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ST-S BRITAIN’S BE

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BIKING M IN A T N U O M LLING

AGAZINE

ISSUE 34179 20 NOVEMBER

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ver y x i s d e t c ly sele e think best l u f e r a c e We’ v n t b i ke s t h a t w d s f o r 2 0 18 differeent the new tren repres

R S LETTE EDITOR’ he year may only just be drawing to a close but we’ve been thinking

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about 2018’s bikes for quite a while now. Through the various launches and trade shows that happen throughout the year, our test team have gradually been putting together a picture of where we think we’re heading in 2018 and what’s happening to the bikes we ride. Which is why we’ve carefully selected six very different bikes that we think best represent these new trends and the different styles of riding that you as mountain bikers are into – see page 96. It makes for interesting reading and shows just how capable modern mountain bikes are becoming across all disciplines. As we head into the darker, colder months it becomes harder for many of us to get out on our bikes as regularly as in the summer. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, then take a look at Tommy Wilkinson’s story about tackling the Great Glen Way, on page 66. What on the surface seems like a relatively straightforward ride adventure is actually anything but. After a previous riding accident Tommy has the use of only one arm, but that didn’t stop him and his crew from adding in a load more trails along the way. All while lugging a ton of camera equipment and water along the route too. Suddenly that winter ride maybe doesn’t seem so tough after all...

THIS MONTH AMAZING AZORES Escape that winter feeling with this visit to the stunning Azores, and start saving for your own trip next year! – page 70 2018 TRENDSETTERS Which bikes will be making the biggest noise next year? We’ve gathered six very different style rigs to find out where you should spend your cash – page 96 BIKEPARK WALES The newly-opened red route Roots Manoeuvres gets the Wrecking Crew treatment. Find out our early verdict – page 136

GET IN TOUCH! D

IN E R E D ITO R T L A W Y N AN

C H IE F

mbuk@immediate.co.uk http://twitter.com/mbukmagazine www.facebook.com/mbukmag

Mountain Biking UK 11


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CLEANER \\ DEGREASER \\ ALL CONDITIONS LUBE \\ WET LUBE \\ DRY LUBE


contents #349–NOVEMBER2017

FEATURES

MBUK team rider Al Bond knows first-hand just how hard Red Bull Hardline is – page 54

ROLLING THE DICE P54

GET SUSSED P61

THE HARD WAY P66

AMAZING AZORES P70

What’s it like to tackle the world’s gnarliest downhill race, Red Bull Hardline? We get behind the bar with Team MBUK’s Al Bond to find out for ourselves

You don’t need a physics degree to get your suspension working better. We talk you through the basics and show the difference that a bit of expert help can make

A 79-mile ride across the Highlands? Doesn’t sound too difficult – until you add a ton of camera gear, detours down tech trails and riding one-handed

These nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic have incredible scuba diving, surfing, swimming – and singletrack. Time to start saving...

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Gamble – the new bike movie featuring all your favourite stars Tally-ho! Red Bull Foxhunt returns Freeriding on an e-bike New GoPro HERO6 Black Enduro World Series wraps up

Just why is the women’s MTB scene so strong right now? Gee Atherton’s top spots Best buys for beer lovers Towed by a Porsche BikePark Wales’s trail chief Classic jerseys

Your name up in lights, this month featuring an early end to an uplift day, a wipeout on wet wood and more of your best riding shots

This month is all about UK-designed bikes. We’ve taken two steel hardtails for a spin – the new Cotic BFe and the Pace RC127+ – and thrown a leg over the Bird Aeris 145 enduro bike

The latest kit that’s caught our eye, from Orange’s Stage 4 29er and FSA’s Flowtron dropper post to MRP’s Ribbon fork, 7iDP’s M5 helmet and Five Ten’s Impact Pro shoes

We check out the featherweight Silverback Sesta SBC XC race whip that’s helped Annie Last onto the World Cup and World Champs podiums

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contents #349–NOVEMBER 2017

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BIKETEST P96 2018 TRENDSETTERS

Is next year’s riding going to be even faster and more fun? We test six new models, from XC to e-bike, to find out WRECKED & RATED p79 Our test team report back on the latest kit, including the revised Fox 36 fork and Crankbrothers Mallet DH pedals

SIX OF THE BEST p88

2 0 18 E H T S T E S Y THAT R T E M O E ICA L G D A R Y L G IT’S THE N I CR E AS N I T U B , E T AS N U O K SCE R O W LWAYS A T ’ N O D S AG E 9 6 P – L I NUMBER A R T HE A W IN ON T

We find the best USB-rechargeable rear lights for staying safe on your way back from the trails

LONG-TERM RIDES p90 The latest on our team bikes – where we’ve ridden, what we’ve changed on them and what we’ve broken this month!

GROUPTEST p114 In the market for some new knee pads? We’ve tested a mix of lightweight and burlier options to find the best for your budget

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Grime TIME

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How to... race your mates, rip down DH trails, manual like a boss, make the most of your weekend rides and jump obstacles confidently

The answers to all your technical questions – how to replace a press-fit BB, fix a blown fork seal, choose a full-face helmet and bleed your Shimano disc brakes

We head to the newlyopened Yorkshire Cycle Hub for a cracking ride around Great Fryup Dale on the North York Moors

Rooty by name and nature, BikePark Wales’s latest red trail, Roots Manoeuvres, is a natural-feeling wake-up call for those expecting an easy ride

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

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p52 Subscribe to MBUK and getaSourceFuse 8lhydrationpack, plus save30%on the cover price!

* Pull-out maps not available to overseas readers

Your questions answered


£ 4 , 8 0 0 R R P b u i l d e x p e r t / /

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E MOVIE K I B W E N

Photo: Dan Hearn

TAKING A GAMBLE Web edits and Insta vids may be all the rage, but there are still some filmmakers who are prepared to go out on a limb and invest the time, money and sheer hard work required to create a full-length masterpiece – and we always get excited when we hear of a new one on the horizon. If you were a fan of Clay Porter and Brendan Fairclough’s Deathgrip, then we reckon that Gamble, a new collaboration between Steel City Media and Creative Concept, will be right up your street. Director Joe Bowman

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says he’s “rounded up a collection of the most charismatic and rowdy DH racers on the planet and given them free rein to run wild outside the tape.” The rider roster reads like a Who’s Who of mountain biking, with Loïc Bruni, Sam Blenkinsop, Josh Bryceland, Brook Macdonald, Connor Fearon and more visiting locations as exotic as New Zealand, Madeira, Canada and, erm, Sheffield! Almost all of the filming has been done in secret, but we’re beginning to see the first spy shots trickle out. This banger is from an autumn shoot with Finn Iles, in the Italian resort of Pila. The film is set for release in March 2018 – Joe says to expect something “loud and fast!”.


Mountain Biking UK 17


LL RED BU T FOX HUN

The Red Bull Fox Hunt concept is simple – the roles are reversed, and the ‘fox’, a pro rider, must chase down the ‘hunters’. Over 200 riders descended on a muddy hillside in Machynlleth, Wales, for this year’s women’s edition, which featured a new ‘fox’ – Katy Winton, standing in for an injured Rachel Atherton. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Katy. “But, I knew it’d be a fun weekend with a bunch of rad women who ride bikes!” Despite a valiant effort, 20 riders beat Katy down the hill. First to finish was Atherton Academy racer Mille Johnset. Fox Hunt first-timer Clare Mitchell told us: “I was terrified about the mass start but having someone up your bum yelling, ‘get out the way!’ does make you go faster! It was a crazy feeling, navigating the terrain, avoiding other girls and thinking, ‘OMG, Katy’s coming!’. I came off a few times, but she didn’t catch me – I placed 14th. All the girls were so supportive that I’d definitely do it again next year.”

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Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

OUTFOXED


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EERIDE R F E K I B E-

Photo: Jean-Baptiste Liautard

INVERTING IDEAS If you look closely enough, you may spot something a little out of the ordinary in this picture. Seen it yet? Yep – that’s an e-bike. Even our resident e-sceptic had to admit that this shot of French freerider William Robert getting wild on his Commencal Meta Power is pretty rad. Will this clicked tabletop, shot in Fontainebleau, near Paris, persuade the haters that e-bikes aren’t all that bad? Almost certainly not. But it does prove that their weight and length are no obstacle to getting rad.

