delirious £239.99 With its deeply dropped back hem, this jacket is uncompromising in its mountain biking focus, and for that reason, as well as its unfussy styling (there’s only one pocket), we found ourselves liking it a lot. The cut goes over winter layers with ease but doesn’t bag, and the adjustable collar and cuffs mean you can effectively seal out even the worst weather. Thoughtfully, a drawcord keeps that back hem in place and the Delirious sucks up a lot of trail

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punishment. The fabric is Gore-Tex Active Shell, which we’ve found to be so breathable that we’ve taken to wearing the Delirious when there’s no actual sign of rain but we still need an extra layer. That level of functionality makes the Delirious a good general jacket for the colder months, not just a simple when-you-need-it waterproof.

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YS.. . T E ST E R SA

D REAT BLEN G A S R E F F E, ONE O “THE GORE IT Y AND PERFORMANC AL R” OF PR ACTIC IT A WORTHY WINNE MAKING Gore One Gore-Tex Pro £350 This is one of the most expensive jackets on test, but in terms of fit, the performance of the fabric and the standard of specification and construction, it’s outstanding. Firstly, the fabric, Gore-Tex Pro, has a firm, durable feel. Despite that, the inside is smooth and you can layer up easily. Pro was engineered to be the most durable and abrasion-resistant Gore-Tex fabric but also to combine those wear characteristics with high breathability. In line with that, we’ve struggled to make a dent in its fresh-out-of-the-box appearance. Beyond the technical material, the specification makes this a real mountain jacket. The drop tail flips down when you need it but tucks away, securing with poppers, when you don’t. The vents are generously

long – a note to designers, as they were on all the best-performing jackets we tested – with a slight diagonal slant from front to back, which seemed to make them more effective. The chest pocket is especially ingenious – positioned in a flap that folds over the zip, it’s protected but still easily accessible. The soft-lined collar sits perfectly when you’re on the bike and single-handed drawcord operation makes on-the-fly adjustment easy. The cut is just right, with plenty of shoulder movement, and the fold of the sleeves as you adjust them makes you realise the attention to detail that’s gone into this jacket’s design. We aren’t giving it back…

Endura MTR Shell £119.99 Firstly, we really like that this jacket’s navy blue, instead of the customary black. We also favour its minimal design – for which, read no pockets. The shape is slim but the jacket moves with you, thanks to the cut of the shoulders and strategically placed stretch inserts. It’s a combination that makes you feel like you’re riding faster just by wearing it. The MTR Shell has all the features you need and none you don’t – the collar is soft-lined, the

hood adjustable and removable, with elastic to keep it snugly in place, and there are silicone wear/grip patches on the shoulders plus a dropped tail with a gripper, to keep you covered. The MTR Shell travels fast and light but feels substantial enough not to just be an emergency go-to jacket and, what’s more, it also comes in at an affordable price.

Scott Trail MTN Dryo 20 £185 Despite years of testing, we still love discovering details that make a real difference to any ride, and the hood on this jacket is especially notable. It features soft fabric next to the face and a stretch inner that holds it firmly in place, plus a cinching drawcord at the back for custom-fit tweaking. Not that the MTN Dryo 20 is just about the hood – the whole jacket is exceptionally well made, with extra-long vents that really do work better, and deep

chest pockets, one with a securely zipped inner compartment, that boast water-resistant zips. The three-layer fabric is smooth and durable, and as it boasts an easy cut that allows for layering, this adds up to a fully protective jacket that offers the level of quality and specification which usually comes at a much higher price point.

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into the Middle

rail berms like a pro

This is where you want to be leant over and settled into the berm. It’s good to keep your outside foot down (at about 4 o’clock on a left-hander) and your inside foot up (about 10 o’clock). Try to keep any body movements to a minimum and look towards your exit. Don’t touch the brakes while you’re in the turn.

Norco’s Bryn Atkinson shows you how to blast round berms


EXIT point Hopefully by this point, having entered at a controlled speed and stayed on a nice smooth line, you are carrying some good momentum as you come out of the berm, ready for the next obstacle. If not, get up there and do it again – there’s nothing that’ll make you better at cornering more than repetition.

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Bryn atkinson JOB Norco team rider CREDENTIALS One of the irst crop of Australian downhillers to make waves on the World Cup circuit, Bryn’s ridden on teams alongside Sam Hill and Nathan Rennie, and has chalked up a string of top 10 results. He lives in the USA with his partner, racer Jill Kintner.



Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can think about inessing the turns

01 Entry position

Newton’s third law states: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Consider this when cornering. If you enter a corner on the inside line you will end up being pushed to the outside on exit. Likewise, if you stay outside on the entry, you will have more time to come out of the corner on the inside, giving you time to maybe avoid some holes or roots.

02 Traction


ENTRY point As with learning any skill, I’d recommend you back off a little and ride at about 90 per cent. Slow things down until you’ve perfected the technique. Once you’ve spotted the entry, look for anything that might disrupt your traction and avoid it – or, if you can’t avoid it, be smooth over it. Remember, exit speed is what you’re after, so going in full speed and blowing the turn will only slow you down for the next section.

You can use gravity and G-forces to make quick changes in direction. Any time your tyres are heavily pressed into the ground, like through a G-out or landing from a jump, you will almost never slide out (unless of course your tyres or suspension are too soft, then everything will bottom-out). If I need to make a quick pivot or change in direction, I’ll make sure I preload my suspension and tyres so I have ultimate traction.

03 Practice

These are great things to practise while following a friend – experiment with different lines to see what works best for you. Some riders are better at sneaking around the inside, while others prefer to rail the outside. Keep practising and play around to find what you’re best at, and keep it fun!

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Foot Placement


Although being on the ball of your foot is the most efficient position for pedalling, this won’t give you much support on flats. Position the pedal in the arch of your foot, so that your shoe folds around the pedal and holds you on.

Heels down,toes up With the pedal in your arch, drop your heels so that when you hit rough terrain and square edges, the forces push the pedal harder into your foot rather than bouncing you off. When people lose their feet on flats it’s usually because they’ve let their toes drop. If you’re used to riding clips, this can be a hard habit to kick.


Pedalling The biggest downside of flats is that on rough trails it’s harder to spin smooth circles and maintain consistent traction. Spinning a slower cadence while in a higher gear will help keep your feet in place. Read the trail ahead and look for smoother spots to pedal, or sections you might be able to pump a transition for speed rather than turn the cranks.

Get pinned on Flat Pedals Forget clipping in, bring on the lat pedal thunder!


Cornering It’s good practice to ride corners with your feet up but one of the biggest benefits of riding flats is being able to enter a corner faster, knowing that you can drop a foot if needed. Where flats come into their own is on drifty flat turns or consecutive loose switchbacks, where you would need to unclip and clip back in several times on SPDs.

The number of pros running flat pedals on the world circuit may be dwindling but flats still have a loyal following. As Sam Hill proved with a second at La Thuile Enduro World Series round this July, flats can still be competitive even on pedally tracks. Regardless of their use in the highest tier of racing, flats are great for learning good technique and building confidence. We often see beginner/intermediate riders on clips who are clearly nervous about having their feet attached and it’s hampering the progression of their skills. With this in mind, here are our tips for riding flats and finding a solid set-up to keep you in control.

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Set-up tips There’s nothing less confidenceinspiring than feeling your feet might slip, so invest in a good set of pedals and shoes



What to look for in a pair of flatties is a big platform with a concave shape so that the pedal cups your foot. Big pins mean lots of grip, but also lots of shin-gouging potential if you drop a foot. Look for pedals with replaceable pins because you will hit them on a rock at some stage. Two of our favourite flats are DMR Vaults and Nukeproof Horizon Pros.

We feel no other company has yet to make shoes that match the grip offered by a pair of Five Tens – their stealth rubber soles grip the pedals like glue. The build quality is not always great though, so it’s worth looking at Giro and Shimano’s offerings too. If you’re on a budget or want to just try out flats then a pair of Vans or skate shoes will do just fine.



Get into the wild


If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going bikepacking, you want to take everything you need, and nothing you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t

4 5 6 3 8


9 1




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SPRINTING Heading out on your bike for a self-sufficient multi-day trip is a brilliant way to enjoy some wilderness but can be pretty daunting. Finding out what you need to lug around is a bit of a trial and error process. As all UK riders know, the weather can change pretty quickly and make for some unpleasant riding – and sleeping – conditions if you’ve not got the right kit. It’s essential to be prepared but not weigh yourself down with unnecessary extras. This summer our Deputy Art Ed, Matt, took on the challenge of riding 550 miles across the Scottish Highlands (see MBUK 333) and we learnt a few things from his adventures. Here’s his advice…





Choose 29er or plus-size tyres to help smooth out rough terrain – over long distances you’ll be glad of the extra comfort.

Pump up your suspension to deal with the extra weight of luggage. Make sure you bring a shock pump in case you need to make adjustments.

A first aid kit – tailor it to include only items you really need. A smartphone for social media, so everyone can see how much suffering you’re enduring/ fun you’re having.

Pack the lightest tent you can find, or if you want to go really minimal just take a bivvy bag. Make sure your sleeping bag is light yet warm enough.





A bar-mounted GPS unit or smartphone is ideal for tracking your route, but a good old-fashioned paper OS map and compass can be a lifesaver if your technology runs out of battery or signal.

And plenty of it! You can get bottle cages to fit to your fork legs and below the down tube. Water purifying tablets or a water bottle with a built-in filter are good idea too.

Merino baselayers are great for maintaining body temperature and they’ll keep you warm even when wet. A windproof layer and quality waterproof are non-negotiable for British bikepacking.

Use a saddle that you know works for you. A good pair of padded shorts is essential, plus some chamois cream to keep the chafing at bay.





Look for lightweight yet calorie dense foods. Carry dehydrated meal pouches and a small stove to heat them up. For long distances you can’t just eat sugary gels – carry snacks that will release energy slowly throughout the day.





Given that you might be carrying an extra 20kg, you’ll need an easy low gear to get up the climbs. If you’re running a single ring you want an 11-speed cassette with at least a 42t big cog, otherwise a 2x10 set-up will see you up the hills.





To keep weight low and central pack heavy items in your frame bag and light and bulky stuff like sleeping bags in the handlebar roll and seat pack. The effect on the bike’s handling will be reduced and it keeps the weight off your back.


Rear end

Sprinting is a skill. To improve your ability to lay down the power on the trails and enjoy all the bene its that come with that you need to train for it, says coach Chris Kilmurray

PRIZES POSTURE= Applying more power to the pedals is all about creating a stable platform to do so. Get your hips just behind the bottom bracket, with elbows bent and wide and chin tucked in a little. Keep your eyes forward and jaw relaxed – clenched teeth equals less power.

666 This is a simple training session to maximise sprinting skills. Do a 6sec sprint from a standing start, 6sec freewheel, 6sec sprint. Complete two sets of four to six repetitions with four minutes’ rest between sets.



Bring a quality multi-tool, pumps, chain links, mech hanger, gear cables, several spare tubes, tyre boot and a small bottle of chain lube. Duck tape and zipties are always handy for trailside bodges and spare spokes could be useful.



Make the most of your time on the trail to have fun and improve at the same time. Make a point of trying to explosively sprint or ‘power wheelie’ out of each tight turn you encounter to see realworld improvements. Chris Kilmurray

Mountain Biking UK 135


BALLATER, SCOTLAND Not ones to be scuppered by the Scottish weather, we explore some lower level but still super-fun trails around Ballater in the eastern Cairngorms Words Max Darkins Photos Reuben Tabner

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WHERE ARE WE? THE CAIRNGORMS This mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland was made a National Park in 2003 and is the largest in Britain at 4,528km2.


Ballater Cairngorms

Dundee Trossachs National Park


We quickly head for the little patch of sunshine that has emerged!

Fast and firm singletrack mean its time to hit the pedals hard



max darkins JOB MTB route planner CREDENTIALS Max loves travelling up and down the country searching for the best routes for you to ride. He’s the man behind www.

e did have grand plans to venture up into the mountains for today’s ride, but the high winds and unsettled conditions are putting doubts in my mind. The weather shouldn’t be underestimated at the best of times, and especially so in the Scottish Highlands. When I was last here in the Cairngorms in 2015, Storm Frank caused the River Dee to swell so much that it washed away the main road near Balmoral Castle. Richard Watts, owner of Ballater’s excellent Cyclehighlands bike shop, agrees that it isn’t really a day to be going up into the hills, but promises us that’s not the reason he can’t come out with us today. After poring over the maps and working out an alternative route, photographer Reuben and I are buoyed up once again (or maybe just jittering on the caffeine from the Bean for Coffee cafe down the road?) and champing at the bit to set off.