Mountain Biking UK 19


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Although there are a fair few contenders in the wearable camera market these days, GoPro are still the undisputed leaders, and with the release of their sixthgeneration camera, things look set to continue that way. The HERO6 Black may not look any different to the previous model, but inside it’s been given a serious boost, in the shape of a new ‘GP1’ processor that’s twice as fast as before. This means you can record 4K Ultra HD video at 60 frames per second, and shoot 1,080p Full HD footage at 240fps, for incredible slow-mo results. GoPro say the faster processor also improves image stabilisation and performance in low light and

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at night. The new camera is also claimed to interact faster with their phone app, making it easier to upload footage and improving the usability of the ‘QuikStories’ editing function. Some of the features of the HERO5 have been retained, such as the touchscreen interface, voice-activated controls and waterproofing down to 10m. The new camera costs £100 more but is compatible with all the same accessories. GoPro HERO6 Black £499.99 https://shop.gopro.com Photo: EWS media

CHANGES UNDER THE HOOD

Photo: Steve Behr

ERO6 GOPRO H


S D SERIE L R O W ENDURO

FLATPEDALS WINMEDALS Sam Hill is back on top! At the final round of the EWS in Finale Ligure, Italy, the iconic Aussie did what no one had thought possible and bagged the overall title on flat pedals. When Sam began his transition to enduro back in 2016, it was after a season of disappointing DH World Cup results, and many questioned whether the former world champ still had the speed or fitness. Well, he’s certainly silenced the doubters! All season long, it was a tightly-contested battle

between Sam and France’s Adrien Dailly. But in Finale, the Flat Pedal Thunder from Down Under held his nerve and put 20 seconds into his rival over seven stages of brutally technical racing. The French domination of women’s enduro remained unchallenged, as Cécile Ravanel took her second title, with a massive 81-second gap over second-placed Isabeau Courdurier. The rest of the field have some work to do this off season if they’re to topple her. Another rider you can be sure will be training hard will be 2016 EWS winner Richie Rude, who failed to make it onto the podium this year. There’s just four-and-a-half months to wait now, until the 2018 EWS kicks off in Lo Barnechea, Chile.

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, S L R I G , GIR LS GIR LS The boys had better watch out – the women’s MTB scene is going from strength to strength IT WASN’T LONG ago that you’d almost never see a woman riding at your local trail centre. If you did, it was likely to be a longsuffering girlfriend being dragged round by their boyfriend. These days, things couldn’t be more different. Not only are loads more girls riding, but they’re getting properly rad and showing up the boys in a lot of cases! What’s changed? To find out, we spoke to some women who are heavily involved in the scene. Katy Winton is an enduro racer from Edinburgh who finished third overall in this year’s Enduro World Series. Annie Last, from Sheffield, is the UK’s most successful XC racer and won

THIS MONTH Al Bond, Gee Atherton’s top spots, beer ’n’ bikes, Rob Jarman and a Porsche, retro jerseys, BikePark Wales Mountain Biking UK 23


MEET THE GIRLS

KATY WINTON

ANNIE LAST

AMANDA DEXTER

Annie: There are some amazing female ambassadors in our sport who are inspiring more girls to ride. Seeing the likes of Rachel Atherton and Tahnée Seagrave achieving at the top level and riding with the guys, while also being normal, relatable people, makes women think it’s a sport that could be for them.

a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships, and Amanda Dexter is a veterinary nurse and MTB blogger from Newcastle. How did you find it starting out in such a male-dominated sport? Annie: I just loved riding and racing my bike and it never really registered that there were far fewer girls. Katy: My passion for going fast made it gender-irrelevant for me because I wanted to race everyone! I grew up riding with boys who were faster than me, but it didn’t intimidate me, it just pushed me on. Amanda: It was terrifying at first and most guys would assume things would be too hard for me, without seeing me ride. Most of the time I prove them wrong now! What’s changed in the riding scene recently, and why? Amanda: Social media has had a big influence. Facebook groups like MTB Chix & Trails have helped show girls there are other girls riding out there. Annie: I think it’s the momentum behind it now that’s making the biggest difference. The more women who ride, the more who’ll encourage their friends to try it, and so on.

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Previous page Canadian rider Vaea Verbeeck showing full commitment as she hits a turn on the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup track Top We’ve followed former world champ Morgane Charre down several downhill tracks and can confirm how flat-out fast she is! Above Katy Winton kicking up roost at this year’s Finale Ligure EWS round

Women’s-specific bikes and kit make a big difference too, they allow you to be comfortable, feel good and feel like you belong. What’s encouraging more women to get into riding? Amanda: It’s women inspiring other women! Events nowadays are more women-friendly too – they aren’t scary to go to by yourself any more. Trail bikes have made things more accessible too. You can pedal from your door and session your local trails without having to put on a brave face in a bike park!

What do you predict for the women’s scene? Amanda: It’s only going to get better as more women get into the sport. Katy: I can only see it growing. I’m proud to be a part of the EWS, because I feel their coverage is equal for both genders. I hope that as time goes on this inspires more girls to race or simply give bike riding a go. Annie: I’d love to see women treated equally in the sport. There are quite a few men who see us as inferior riders. Obviously there are physical differences, but there’s no reason we can’t ride all the same stuff as men. I love riding with both guys and girls. Pretty much everyone in MTB is in it for the same reason – they love riding their bike and being outside. There’s no need to be intimidated about where you ride or who you ride with – just get stuck in and enjoy it!


Al, looking like a proud dad with his newly-delivered team bikes – a GT Fury and Sanction

Pro’s L ife

D N O B X E AL Our team rider’s had a cracking year despite plenty of challenges on and off the bike

At the end of the race season it’s good to look back at how it went, so as to learn, ready for next year. I’ve only managed five events this season, because of time constraints – one enduro, three DH races and Red Bull Hardline. Highlights would have to be getting second at the Llangollen round of the now finished British Downhill Series and qualifying for the main event at Hardline – and even surviving it! [For more on Al’s experience at the Red Bull event, turn to page 54 ~ Ed.] The low point was realising how tiring enduro racing is, mid loop at the ’Ard Rock Enduro! What I’ve taken from this year is that fitness and being bikeready are key to racing success – something I already knew, but never seem to do anything about! I’ve been trying to renovate my house while working full-time and still getting out on cheeky rides here and there. It can be tough juggling to get the work/life balance perfect! For next year, I’d love to be prepared – whether I’ll get the chance is still to be seen, but I can but hope! It’s been brilliant fun at the events I’ve done this year and it’s been great being a part of Team MBUK and riding for some great brands. Roll on next year!

CHART TOPPER We ask pro riders to name th favourite riding spots. Th month, it’s ex world cham and World Cup overall winner Gee Atherto

These Welsh sheep know how to tackle a downhill track – Al follows their line!

Standing on the podium (not someone’s umbrella) at the Llangollen BDS round

1 whistler, british columbia “I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say Whistler, but it’s got to be up there, more for the type of riding I do there than anything else. I associate the place with being relaxed, getting away from racing and hanging out with my mates. A big group of us always go out there, and it doesn’t really matter what tracks we’re riding, but who we’re riding with.”

2 fort william, scotland “Fort William is pretty special for me. I’ve got so many memories from there, both good and bad. I’ve had my fair share of massive crashes, but also some of the most amazing race wins. Schladming, in Austria, means a lot to me too, because it was where I won my first World Cup. I love the natural style of the old European tracks. Raw, loamy, rooty – a real test of an all-round bike rider.”

3 dyfi bike park, wales “I love going away racing for a month, then coming back to ride my brother’s bike park. Every time I ride there, Dan has transformed the place with new jump lines and DH tracks. Understanding the personal investment he’s got in the place and seeing all the work that’s gone in is amazing. It’s a bike park, but it’s home to some of the hardest trails I’ve ridden. It opens your eyes to what a bike park can be like.”

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Want T hat!

R E E B ’ N ’ BIKES

a gether thjaarsn to r te t e b o ings g a few What twoonththe bike followed by day out

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1 Dakine Party Bucket Keep your beers chilled while you’re sessioni the trails. £55 www.dakine.com/en-gb

2 Passenger x Ringwood Outsiders IPA New Forest clothing brand Passenger have teamed up with their local brewery to make a beer that’s ‘best enjoyed with a view’. £tbc www.passenger-clothing.com

3 BrüBox home brewing kit If you love drinking beer, why not have a go at brewing it too? £40 www.brubox.co

4 Mucky Nutz Bar Tabs Bar ends that you can clip the bottle tops of your favourite beer on to. £9.99 www.muckynutz.com

A pistonhead and a headcase – the perfect formula for a classic MBUK feature!