Download THE VIEWRANGER APP to ride and share this route

Snap, crackle and pop We’re a little disappointed to be missing out on our big epic, especially Meall Dubh and the lovely ‘Green Mile’ trail (ask in the shop – they’ll gladly point you in the right direction if the conditions are right). Instead, we’re heading along the Deeside Way to sample some locals’ trails. It’s an easy path along the river, which quickly leads us out of

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E LOVELY H T O T S U A K ES T E T U O R SOUL R A OU T O N ’S E D. T H E R R O N I K H C R IDE IS LO C I P E N O N OUR ABOUT AND NG BUT, SO FAR Y THI N A G N I L E E F Ballater, but no sooner do we turn off and hit the first gradient than Reuben’s chain snaps. After an excessive amount of faff, due to chain links not fitting and numb fingers, we’re ready to go. Or we would be if my tyre hadn’t just gone flat while we sorted the chain. Seriously!? Despite being in relative shelter, the wind is strong enough to make things far more difficult than they have any right to be. Fittingly, a big dark cloud forms overhead as I wrestle with my only spare tube. With the Riverside Cottage cafe just down the road, we look at one another and ponder if we should bow out (dis)gracefully now. Professionals that we are, we push on, and are rewarded immediately with a firm and fast trail through the woods. Past a lone gate near some power lines, we dip off this track onto a cut-up, inconspicuous trail, which starts the climb up Cnoc Dubh. The path soon improves but heads up sharply to provide an interesting pull to the top. A skinny track leads us through the heather and over the rock slabs, which have gathered large puddles of water. Miraculously the sun is now out, so we continue up past our turning to the viewpoint just ahead. It’s a stunning vista down the valley, made all the better because we’ve got it to ourselves and

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it feels like a secret spot, although that’s probably not the case on a weekend.

Rock and hop After playing around on the grippy granite slabs for a while we decide it’s time to sample the descent, which we’ll get to enjoy two runs down today. The trail soon dips into the trees and tall ferns take the place of the heather, hiding the path. It’s a fast drop down the hillside over changing terrain. Then, keeping left, we climb back around the side of the hill on a route known as ‘Anthill Climb’ due to the huge and numerous ant mounds beside the trail. They’re really impressive, but it’s not a place to hang around. Not that we want to with the ‘Whoops to the Road’ trail coming up, so we race one another, doing our best to avoid fallen trees and standing water in the dips, while jumping off the tops. Our route takes us straight across the road and through the trees to the lovely Loch Kinord. It’s popular walking territory around here but there’s not a soul about today and our non-epic ride is feeling anything but, so far. Rocks protrude from the trail and keep things interesting as we speed around the lochside. With the sun still out,

BEST EATING BEAN FOR COFFEE Bean for Coffee (01339 755514) in Ballater is superb, offering top-notch homemade cakes, sandwiches and more. It’s just over the square from the car park. If you want an evening meal and like curry you must go to Lochnagar Indian Brasserie (01339 755611), with dishes made from old family recipes. The Riverside Cottage Café & Bistro (01339 755126) on the A93 nearer the trails is really nice, and just down the road from a car park if you want to start/finish out of town.



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elemental If the weather’s against you, get out there and discover some less remote and exposed but just as much fun trails

rewarding us for our tenacity, we pause for a bite to eat on an open grassy section, watching birds of prey circle overhead and feeling rather smug. When we get going, it’s a fun, crazy, rocky trail along the loch before we head away from the water to the Burn o’ Vat visitor centre. The climb up the valley would also be great fun going down, but it’s a popular walk so good timing is key. We’re cheered on by some walkers as we pass, which means we can’t stop of course, despite our burning thighs and heaving lungs. The trail leads us around the back of Cnoc Dubh, where we pick up the trail from earlier for the fast and furious descent once again. It’s made all the more fun and faster for remembering the best lines, rocks and ruts this time.

Killer zombie ants A pinch flat requires some hasty botching among the huge anthills, like a scene in a horror movie where it’s all about to kick off. Thankfully we make it back to the road with our flesh still on our bones, for our first real taste of tarmac today. It’s an acquired taste though, and not for us, so we’re soon back off-road. Having not packed any sandwiches, my energy needle is on empty/

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WHAT IS VIEWRANGER? ViewRanger is an app that lets outdoor enthusiasts discover, plan, navigate and share their adventures on smartphones, on tablets and online. With offline mapping (including Ordnance Survey maps), turn-by-turn navigation and bike computer functions like ride time, ride distance and current, average and maximum speed, it’ll turn your phone into a fully fledged GPS unit.

grumpy, so a quick diversion to refuel at the lovely Riverside Cottage cafe is required before we’re back on track and crossing an impressive suspension footbridge over the River Dee. From here it’s the relatively simple task of following a trail along the riverside, starting with some nice singletrack through the trees, before bursting out into the last of the evening sun. As we roll back into Ballater we’re more than a little pleased with ourselves and the trails we’ve discovered. We may not have had the big-mountain epic we were expecting but we’ve enjoyed experiencing the more playful riding this area has to offer. Scottish weather, nil, mountain bikers, one.

You can also use it to plan or download routes, access guidebook-style information, broadcast your location and track your friends. It has a social platform too, where you can store and share their adventures. ViewRanger is used by more than 400 official bodies, including search-and-rescue teams in the UK and overseas.

The ViewRanger app is available to download for Apple, Android, Blackberry 10, Kindle Fire and Symbian devices.

Grime TIME Your questions answered


First-World problems I’m after a new bike but can’t decide. I currently ride the latest Santa Cruz Nomad but it’s a medium and, at 5ft 9in tall, way too small. I’ve narrowed my choice down to a Mondraker Dune Carbon XR in large (no medium left); a Mondraker Foxy Carbon XR in medium or large (despite no piggyback shock compatibility); a large Nomad frame, and transfer my current parts over (though I’m not totally convinced by the suspension); a YT Capra CF Pro in large; or a Yeti SB6c in large (though I’d need a Boost rear hub and am worried about the Switch Infinity hardware).

The YT Capra CF should fit a 5ft 9in rider well

Then there’s the new Specialized Enduro and Trek Slash… Oliver Harfield, via email Not a bad problem to have, eh? Let’s start with sizing. If you compare the large Dune to the other bikes, the difference is significant. Even if you compare a medium Dune to the large sizes of the others, it still has a longer reach, and also a longer wheelbase than most. We’d try the large Dune for size before deciding – same goes for the Foxy. The YT, Trek, Yeti, Specialized and Santa Cruz are pretty close, size-wise, though they do vary when it comes to seat tube length, which can be limiting if you’re thinking of ‘sizing

up’ to a bigger frame. The Yeti has the tallest seat tube, at 483mm in large. We’re yet to ride the new Slash but have had good experiences with the other bikes. As for the Switch Infinity, Rob had to get his SB6c fixed once but hasn’t had any problems since. We’d struggle to look past the Capra, due to value for money and hard-hitting capability. But if you’re looking to cover ground, the Specialized and Trek are worth considering.

Right tool for the job I hate changing tyres. It’s not only a job I don’t like doing, they’re also really expensive. I’m desperate for a set that works well year-round and lasts well too.

Quick fix tips Replacing a snapped spoke

If you’ve snapped a spoke on the front, skip to step 2. Otherwise, remove the cassette and with the wheel off the frame, hold it steady with a chain whip and use a cassette lockring tool, turning it anticlockwise. Remove the cassette and put it somewhere safe.


144 Mountain Biking UK

You’ll likely need to remove the brake rotor. If it’s a six-bolt, use a T25 Torx key to unscrew the bolts, anticlockwise. If it’s a centre lock rotor, either a cassette lockring or external bottom bracket tool will remove the lockring. Then pull the rotor off the hub.


If the spoke nipple is undamaged and there’s still a few cm of spoke left, you can replace it without removing the nipple, which is much quicker, though not the best long-term fix. Bend the spoke stub by 90 degrees, use a spoke key to hold the nipple and unwind the spoke.


If the spoke’s snapped inside or near the nipple, replace it. Remove the tyre and rim strip, then use a magnetic screwdriver to pull the nipple out of the hole. Thread a new one onto the end of a spoke, feed it through the hole and then unscrew the nipple from the spoke.

4 Do they exist? I mainly ride natural trails with roots and rocks so grip’s really important. Ashley Wilkins, via email


Shifters & mechs (aka derailleurs)

The right-hand shifter actuates the rear mech, which moves the chain on the cassette, to select gears. Some bikes also have a left-hand shifter and front mech, to move the chain between two or three chainrings on the cranks. Rear mechs operate on the lower chain, while front mechs shift the upper.

If you don’t want to swap your tyres to suit the conditions, it’s a case of finding the best compromise. Putting an emphasis on grip means tyres won’t last that long because they’ll be made from softer rubber. We’ve been getting on really well with Maxxis’s High Roller IIs in the 3C compound, which have held up well after months of riding. They’re grippy too and work pretty consistently in a wide variety of conditions. Bontrager’s SE5s don’t feel quite as grippy but clear well in the mud, roll pretty quickly and have also lasted. Neither option is cheap but good tyres generally aren’t.