5 Rumpl Beer Blanket Keep your hand warm and your bevvy cold with this puffa-style koozie. £8.99 www.rumpl.com

6 Klean Kanteen Insulated Growler 64oz A sturdy refillable stainless steel flask that’ll fit four pints of the good stuff. £69.95 www.kleankanteen.co.uk

7 Salsa Anything cage This oversized bottle cage is perfect for carrying your Growler. £89.99 www.salsacycles.com

We roped MBUKK regular, Rob Jarman, to the back of a Porsche in a bid to reach the highest speed possible, before he could question his own sanity!

8 WiseCracker Twinduro bottle opener A titanium bottle opener that fits in place of a headset spacer. It’s rad, but drinking and riding is bad! £26.99 www.wisecrackerltd.com

9 Erdinger Alkoholfrei beer This alcohol-free beer is claimed to be isotonic and promote recovery – and tastes better than a protein shake! 6 cans £10.99 int.erdinger.de

10 Yeti Hopper Flip 18 cooler Head to the hills or the BBQ safe in the knowledge that this apocalypse-proof soft cooler will keep your beers icy cold for days. £241.19 intl.yeti.com

11 Hope bottle opener A laser-cut bottle opener from Barnoldswick’s finest. £5 www.hopetech.com

12 Howling Hops Riding Ale This ale celebrates Hackney-based brewery Howling Hops’ love of all things two-wheeled. £1.90 www.howlinghops.co.uk

13 Magic Rock Shredder gift box Made in collaboration with Orange Bikes, this pack of tangy citrus wheat beer comes with a T-shirt for showing off your love of the Halifax brand. £30 www.magicrockbrewing.com

14 Blackburn Tallboy bottle cage A bottle cage with a built-in koozie for keeping ya brew icy cold. £16.99 www.zyrofisher.co.uk

15 Specialized Pizza Rack & Pizza Bag Turn your commuter into a beer-hauling juggernaught with this waterproof rolltop pizza bag and matching porteur rack. £50 + £80 www.specialized.com/gb

Back in 2005, when health and safety wasn’t such a big thing, Rob Jarman had just one thing on his mind – speed. The means to propel himself to max velocity was virtually irrelevant. If it meant being dragged behind a sportscar, then he wasn’t going to argue. We arranged to meet him atop a Yorkshire moor early one morning with a Porsche Carrera, a (semi) closed road, a length of rope and his ‘Carrera’ downhill bike ( underneath the Halfords sti was actually an Intense M . Attempt number one wa a baptism of fire. Not used the acceleration of the car, ob struggled to hold on betwe n gear changes as our very own ta e racing driver, The Stealth, h ofed the Porsche up to speed. Affter managing to last all the wa o the top end of second gear, Ro lost his grip on the bar when th river n just smashed it into third. He on held onto the resulting tank lap , and was disappointed to le rn he’d only reached 60mph – not en enough to break the speed imit! Rob worked out that the needed to start in third in o to stop his hands getting rip ed off the bar between gear cha es. They pulled away gently for a second attempt, and quickly cke

up pace. As they got close to Rob’s 100mph target, the bumpy road started to unsettle the Porsche, its belly striking the floor and showering sparks towards him. After hitting 90mph, the driver decided it was too dangerous to carry on and slammed on the anchors. Rob panicked as he found himself hurtling towards the rear windscreen, but managed to ditch the rope and swerve out of the way t i the nick of time. time He never did reach his 100mph target, but did succeed in outbraking a Porsche!

ntain Biking UK


INSIDER Y R T S U IND

S L O O T E H ON T Meet James Walker, the man who keeps the trails at BikePark Wales flowing

Lucky break It was pure chance that I spotted an advert for the Trail Crew Manager job here at BPW. I’m from the North East, but moved down south to study geology at the University of Portsmouth. After graduation, I worked as a surveyor of hazardous materials within the construction industry. I’d always been into bikes, but it was joining the bike club and building trails at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Rogate that made me realise I wanted to be a part of the industry. Team effort I head up a seven-man team responsible for maintaining the existing trail network, as well as building new trails. I manage the day-to-day operations, but I’m also involved in planning improvements to the park. The initial design of any trail is done by Rowan Sorrell. He’s one of the directors here and has been building trails for over 15 years. After he’s planned the preliminary route, I’ll get involved to finalise the design with him before construction. Trail design is always open to interpretation though, so all the guys working on it will have equal input into how they feel it should be. Any excuse All my days start with a briefing to the guys. After that, I’ll either grab my tools and join them or be in the office doing admin work. I try to get out on the hill at least two days a week and often make excuses to check up on what they’re doing! I’ve met some great characters working here. Most of the stories can’t be shared, but Billy and Jason never fail to crack me up with their terrible one-liners. Home time My girlfriend and I have just bought a house down the road, so it looks like I’m here to stay! I want to help MTB to grow, and all the new venues popping up are going to need designing and building by somebody!

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Good day

One of the best bits about trail building is seeing something take shape. From planning a new trail and fighting through dense vegetation to find the best natural features, to building it and finally riding it. The most difficult trails to get right are jump/flow trails, because when you’re excavating large quantities of earth to sculpt jumps, you want to make sure it’s going to work. The reward of getting to test ride them makes up for any stress, though.

Bad day

There aren’t too many downsides to being paid to build mountain bike trails, but the weather can be a bit of a nightmare. It’s not exactly Costa del Merthyr! Winter conditions can wreak havoc on the trails, and big-scale builds, like our recent project Popty Ping, can be tough going, when the boys are knee deep in slop and our machines are getting stuck in bogs! Everyone always works incredibly hard to pull it off, though.


Distributed in the UK by www.hotlines-uk.com

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Tel: 0131 319 1444


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RSEYS E J E C A R CLASSIC

F O K PIC PS O T E TH

mor er in the me w n li e m o s t bu t ho e every yea they did in them or us eras... n a h c s y e Team ers ho wore them what tes from across the w uri because of d! Here are some favo e k rad they loo

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Monochrome minimalism This top brings together three early ’90s UK classics – Been Bag clothing, bike maker Chas Roberts (of DOGSBOLX fame) and MBUK team rider Dave Hemming. Just two of these black-and-white specials were made for him, to take to the 1991 World Championships in Il Ciocco, Italy.

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Frischi flies the (US) flag In 1993, Switzerland’s

Thomas Frischknecht was the Don of XC racing on his supercool, American-made Ritchey P-21. If you were one of his adversaries, the only time you got to see his familiar red, white and blue jersey was from behind, as he crossed the finish line, arms aloft.

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Retro road cool Worn by early UK MTB heroes Rory Hitchins, Paul Hinton and Jake Elliott, this


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T-Mo hits the big time The year is 1999, the rider a very young Tracy Moseley in her first season on the World Cup stage and on the same team (Volvo/Cannondale) as the invincible Anne-Caroline Chausson. T-Mo learned from the best and went on to dominate downhill and enduro.

9 Team Raleigh top looked like a classic road jersey with its wool collar and cuffs and chevron design.

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What the Sam Hill? Sam Hill was one of a new breed of Aussie chargers who appeared on the scene in the late ’90s and early ’00s. The first warning of the Iron Horse/ MadCatz rider’s rude talent came at Fort William in 2005, when he bagged his debut DH World Cup podium.

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One historic huck What better way is there to market your own product than to wear it when jumping over the Tour de France peloton? That’s what Sombrio founder Dave Watson did in 2003, as he and the Freeride Entertainment crew hit Alpe d’Huez for New World Disorder IV.

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The gold standard Italy’s Paola Pezzo won the XC World Champs twice, but it

was after her 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games gold medal that she began sporting more, well, Italian attire, including this rainbow-striped skinsuit.

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Leader of the pack This jersey belonged to Canada’s Alison Sydor, circa 1994, and denoted that she was leading Arizona’s Cactus Cup. Dormant for years, the multidiscipline season opener is being revived for 2018.

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Rach’s winning streak If the rainbow stripes and the sponsors don’t give it away, you’re clearly not a fan of DH racing. This is one of Rachel Atherton’s jerseys from her record-breaking 2016 season, when she won every World Cup round, along with the World Champs.

Buy the book

8

The stories behind these tops and many more can be found in Dirty Jerseys, an upcoming coffee table book from MTB journalist Geoff Waugh. Geoff has trawled the archives and used his contacts to bring in jerseys from famous riders of today and yesteryear, going back as far as Britain’s unsuccessful attempt to claim the World Champs title in 1987! Crowdfunding for the book will start soon. Visit www.dirtyjerseys.co.uk for updates, and to see the wall prints and mugs already available.