Attached to the rear wheel, a standard 10-speed cassette by SRAM or Shimano runs from an 11-tooth sprocket to a 36-tooth. With an 11-speed, Shimano go (up to) 11-44t, while SRAM use a 10-42t which requires a special freehub but can be used with smaller chainrings without sacrificing top-gear speed.

r’s e f f u l B

transitioning to clipless I’m considering a move to clipless pedals, having ridden on flats for 10 years. I have some Crank Brothers Mallet Es already but what shoes will make the transition painless? Dan Sinden, Melksham



If you’re keen to retain some of that flat pedal feel when clipped in, you’ll want a shoe with long, rearward cleat slots, so you can slam the cleat as far back towards the middle of your foot as possible, and a sole with a bit of give. We’ve found that Shimano’s AM9s offer both. While they aren’t the stiffest, most pedalling-efficient shoes available, the ‘give’ in the sole adds more feel so you’ll know where your pedals are beneath your feet. You can get the cleat right back too. At £99.99 they aren’t cheap but they’re not the most expensive, either, and in our experience, they should last well.


Mind the gaps!

Most cassettes are designed so that the change in gear ratio between sprockets (eg 11-13t, 32-36t) is as consistent as possible, usually around 16 per cent. Engineering a wider range without increasing the number of sprockets means bigger gearing gaps. This can make shifting clunky or leave you wanting an ‘in-between’ gear.




One ring to rule them all?

An 11-speed system (or a 10-speed with an expander cog) and one front chainring offers a spread of gears suitable for most riders. That means less weight and maintenance (you can ditch the front mech, etc), and simpler shifting. Shimano still offer 2x11 options but SRAM, with their dedicated 1x11 and 1x12 transmissions, have fully committed to the ‘one ring’.

Jargonr buste


Remove the old spoke from the hub flange, noting which side it enters from and if it passes over or under others. Thread a new one through the hub flange in the same direction. If the spoke enters from the outisde of the hub, bend it to clear the spokes opposite.


Bend the spoke slightly so it crosses behind the third one it crosses on its way to the nipple, so that they overlap and touch. Some straight-pull spokes are designed not to overlap, so in that case thread it in the same way as the other spokes in the wheel.


Thread the spoke into the nipple, but don’t push the nipple into the rim. Tighten the nipple onto the spoke with a spoke key until the tension matches the others. Check the wheel’s still straight. Replace the rotor, plus the cassette, rim strip and tyre, as appropriate.


A spoke key, or nipple wrench (not to be confused with a nipple clamp!) is a vital tool for any home mechanic. Look out for ones that have gauges to it different sizes of nipples – they’re iddlier to use but will allow you to work on most wheels.

Mountain Biking UK 145


146 Mountain Biking UK


Racer Joe Smith floats through the rooty sections but they’re a lot tougher than he makes them look

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE Locals do… Wash their bikes before coming to Revs to prevent the spread of disease to trees Eat the free flapjacks from the food van – just buy a burger in return!

Locals don’t… Speed through the village of Llangynog Feed the Revs crew’s labradors – they’re on a diet! Go near the huge jumps in the quarry


here’s always going to be an element of trepidation dropping into a steep, rooty downhill track for the first time, but this feeling is magnified tenfold when the riders you’re following down the hill are some of the best in the world. Trying to hang on to the back wheel of guys who are used to riding at speeds so far out of your comfort zone is, without fail, going to lead to some heart-in-mouth moments and close calls with trees – and Revolution Bike Park isn’t short of those. The trails here twist and turn their way down through dense conifers, and if you let your concentration slip for even a second then a multitude of exposed roots are just waiting to send you into the foliage. Of course, following North Wales locals Joe Smith and Kaos Seagrave, you’d think the trail was as smooth as a pump track. They are both deftly picking the bike up and putting it down in exactly the right spot, missing the roots and generating speed, while we’re grabbing handfuls of brake and fishtailing the back end.