Mountain Biking UK 31


I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H

and win! YOUR MAIL, PHOTOS, IDEAS AND RANTS ! WINNER TTER STAR LE

SHOWING UP AND BLOWING UP

I’ve been riding downhill for two years now. Keen to ride new tracks, I booked myself onto the uplift at Revolution Bike Park in Wales. Because it was my first time, I was advised to ride with people who knew the track, so I tagged along with a group of three (very good) riders. The first run they took me down was great. I took things steady so I could get an idea of the track, made it down to the bottom and got back in the Land Rover, excited for lap two. For my second run I took to the Ghetto Track – a black-rated trail with roots, drops and rocks. It was all going well, until I came into contact with a tree. At first I was more concerned about my bike, but, after getting up, I realised my right shoulder was a funny shape and very painful. I grabbed my right arm with my left to support it, felt a huge click and my shoulder went back to its normal shape again. “Brilliant, I can keep riding,” I thought, not noticing the big bony lump between my shoulder and neck. A short trip to hospital later and I was in a sling, with an AC separation that would mean four months off the

WIN ALL THIS!

I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H

32 Mountain Biking UK

STARR LETTWEIN S... DMR V-Twin clipless pedals worth £129.99

Alan has been working on his jazz hands for weeks. Nice moves, mate!

Gary Reeves snapped MBUK team rider Al Bond at the Llangollen BDS. Top work!

downhill bike. Absolutely gutted. I suppose it could have been worse, but it shows that even crashes at slow speeds can cause damage. At least I have plenty of time to order new bike parts and body armour! I can’t wait to get down to Revs again. Jake Brookes, via email

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Sounds like you’ve done the classic ‘show up and blow up’ thing, Jake! We do sympathise, though – if you’re stoked on the riding and trying to follow faster guys, it’s easy to make mistakes. Being injured is tough, but at least your bike is unscathed! Hopefully you’ll be back in no time.

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! WINNERF SHOT OONTH THE M

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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 3 flat pedals worth £89.99, courtesy of www.crankbrothers.com. Usual T&Cs apply.

! WINNER Jamie Hewitt – a regular on these pages – took this great shot with his GoPro Karma drone at the top of the Wrekin, in Shropshire, at 5am. Epic!

@ben_davies93 gets that feeling when the riding is rad!

Stuart Mclean knows how to send it!

Nothing beats going at it with a buddy! Mark Levett races his mate Oliver Squirrell in the woods

Tom Rooke sent us this snap of himself going big on Dartmoor

! WINNER ’S T THATA UR GOTT H

@bantickmark had an amazing weekend in Wales

@broken_mtb wonders whether 12 miles is good enough training before a 52-mile ride

@zebediela has been working on progressing his jumping skills!

Morgan Edwards took a nasty spill on wet wood. He explains: “I was going too fast, as usual, came to a bridge and, because it was a wet morning, my front wheel went from underneath me and I went flying over the bars into a freezing cold stream. An ambulance was called, I got rushed to hospital and came away with a torn liver, badly bruised back and dislocated shoulder – and a bad headache.” Still rocking the shades though!

Mountain Biking UK 33


H T N O M NEXT ECEM D 1 E L A S N O

BER

Immediate Media Company Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN Tel: 0117 927 9009 Email: mbuk@immediate.co.uk Web: www.bikeradar.com Website: www.mbuk.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/mbukmag Twitter: http://twitter.com/mbukmagazine EDITORIAL Editor in Chief Danny Walter danny.walter@immediate.co.uk Technical Editor in Chief Robin Weaver robin.weaver@immediate.co.uk Deputy Editor James Costley-White james.costley-white@immediate.co.uk Features Editor Alex Evans alex.evans@immediate.co.uk

Staff Writer Ed Thomsett ed.thomsett@immediate.co.uk Art Editor James Blackwell james.blackwell@immediate.co.uk Deputy Art Editor Matt Orton matt.orton@immediate.co.uk Workshop Manager Jonny Ashelford Bike tester Guy Kesteven Cartoonist Jo Burt

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 1 DECEMBER The ABC combined print, digital and digital publication circulation is

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&KLHI ([HFXWLYH 2IÀFHU Tom Bureau Tel: 0117 927 9009 (Bristol) www.immediatemedia.co.uk

© Immediate Media 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited (company number 05715415) is registered in England and Wales. The registered office of Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited is at Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London, W6 7BT. All information contained in this magazine is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. Readers are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this magazine. If you submit unsolicited material to us, you automatically grant Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in all editions of the magazine, including licensed editions worldwide and in any physical or digital format throughout the world. Any material you submit is sent at your risk. Although every care is taken, neither Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for loss or damage.

FREE GIF T N DA R E L A C 8 1 0 MBUK 2 EVER YEAR OF MOUNTAIN BIKING! P L A N YO U R

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CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDES

We ride and rate the best budget bikes for around £500, plus loads of great gift ideas for the mountain biker in your life

Competitions For your chance to win, either (a) text your answer to the number specified or (b) email your answer/entry to the email address shown on the relevant page or (c) go to the website shown on the relevant page and click on the link to send your answer or (d) go to the social media website shown on the relevant page and tag your entry with the specified hashtag. By entering any MBUK competition you are agreeing to be bound by these competition rules and you confirm you are happy to receive details of future offers and promotions from Immediate Media Company and carefully selected third parties. If you do not want to receive this info text the word STOP to the relevant number or at the end of your email entry or untick the appropriate boxes on the competition website. Texts will be charged at £1 plus standard network tariff rate. Ask permission from the bill payer. All entries must be received before the closing date specified. Entries must be submitted by an individual, not an agency or similar. One entry per household, unless otherwise stated. The prize is as stated and no cash alternative is available. Prizes may be provided by a third party. Immediate Media Company reserve the right to substitute any prize with cash or a prize of comparable value. Competitions are open to GB residents only, unless otherwise specified. No employees of Immediate Media Company or any company associated with the relevant comp may enter. The winning entry will be that which has met the entry criteria and which most closely meets the specified competition criteria, or will be drawn at random from all correct entries after the closing date. Where you are offered the chance to subscribe for a free newsletter or other service, you are not required to do so, and failure to do so will not result in disqualification. Immediate Media Company accepts no liability for any loss, damage or injury caused by any prizes won except by its negligence. Publicity may be given to any comp winners and/ or entrants and their names and/or photos may appear in MBUK. All entries become the property of Immediate Media Company, may be republished and cannot be returned. Any moral rights or similar that you have over the entry are waived. Entries must be wholly original and must not have appeared in any other publication. Entries must not defame, cause injury to, invade the privacy of or infringe any law, intellectual property or regulatory rights of any third party. Unless otherwise stated, Immediate Media Company is the promoter of the competition. Where competitions are run by third parties (eg. through advertising), Immediate Media Company cannot be held responsible for any failure to provide prizes as specified. Additional information may be required from the winner (inc. proof of age or identity). Failure to provide it may result in disqualification. No purchase necessary. Winners lists available by written request (including SAE) up to three months after the competition closing date. Receipt of prize is conditional upon compliance with the above rules. If any rule is deemed illegal, invalid or unenforceable, it shall be deleted, but unaffected rules will continue in full force and effect. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Submissions Letters/texts/pic messages cannot be answered individually. All correspondence becomes property of MBUK. We abide by IPSO’s rules and regulations. To give feedback about our magazine, please visit www.immediate.co.uk, email editorialcomplaints@immediate.co.uk or write to Danny Walter, Immediate Media Co, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN.