Slugger goes large This becomes an ongoing theme for the day – being constantly reminded of just how good World Cup downhill riders are on their bikes. The upside is that it makes our job of shooting photos easy. As soon as someone spots a line that might be ridable or a gap that can be doubled, then one of the others is already pushing up to have a go. The

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third pro we’ve invited along for the day, Madison Saracen’s Marc Beaumont, shows us a gap he’s been eyeing up. It’s a big ol’ distance between two rollers, with a run-out that chicanes between trees. “Yeah, I tried this a while ago,” Slugger says. “50:50’d the lander and only just rode it out on the front wheel.” After this you’d think he’d be happy to give it a miss, but he’s up for round two. We watch from the sidelines as he sprints into view, hard on the pedals and with some serious pace. Dodging the compressions in the run-up, he hits the take-off and pulls up hard. We’re scared just watching, but he’s unfazed and, despite clipping the lander a little, makes the huge launch look easy. James from Revolution Bike Park is along with us on the ride today and further down the hill he shows us some of the new sections he dug for the BDS (British Downhill Series) race in August. A chute out of the trees leads you into a run of three jumps ending in a big set-up. It doesn’t take long before the pros are pushing each other on, going so much higher on each consecutive run that



ED THOMSETT Staff Writer Ed is handy on a DH rig, but had his work cut out following these guys on the hill.

MARC BEAUMONT After a year away from racing, ‘Slugger’ is back on the race scene and loving it more than ever.

JOE SMITH CRC/Nukeproof’s flat pedal pinner rules it when things get steep and sketchy.

KAOS SEAGRAVE Tahnee’s little brother isn’t shy of sending a big gap. It’s his first year racing World Cups.

JAMES FOSTER One of the bosses and the main man behind the tools at Revs.

Mountain Biking UK 149



A K ES A T N U R E D I EER T HE R ED F R OU T E DOW N T HE HIL L OW R MOR E MELL S A ND JUMPS ER M T HROUGH B they begin snapping twigs off the canopy of the trees. Landing the jump there’s a short respite as you cross a fireroad before you plunge into one of the best-loved originals at Revs – the Ghetto track. With each turn your speed increases, before the track opens up into a field of stumps and roots. We do our best to chase the three pros on the racing line. With shoulders brushing the trees and without even thinking about braking, they turn tight left before gapping up a nasty looking mess of stumps. Luckily for us the roots are dry today – we hate to think what it would be like to tackle this section at race speed in the wet.

At times the dense trees make it feel like you’re on the set of The Hobbit

Athertons’ playground When you escape the gnarl of the woodland you have the chance to appreciate your surroundings. The valley sides are steep and streaked with scree slopes and crags – it’s raw, dramatic Welsh landscape at its best. It feels like an appropriate setting for getting wild on a bike and the quarry next to the bike park has a history of people doing just that. Before the park was built, this quarry used to be the Athertons’ playground, and if you look back to Alex Rankin’s Earthed 3 video you’ll see Gee, Dan and Rachel sending some big lines, the remnants of which are still visible. More recently the quarry has hosted the Red Bull Quarter Master BMX comp and the enormous curved wall of dirt is

WRECKING CREW WISDOM still there. Thankfully, on the bike park side of the fence the jumps are a bit more manageable, but they’re still loads of fun. There are tabletops, hips and berms with whale-tail shapes to kicker out of, so there’s plenty of potential for getting sideways. The wind is blowing through but this doesn’t stop Joe from showing off his flat-pedal style and throwing some lazy one-footed tables.

Far out Ffarside We cruise out into the car park, shaking our arms out after the beating they’ve just taken. The Land Rover is already waiting for us and there’s just time for a quick drink before we’re loading up

150 Mountain Biking UK


“Coming to Revs reminds me why I keep hanging on to my downhill bike. The trails here are technical, steep and sometimes scary – just how downhill should be. My advice to ride well here is be con ident and get loose! If you’re riding all tense and grabbing handfuls of brake then the slippy shale surface and roots are going to put you on the loor in no time. Warm up on the red run and work up to the hard stuff.”

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REAT T L A C I N H C ER TE IT’S ANOTH ROOTS AND OR E W I T H Y E T M I TCHB ACK T UR N S SW O T N I S P O R D the trailers and heading up the hill for another run. This time James is planning on taking us down the Ffarside track, another technical treat with yet more roots and drops into switchback turns, all painstakingly cut from the hillside by hand. It’s amazing to see how the trail has evolved over time – the wet Welsh winters and brake dragging has gullied the trail out into steep rocky chutes. With the dense woodland it takes a while for the rain to penetrate the trees, but once the surface gets wet, the track turns into a serious test of bike handling. Even the UK’s best riders were finding this section hard at the BDS race, but riding trails like this is the reason us Brits are so good on the world stage.

Rail or slide Fear not, there are some easier trails here too, and we finish off the day on the red-graded freeride run. It takes a more mellow route down the hill, through berms and jumps with big and small options. It’s a load of fun riding in a train through the series of corners, each rider taking a different line, either railing the high line or sliding the inside and kicking up roost. At the bottom, James is up for taking us on another run but we’re spent. The rocks, roots and adrenaline rushes have taken their toll and ignoring the curse of the final run is always tempting fate. We agree to save it for another day and leave on a high. Today has been challenging and scary but undeniably a lot of fun. We can see how, with riding like this on the doorstep, North Wales has produced so many top riders.

152 Mountain Biking UK



Everything you need to know about Revolution Bike Park GET THERE



From the south, take the A5 west from Shrewsbury. From the North, take the A483 and A5 around Oswestry. From here go left on the A495 then B4396. Turn right on the B4391 to Llangynog. Turn left and the bike park is on your left. Postcode SY10 0HJ.


Revolution Bike Park ain’t no trail centre and it’s definitely not for beginners. Although there is a red trail, you have to be comfortable on your bike to enjoy riding here. For expert and intermediate riders, it’s one of the best spots in the UK for upliftaccessed technical riding. While some nutters tackle the park on a hardtail, we’d recommend at least a 140mm travel bike and a full-facer is mandatory.


Parking, food van, toilets, bike shop and bike wash. NEARBY BIKE SHOPS

Revo Bikes is on site.


Antur Stiniog Uplift accessed venue with all-weather trails suitable for both DH and trail bikes. Rhyd-Y-Felin One the best DH tracks in the UK. Riding is limited to uplift days and races, see Betws-y-Coed, Coed-yBrenin and Llandegla Trail centres around an hour’s drive from Revs.

To advertise in Mountain Biking UK please contact Oli Pascoe on 0117 300 8278 or




Flandria Custom Name Decal Set: £8 Always wanted your name on your bike just like the pros? Now you can. These ultra high quality decals DUHDYDLODEOHLQ¯YHGLIIHUHQWIRQWVZLWKRSWLRQV IRUWKHFRORXUWRR7KH\FRPHLQDVWDQGDUGSDFN RIDVHWRIRUDVHWYDOXHSDFN


201â&#x20AC;&#x201C;203 Albany Road, Earlsdon, Coventry, CV5 6NF Tel: 024 7667 3353 Kmslr_gl @gic Qigjjq Am_afgle Dpmk Rfc Cvncprq

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MOUNTAIN BIKING ON EXMOOR BURTECH Trailers for outdoor pursuits www. burtechtrailers. North Wales 01492 641905 NEW to RANGE CUB 8 PRO Bike Trailer

Exmoor is recognised as one of the best and most challenging destinations for off-road cycling, providing the opportunity to explore the deep wooded combes, heather moorland or rugged coastline on some fantastic rides.

dream â&#x20AC;¢ discover â&#x20AC;¢ explore Simonsbath House is the perfect base for your biking holiday, offering a choice of guided or self guided breaks, featuring some of the stunning scenery on Exmoor National Park.

Next Course: Friday 2nd â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Monday 5th December 2016 We offer a full programme of guided or self guided biking holidays. Our rides include options to improve skills or just enjoy some of the exhilarating downhills across Exmoor. Alternatively join one of our trail holidays and experience the full variety that Exmoor has to offer. For more information on our other biking holidays please visit our website 01643 831259 Afan Valley Cottages Self-catering accommodation near the Afan Forest trails. Cottage sleeps 7 £240w/e £400/week. House sleeps 12 £360 w/e £500/week.

Snowdonia Cottages Self catering in Blaenau Ffestiniog and Trawsfynydd. Blaenau sleeps 5, £225-£425/week, £180-£280/weekend. Traws sleeps max 8, £320-£500/week, £200-£300/weekend. or ring Hugh on 07958928096 for more details. All have free WiFi, Freesat TV, DVD and secure bike storage.



concentrated through the palm.


Rearward facing grooves improve grip

Pulling back on the handlebars,

in this situation. The groove is cut into

torque is concentrated through the

the grip to give a comfortable, large

fingers. Forward facing, ramped ridges

surface area.

Grip material is thicker under the palm area for improved cushioning. The material is thinner under the

in the finger area give increased grip,

finger area, to keep the outside

yet lay flat for comfort in normal

diameter the same.

riding conditions.



The consistent pattern across the

In extreme conditions, crashes are

width of the grip accommodates

inevitable, resulting in mud covered

riding with your hand in any position.

grips. Open-ended features allow mud to be purged off the end of the grip.