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MODEL –

ARIEL LT – PRICE –

£4,999.99 –

A full carbon chassis mirrors it’s big brother the Myst, both aesthetically and in ride performance! Whether doing big mountain epics or turning laps at your local, the Ariel takes it all in it’s stride and still asks for more. –

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STRAIGHT OUT O F TH E BOX A N D O N TO THE TRAI LS

1

E F B C I COT R SPECI A L SILVE

£1,929 Cotic’s aggro hardtail gets fully stretched for full-gas riding Twelve years after this burlier version of Cotic’s classic Soul trail hardtail first appeared, the fifthgeneration BFe frame gets a radical geometry refresh that makes it much happier with big forks. The frame Cotic have largely kept to their wellproven recipe. The down tube is ultra-tough yet light Reynolds 853 steel while the rest of the frame is Cotic’s custom ‘FM’ double-butted steel. Wide-splayed, brace-free chainstays mean there’s loads of mud clearance for 27.5x2.6in or 26x3in tyres. Neat cylindrical bolt-through 142x12mm Syntace dropouts include a pinch-boltsecured replaceable mech hanger, which is rare for steel. Cables are bolt clamped, and because there’s just a single set of bottle cage bosses (on the down tube), you can slam the seatpost. There are ISCG

36 Mountain Biking UK

chain device tabs on the threaded bottom bracket (BB) shell too. The 657mm effective top tube length on the large we tested is 45mm longer than the previous BFe, which translates to a massive 472mm reach. While the 66-degree head angle is the same, the geometry has been optimised around a 140mm-travel fork, making the seat angle an acceptable 73 degrees. There are no XS or XL sizes, but the frame is well priced at £449. The kit The standard ‘Silver’ build comes with a 35mm Cotic stem and 780mm bar, Shimano SLX gears, and Deore brakes and hubs on eyeletted WTB i25 rims with Continental tyres, for £1,629. Cotic offer extensive upgrade options, and our build included an X-Fusion Sweep 140mm-travel fork with upgraded Roughcut HLR damper (+£100) rather than the standard RL spec, an X-Fusion Manic dropper post (+£150) and WTB tyres set up tubeless (+£50). Maxxis 2.3 or 2.5in rubber is also available (+£100), plus Hope wheels (+£200) and WTB

SPEC

Frame ‘FM’ double-butted steel with Reynolds 853 down tube Fork X-Fusion Sweep HLR Roughcut, 140mm (5.5in) travel Drivetrain Shimano SLX with Race Face Æffect Cinch cranks Wheelset WTB ST i25 TCS rims on Shimano Deore hubs, WTB Vigilante Light/High Grip (f) and WTB Breakout Tough/High Grip (r) 27.5x2.3in tyres Brakes Shimano Deore M615, 180/160mm rotors Bar/stem Cotic Calver, 780mm/Cotic Short, 35mm Seatpost/saddle X-Fusion Manic 150mm dropper/Cotic Weight 13.82kg (30.5lb), large size without pedals


R RY A A C U O Y S T E ACH LE R G N O L PPING I A R R T T T X U E O E H H T T R NS WI U T O T N ETLY I E D W E S E P S S P I F K O TON ND IT S A T U O G N MPS I U D I B L R S E R T O T U P U A ND ST S K C O R H THROUG Mountain Biking UK 37


1

The steel-framed BFe is an all-round trail tamer, delivering a sweet ride whether you’re going up, down or along the hill

There’s loads of mud room and the BFe will happily accept 2.6in rubber

carbon rims (+£1,200). You can also choose from SRAM and Shimanobased ‘Gold’ builds. The ride While it might be the beefiest of Cotic’s hardtails, the wide spread, slim stays and carefully butted and shaped mainframe still give a notably forgiving ride quality. This is most obvious when trying to maintain flow through random

38 Mountain Biking UK

HIGHS rocks and stutter bumps that would kill speed and punish your feet and hands on most hardtails – the BFe just skips through sweetly. While it’s good with 2.3in tyres at medium pressures, the BFe floats through trouble even better on the Maxxis WT 2.5in tyres and wider rims we swapped in for some of the testing period. They also add extra compliant traction for an even more positive climbing and cornering feel. Even in stock form, the extra-long reach lets you carry a ton of speed into turns without tripping up or sliding out, and it’s slack enough to self-correct if you push too hard. The super-short stem helps you micromanage grip really well too, although you’ll have to learn to swing the front end wide through tight sections. Unsurprisingly, the extra-long steel frame can sometimes feel a bit vague when you’re flat out, but by that point you’ll have left most hardtails way behind. It’s still light

Super-long stretch adds speed stability to forgiving but still dynamically fun steel frame Well thought-out affordable build with useful upgrade menu Wider tyre compliant for extra smoothness and speed

LOWS Seat angle still too slack with longer fork options

and lively enough to be enjoyable through the pedals too, whether you’re cruising between the best bits, hustling singletrack hard or on the nose of the saddle up a supersteep tech challenge. Once it’s bedded in, the Sweep fork is a very well-damped unit, if not as stiff at the ragged edge as 35mm RockShox or 36mm Fox forks. It’s worth noting that a 150-160mm fork will tip the seat angle back to the point where it’s likely to give a vague steering feel when you’re in the saddle, so we’d say 120-140mm is definitely the sweet spot for fork travel with the BFe. GUY KESTEVEN www.cotic.co.uk

Radical reshape gives the BFe the handling and wider tyre compatibility the frame deserves


ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY / MECHANICAL PRECISION

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1

Its geometry might be unconventional, but the Pace is a real blast to ride

Braced stays carry Pace’s ‘Slideout’dropout system, in 148mm Boost width

+ 7 2 1 C R PACE £2,799 Fat and slack but definitely not lazy

Adrian Carter from Pace has been designing mountain bikes for 30 years now and he takes his time refining every new frame. That’s not great news if you’re impatient, but if you’re prepared to wait, the outcome of his relentless test riding is always a distinctive and deceptively quick bike. The frame The top-quality Reynolds 853 steel mainframe combines a neat mix of traditional practical features – threaded bottom bracket (BB), reinforcing throat gusset, external cable/hose runs – and modern performance enhancements, such as a tapered head tube and sideentry dropper post routing on the seat tube. Swerved and curved stays loop out around the big rear tyre space (it’ll take 27.5x2.8 or 29x2.3in rubber) and carry the latest version of Pace’s adjustable ‘Slideout’ dropout system, in 148mm Boost width. The frame is available on its own for £575, in almost-black green or bright orange, with a choice of six decal colours.

40 Mountain Biking UK

The kit We tested the base build, with a Shimano SLX groupset, 27.5x2.6in Schwalbe tyres and prototype Pace stem and rims. A selection of fixed upgrade packages are available, or you can go for a full custom build. The ride While its chunky rubber and short, upright position mean the RC127+ trudges on tarmac, as soon as you hit the trail it feels surprisingly fast. And this perceived speed is slower than its actual velocity – when we reviewed our ride data, we found the Pace had turned in climb times you’d associate with a 1kg carbon fibre race frame, not a nearly 2kg steel trail chassis. The compliant frame feel and low-pressure, high-volume tyres – which help it float over potentially speed-choking sections – ensure that traction is never an issue. And the more we rode it, the harder we pushed the front tyre through the super-slack 65-degree head angle and big Race Face bar. Spending more time on the bike (and seeing the speeds it was reaching) challenged our initial perception that the 435mm reach of the large size was way too short by contemporary ‘chaos bike’ standards. Adrian told us he’d tried several longer frame samples, and

SPEC

Frame Reynolds 853 steel main tubes, custom chromoly steel rear end Fork Fox 34 Float FIT4 Factory, 140mm (5.5in) travel Drivetrain Shimano SLX M7000 w/ Shimano Deore XT M8000 cassette (1x11) Wheelset Pace 35mm rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs, Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo TLE SnakeSkin 27.5x2.6in tyres Brakes Shimano SLX M7000, 180/160mm rotors Bar/stem Race Face Respond, 785mm/ Pace prototype, 70mm Seatpost/saddle Fox Transfer Factory 150mm dropper/ Charge Spoon Weight 13.58kg (29.94lb), large size without pedals

on bikes with shorter-travel forks he preferred the extra reach. But he found that hardtails with lots of front travel (the RC127+ can take a 150mm fork if you want) and a long top tube “don’t seem to weight and steer correctly when climbing”. The Pace is certainly impeccably balanced and agile on slower-speed, super-steep and techy stuff, even if it still feels cramped when you jump onto it straight off a stretched-out enduro bike. Its slack head angle and super-low 300mm BB height mean that stability at speed isn’t the issue that its relatively short wheelbase might suggest. In other words, while the numbers might not seem to add up, this is a bike that’s been designed based on super-techy Yorkshire riding. As a result, it’s an impressively smooth and deceptively rapid ride on typically twisty and treacherous UK singletrack, as well as being practically tough and compatible with both plus-size and 29er wheels/tyres. GUY KESTEVEN www.pacecycles.com

Pace’s floatingly surefooted steel singletracker is way faster and more fun than it looks on paper


The power Gtech Mounta

Compact high performance motor

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The Gtech Mountain eBike lets you go further, faster, easier. Boost your pedal power

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Enjoy the thrill of the ride without the struggle. Although it looks just like a normal mountain bike, as soon as you pedal you will feel the difference: a powerful 36V Lithium ion battery and motor give you a boost up to 15mph. And you can always go faster under your own steam if you like.

The Gtech Mountain eBike is equipped with 27.5” off road tyres, providing the perfect balance between good acceleration and maximum manoeuvrability. Perfect for both open road and rougher terrain. The hydraulic disc brakes give you powerful braking performance without any compromises in control in any weather, meaning you can safely tackle any challenge with confidence.

Performance to tackle any incline If the route starts to get tough, a built in computer smoothly adjusts the power as and when you need it. And with the cleverly incorporated 36V high torque motor, you can choose from two cruising speeds at the touch of a button, or turn the power off completely if you want to.

From mean streets to mountain passes Whether you’re negotiating city streets or exploring across country trails, the suspension saddle makes riding over rougher ground smooth and comfortable. The RockShox front suspension gives you an easy, comfortable ride but can be locked out for more efficient road use.

Get into gear As well as its powerful Lithium ion battery, the eScent boasts state of the art Shimano gears to make your ride even easier.

More power, less weight If you thought all this would make a heavy bike, you’d be wrong. The eScent weighs in at just 19kg, so nothing will slow you down. And it’s made from lightweight aluminium alloy, the same material used in modern aircraft, so you know it’s strong enough to withstand whatever you throw at it. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start a new adventure today.

Also available at:

To see the Gtech Mountain eBike in action, go to www.gtech.co.uk/mtb, visit our Worcester Showroom or pop into a Cycle Republic store.

Was £1,895.99 Now £1,299.99

0800 054 68 80

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*To remain eligible we ask you to adopt a fair usage frame of mind and ensure there is no damage to the bike outside of the usual minimal wear you would expect from a bike ridden for 14 days or for a few rides. Go to www.gtech.co.uk for more details

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Our 14 day trial allows you to experience the Gtech eBike from the convenience of your own home. You pay for the bike as normal and we’ll deliver your bike free of charge. If, after 14 days, you’re not completely satisfied simply call our Customer Service Team. We will pick up the bike at no charge and process a full refund. All we ask is that you keep the eBike in good condition*.


1 The Aeris feels like more of an enduro than a trail bike

S I R E A D B I R X E AG L E 145 G £2,381 (as tested) Long, low and slack for downhill thrills

Swinley-based Bird Cycles have two full-suspension bikes – the Aeris 120 and the 145 tested here. While its 145mm of rear travel suggests a trail bike, it rides much more like a longer-travel enduro machine.

The frame The alloy frame uses a tried and tested four-bar linkage suspension design to deliver its 145mm of rear wheel travel, so nothing out of the ordinary there. It’s designed to work with a 150mm or 160mm-travel fork up front, and ours was paired with the shorter option. What is unusual is the frame geometry, which is much more extreme than the amount of travel might suggest. With a reach of 506mm and a wheelbase of 1,255mm on the large size, this is a long bike. It is, in fact, longer than many extra-large bikes. But don’t worry – with five sizes to choose from, there should be an Aeris to fit everyone. The effective seat angle is steep (76 degrees), while the head angle is fairly slack (65.5 degrees). The BB sits reasonably low at 340mm, with a drop of 10mm.

42 Mountain Biking UK

The 150mm-travel RockShox Pike is a benchmark performer

Cornering credentials are bolstered further by the short but not stumpy 435mm chainstays. Boost spacing is used out back. External cable routing and a threaded BB should make it that bit easier to keep the Aeris running smoothly.

The kit Our test bike was decked out with SRAM’s 12-speed GX Eagle group, a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork and Deluxe RT3 shock – impressive kit for the price. The DT Swiss M 1900 wheels were shod with some of our favourite tyres – ‘Wide Trail’ Maxxis Minions (2.6in DHF front, 2.4in DHR II rear). If any of these parts aren’t to your liking, you can chop and change virtually everything on Bird’s website – fork, shock, tyres, wheels, dropper, etc. This means you can pick and choose a custom build based on personal kit preferences and how deep your wallet is.

The ride You could easily be fooled into thinking the Aeris has more than 145mm of travel. The long, low geometry makes it feel perfectly at home on steep, loose and fast descents, where having the front wheel punted out ahead gives more high-speed confidence and cornering stability. This is especially true if you take the Wide Trail tyre

SPEC

Frame 6066 aluminium, 145mm (5.7in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air, 150mm (5.9in) travel Shock RockShox Deluxe RT3 Drivetrain SRAM GX Eagle (1x12) Wheelset DT Swiss M 1900 SPLINE 30 wheels, Maxxis Minion DHF WT 3C EXO TR 27.5x2.6in and Minion DHR II WT 3C EXO TR 27.5x2.4in tyres Brakes SRAM Guide R, 180mm rotors Bar/stem Race Face Turbine 35, 760mm/ Race Face Æffect R 35, 40mm Seatpost/saddle Race Face Turbine 150mm dropper/ Fabric Scoop Weight 13.88kg (30.6lb), large size without pedals

option – lean the Minions over and the extra traction and predictability of the chunky rubber makes railing corners as easy as it comes. The four-bar rear end and metric shock give plenty of small-bump sensitivity but still deal with the big hits with plenty of composure when they do start coming thick and fast. There’s a touch more support in the mid stroke than on the original Aeris too, although we’d still recommend having a play with volume spacers to make the most of the travel on offer. The frame is also a touch stiffer than before. This is a good thing, because the flipside of the Aeris 145’s impressive descending performance is that on flatter trails and climbs it feels like a much bigger bike than it is. It’s not super-happy hustling through tight, twisty pedally sections and it’s not going to flatter your climbing prowess, so you’ll want every watt possible to go straight through to the back wheel. Thankfully the steep tube angle helps here. TOM MARVIN www.bird.bike

The super-stretched-out geometry of the new Aeris makes it a descent-biased shredder


#IRIDEENVE

THE ALL NEW M SERIES THE FUTURE OF GRAVITY RIDING AND RACING

Protective Rim Strip Max pinch & impact resistance No tape tubeless set-up


44 Mountain Biking UK


CTOR A F 4 E G A T OR A NGE S

Y

£5,600 Same but different Following on from the success of the Stage 5 and 6, Orange are adding the Stage 4 to their big-wheeler line-up for 2018. The frame gets Boost axle spacing, 110mm of rear wheel travel and a five-year warranty (if registered). This build includes a ‘Factory’ series Fox 34 Float fork (120mm) and DPS shock, a Fox Transfer dropper post, Hope Tech 3 E4 brakes and SRAM X01 Eagle 1x12 gearing. There are three sizes available (medium, large and extra-large), with the medium sporting a 444mm reach and 610mm effective top tube. We can’t wait to get our hands on one soon.

www.orangebikes.co.uk

RON FSA FLOWR ST EATPOST DROPPE £TBC All new dropper from the Italian component giants FSA’s new Flowtron post uses a sealed cartridge to deliver either 125mm or 150mm of drop and has three circular brass keyways to help keep it free of irritating play and saddle wobble. The cable is clamped in place at the lever end, where a choice of three spring positions lets you adjust how much force it takes to actuate the post using the large, textured thumb paddle of the 1x-specific remote. Claimed weight is 560g, and it’ll be available in 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters. Pricing is still to be confirmed.

www.windwave.co.uk

Mountain Biking UK 45


N FO MR P R IBBO

RK

£899.99 Heavy-hitting fork with masses of adjustment While the forward-facing cutaways in the fork arch may look a little odd on MRP’s new Ribbon fork, the idea is that the solid reverse side helps reduce mud build-up. That’s not the only neat feature on the Ribbon, though. Travel spans the 140 to 170mm range (on the 650b version) and can be adjusted internally in 5mm increments. Externally, the Ribbon lets you adjust the positive and negative spring pressures, low-speed compression and rebound damping, and there’s also a 16-position ‘Ramp Control’ dial for tuning the fork’s spring curve. With 35mm legs and enough clearance on the 650b version to run a 2.6in tyre, we reckon this is going to be some fork. The fact there’s a coil version available for the same price is a bonus too.

www.ison-distribution.com

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L 7IDP M5 HE

ME T

£49.99 Protecting your head doesn’t have to cost a fortune This flash new trail lid from 7iDP comes in six colours and three sizes, and, just like the other helmets in their range, is designed not to break the bank. For a little under £50 you get an adjustable peak, a retention cradle with an easy-to-use dial for adjusting the fit, 14 vents to ensure you don’t heat up too much, plus plenty of coverage at the back of the head. Not bad, eh?

www.decade-europe.com

FIVE TENPRO SHOE IMPACT £130 Full overhaul for the flat-pedal footwear benchmark While there’s no denying the old Impact was one hell of a grippy shoe, its weight and sponge-like ability to soak up water did let it down. Five Ten have rectified these issues with the new Impact Pro. They claim to have reduced weight significantly, as well as beefing up their weather-proofing with a fully synthetic PU upper and closed-cell foam padding, which should help the shoes shrug off splashes. The ‘Foil’ toe protector features 3mm of PORON foam. Five Ten’s dotty ‘Stealth’ rubber tread remains a key feature, though smaller dots have been added for improved traction. The Impact Pro will be available in three colours, from January 2018.

www.fiveten.com

Mountain Biking UK 47


#ForTheNextGeneration

www.islabikes.co.uk


n

S ’ T S A L E I #87 ANBNACK SESTA SBC SILVER The featherweight race whip that’s had World Cup glory “I didn’t expect it at all!” Annie Last confesses, when we ask about her debut World Cup win. Earlier this year, the 27-year-old became the first British woman for 20 years to stand atop the cross-country podium. “I went into it thinking it was just another race,” she explains. “But it turned out to be one of those days when everything just clicks.” Proving that her victory in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, was no fluke, Annie then backed it up with a silver medal at the World Champs in Cairns, where she became the first ever British medallist in the Elite Women’s category. Since the start of 2016, Annie has

been riding for the OMX Pro Team, aboard bikes from German brand Silverback. Her weapon of choice all season has been the 90mmtravel Sesta full-suspension bike. “I occasionally race on a hardtail,” she tells us, “but the full-sus is what I feel most comfortable on, and, with the courses generally becoming more technical, they suit that bike more.” Bursting out Annie rides the flagship ‘Super Bike Concepts’ (SBC) model, made from Japanese Toray carbon fibre. The modulus of the carbon fibre sheets and the way they’re laid up is designed to give an optimal blend of comfort and responsiveness, while maintaining stiffness for when Annie is putting

WHY’S IT SUPER? Annie’s proven that this is a machine that’s capable of winning at the highest level The sleek lightweight frame is dripping in carbon bling It’s got an OMX Team-only parts spec that you won’t find in the shops

Words Ed Thomsett Photos Andy Saunders

down the power. Silverback’s ‘Burst’ suspension design uses a singlepivot swingarm, to save weight, and a linkage-actuated shock, to allow tuning of the suspension curve. They say the leverage ratio is supple off the top yet progressive, with lots of anti-squat built in, to give a solid pedalling platform. The Sesta rolls on 29in wheels. “You can now get a 29in bike that fits even a small rider really well,” Annie says. “The big wheels may not be quite as nippy around corners, but the rolling speed over rough ground makes up for that.” Annie rides a stock medium Sesta, sprung with a RockShox Monarch XX shock and a 100mm-travel SID World Cup fork. She likes to ride over the front of the bike, so uses volume spacers to help the fork stand up in its travel.

Mountain Biking UK 49


ANNIE LAST Sheffield-based Annie first got into cycling and cyclo-cross racing through her brother, Tom. After watching him for a while, she thought she’d give it a go and hasn’t looked back since. Mountain biking was her preferred discipline, so she focused on that and has been racing crosscountry at World Cup level since 2013. This year she won the Lenzerheide World Cup, becoming the first British woman to win at the top level in 20 years.

-PIVOT E L G N I S A USES “THE SESTA AVE WEIGHT, AND A , TO S M R A L LOW G A N I O T W , S K C O T ED SH A U T C A E G URV E” C N LINK A O I S N E P HE SUS T F O G N I N TU 1. REAR TRIANGLE The Sesta’s back end is all about stiffness – the solid rear triangle pivots on oversize bearings, and the links connecting the swingarm to the shock and the shock to the seat tube are kept nice and compact to add lateral strength. 2. PRECISION CONTROL Annie is very particular about the lever position of her SRAM Level Ultimate brakes. The remote lever isn’t for a dropper post, but rather, a lockout for the rear shock. A lever under the bar does the same for her fork. 3. LOW IS FAST The height and width of Annie’s Ritchey Superlogic bar and

50 Mountain Biking UK

the drop of her Syntace stem have been selected to put her in the optimal position for laying down max power. 4. RACING RUBBER Schwalbe Racing Ralphs or Thunder Burts are Annie’s tyres of choice. If it’s wet, she’ll swap these out for Rocket Rons or Nobby Nics. They’re set up tubeless (she hasn’t used glued-on tubular tyres since 2012) on Knight Composites 29 Race carbon wheels. 5. PURE POWER Power meters are essential training tools these days for top-level crosscountry racers. The Stages power crank replaces the left-hand crank arm of Annie’s SRAM XX1 drivetrain.

1


2

3

5

n

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Although Annie and her mechanic will adjust the air pressures to suit the conditions, bar and stem position is something that remains constant. “Once you’ve found a good set-up, it doesn’t make sense to change it,” she says. “The exception to this was at the Cape Epic [the 651km South African stage race, where Annie finished second], where I fitted bar ends, so I could have the option of more than one position for the five-hour-plus days in the saddle.” She adds, “I’m quite specific about my set-up. I like the brakes to feel the same and bite at just the right point.” Dropper-free zone Annie’s bike is fitted with an ultralight C1 Evo carbon seatpost from Swiss brand ceetec. We ask if she’s experimented with droppers. “I’ve never tried one,” she admits. “I’m used to descending with the saddle up and I use it for balance and to subconsciously gauge where to put my bike, so I’d have to do quite a bit of training to get used to not having it there. Some courses have multiple short descents that are over in 15 seconds. If you broke your pedalling rhythm to drop the saddle, it might cancel out the advantage of having it down. And if you’re behind someone, you can only descend as fast as they’re going anyway!” The big gear range of SRAM’s 12-speed XX1 Eagle transmission allows Annie to run a single chainring up front. She minimises the risk of any mid-race mishaps by positioning a Ceetec chain catcher above the 34t ring. A Stages power crank takes the place of the standard SRAM XX1 left crank arm, and Annie says this is an invaluable tool. “I use it while I’m racing to gather data and in training to make sure I’m focusing in the right way.” Now that Annie has proven herself to be one of the big names to watch next season, you can be sure she’ll be putting in the off-season training back at home. “I’m lucky that I live in Sheffield,” she says. “I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to trails, and one of my favourite spots is Wharncliffe Woods, just outside of the city.” A certain World Cup legend cut his teeth riding in Wharncliffe Woods, and if Annie achieves even a fraction of what Steve Peat has in his career, then she’ll be worthy of the ‘legend’ title too.

SPECS

Price: €6,999 (stock Silverback Sesta SBC) Contact: www.silverbacklab.com Also try: Specialized S-Works Epic XX1 Eagle £8,500 www.specialized.com

Mountain Biking UK 51


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52 Mountain Biking UK


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Mountain Biking UK 53


WORDS BY

AL BOND

REDBULL HARDLINE 2017

54 Mountain Biking UK


hardline

Mountain Biking UK 55


WHAT’S IT LIKE TACKLING THE WORLD’S GNARLIEST DH RACE, RED BULL HARDLINE? WE GET BEHIND THE BAR WITH TEAM MBUK’S AL BOND TO FIND OUT

The start gate at a downhill race is always a tense place to be. It’s deadly quiet and all you can hear are the beeps counting down the seconds. I’ve done a fair few races in my time, and have got pretty good at dealing with the pressure, but Red Bull Hardline is on another level. The track is so gnarly and the features so big that every time you drop in, you feel like you’re rolling the dice. When you’ve only got a 50:50 chance of making it down in one piece, it’s pretty daunting. But there’s something about crossing that finish line that keeps me coming back for more. This is my third Hardline. I haven’t made the podium yet, but maybe because I survived the first two, they invited me back! When I first saw the track three years ago, I was blown away by the sheer scale of it. It’s a track down a proper mountain this one, and Affy [Dan Atherton] has sculpted a masterpiece, which makes incredible use of the natural terrain and the raw, rugged beauty of the landscape. Every year, I’m never quite ready for how big everything is. The jumps used to scare me the most, but the weather is so bad this year that the only chance we get to relax a bit is in the air! It’s hammered with rain in the days leading up to the race and the steep rock chutes are lethal. There’s one section that just looks unridable. The organisers end up routing the track around it in the end, but two of the guys ride it before that and get down clean. Fair play to them for even trying it!

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT The intimidating track doesn’t help one bit when you feel like you’re already coming into the race on the back foot. I’m not a full-time pro rider like the other guys, and between work and renovating my house, I think I’ve only managed about 10 days on the DH bike all year! I know I can get down the track, but have to accept that I won’t be competing for the top spot, which is quite hard to swallow as a racer. Practice days at Hardline are part of what makes it such an awesome event. It feels more like a jam, with all the riders sessioning the jumps and features. You can see that everyone is a bit scared when they turn up, no matter how much they laugh it off. But once you’re on the bikes and chucking some whips, it relaxes everyone, the adrenaline level goes up and you egg each other on. Vanzacs wildman Dave McMillan steals the show on the jumps, boosting higher than anyone else and slinging the bike more sideways and inverted with each run. Bruce Klein seriously impresses me with his riding too. The conditions couldn’t be any less Californian, but he’s killing it – until he comes up short on a stepdown and takes a savage scorpion over the bars. It’s a reminder of how easily this course can bite back. But the really hard bit comes when you’ve got to start putting full runs together. I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to just get down the track. The dirt is so slick that we’re hitting the off-camber rock slabs with our tyres fully clogged and it’s taking everything we have just to stay upright. Hardline is mentally draining too. I’m so on edge that I start gripping the bars way too hard and get the most savage arm pump. And I’m concentrating so hard that when the adrenaline subsides at the end of the day, I fall asleep on the sofa. By Sunday I’m shattered, but I know that today’s the day I’ve got to make it count.

DOWN IN ONE PIECE Above, top Our man Al Bond pushes up for his first test runs of the course. The atmosphere is always tense at the Hardline before the boys start ticking off the big features Middle The weather gods were not looking down kindly on the Hardline – powerful winds and rain meant that the top section of the course had to be cut

56 Mountain Biking UK

Bottom An exclusive uplift, only for the world’s bravest riders Opposite, top Laurie Greenland tackles a brutal drop in the upper section of the course – 10ft down and straight into a steep righthand berm Opposite, bottom The track is steep and the jumps are ma-hoo-sive!

It’s an early start in the pits and we stand around nervously while the mechanics put the finishing touches to our bikes. I glance around, first at the crowds starting to congregate at the entrance, then up the mountainside, which is shrouded in swirling mist. I climb onto the uplift truck for one last practice run. Overnight rain hasn’t made things any easier, and manhandling my bike across the rocks makes for a pretty rude awakening. I decide that the best strategy for qualifying is to play it safe, get down the hill and see what happens. My run doesn’t feel too spectacular, but to my surprise it slots me into the mid pack, with a few more guys left to come down. Watching Alex Fayolle, Bernard Kerr and Adam Brayton on the big screen shows the amount of confidence you need to be competitive at the top level these days. From the instant those guys leave the gate they’re in full attack


HARDLINE

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58 Mountain Biking UK


HARDLINE

I know the greasy rock garden before the road gap is going to be the crux section mode and their entry speed into the steep chutes is nuts. Bernard’s time is rapid, and Brayton puts two seconds into him.

WAITING FOR THE BEEPS The two-hour wait before finals seems to last an age, but the technical delay actually helps calm me down a bit. Everyone’s at the top joking around and it distracts me from what’s coming up. I’m the second rider off, so once Kaos Seagrave drops in, I know I’ve got exactly five minutes until it’s my turn. The starter gives me the signal and I wheel up to the start gate. Goggles on, clipped in, hands tightly clenching the bars, I wait for the green light to flash up. My eyes flick up to the TV camera ahead of me and I try not to imagine the thousands of eyes watching me. I know the next few minutes are going to be wild, but it’s too late to start doubting myself now. The countdown finishes and I kick the pedals around. I’m straight down the first chute, then I sprint into The Cannon and – whoosh! – the wind whistles past my helmet and the tree trunks rush past. The jump fires me out of the woods and into the noise of the crowd, who roar as they hear me approaching. I speed-tuck into The Step Up, hoping I’m carrying enough speed. Giving it an extra pull just to be sure, I hit the downslope perfectly. That fires me up and I let off the brakes, hitting the top section with full commitment. It’s all going well, but I know the greasy rock garden before the road gap is going to be the crux section – I’ve already crashed there once, in practice. Hitting the first slab fast, I get a bit off-line and have to dab a foot. That pushes me wide and I’m forced to drop the other foot, losing valuable time. This breaks my concentration and, although I recover things for the big road gap, I’m more cautious heading into the following rock section. The slick dirt fires me off-line. I could try to correct it, but that would almost certainly mean a crash off the next big drop. In a split second, my mindset changes from race mode to survival and I grab the brakes, knowing instantly that my run is over. I raise my hand to the camera, admit defeat and roll down to the finish.

… AND THE CROWD GOES WILD! Crossing the line is still a pretty amazing feeling, and all I can hear is the crowd going mad. Because of the nature of the event, they’re really happy for anyone who gets down. It’s a bit frustrating to look back at my split time and see that I was four-and-a-half seconds up, but hey, that’s racing! There have been times this weekend when I’ve questioned whether it’s worth the risk to compete in such a wild race. But once I’m over the finish line, I realise it totally is. It’s rad to see Craig Evans win his first Hardline too. I have my heart in my mouth watching him nearly bin it off the same drop I had my stall on, but – fair play – he holds on and puts together an amazing run. With the likes of Bernard and Brayton racing, he was definitely the underdog – and if you only knew what he was up to two nights before the race, you’d never have believed he could win! That’s all I’m saying on the subject… I don’t know about the other riders, but I’m already excited for next year’s race. The track and I have got a score to settle. But then again, it’s not called Hardline for nothing.

Hardline hard facts

Opposite, top It’s easy to focus on the big jumps and forget just how gnarly the technical sections are – Yoann Barelli takes the plunge Opposite, bottom Wind, rain and other riders crashing didn’t faze Aussie wildman Dave McMillan, who was slinging it sideways off the step-up all weekend

Above, top Adam Brayton, Al Bond and Craig Evans eye up the monster ‘Cannon’ stepdown Middle There aren’t many race tracks with views like this, but we suspect Al ain’t admiring the view here Bottom Everyone’s favourite Sheffield grafter, Craig Evans, took the top spot

Location: Dinas Mawddwy, Snowdonia, Wales | Creator: Dan Atherton Jumps: The Cannon, 60ft; The Step Up, 45ft gap off a 10ft-tall motocross kicker; Dirty Ferns, 45ft stepdown; road gap, 55ft; finish arena jump, 50ft Races to date: 4 | Winners: Craig Evans (2017), Bernard Kerr (2016), Ruaridh Cunningham (2015), Gee Atherton (2014) | Fastest time: 3:32:46 (Bernard Kerr, 2016) Entrants this year: 19 (4 pulled out due to injuries in practice) | Millimetres of rain: Lots!

Mountain Biking UK 59


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sussed out

something a lot of riders struggle with, but you don’t need a physics degree to get your bike working better. We talk you through the basics – and show the difference a bit of expert help can make

Mountain Biking UK 61


suspension

Sprung Suspension Enlisting the help of a tuning specialist is a great way to get the best out of your bike. For this feature, we worked with Sprung Suspension, set up in 2015 by ex-MBUK tester Jake Ireland. He and his team are based at Pedalabikeaway in the Forest of Dean, which means you can get your suspension serviced or take part in one of their set-up clinics (like the one Ed and Jimmer did here) and then try out your new set-up on one of the numerous trails and downhill tracks behind the Sprung workshop. They cater for all brands of suspension, and are one of only five Öhlins tuning centres in the UK. www.sprungsuspension.com

H

ave you ever stopped to watch other riders at your local trail centre and really observed how their bikes are working? It’s amazing how many are set up poorly, with the suspension either wallowing or pumped up so hard that the rider looks like they’re manhandling a jackhammer. Whether the issue is limited time, lack of understanding or simple eagerness to ride rather than fiddle, nearly all of us have neglected our fork and/or shock set-up at some stage. Which is crazy, given how much our bikes cost and how long we spend deliberating over which one to buy. But after reading this, you’ll have no excuses.

Back to basics Before we dive into how you can make your bike perform better, it’s important to understand a few basics. The internals of a suspension fork may look pretty daunting, but the principles are actually pretty simple. In one leg, you have the spring. This is either a metal coil or a pressurised air chamber. The weight of the coil or the volume of air dictates how hard the fork feels. In the other leg are all the bits needed to control (‘damp’) the spring’s movement. This is all done through the flow of oil. Generally, when you compress a fork (by pushing down on it, riding over a bump or landing from a jump), oil is forced through tiny holes (‘ports’) and over washers of different sizes and thicknesses (‘shims’). The speed at which it can flow determines how fast the fork will

62 Mountain Biking UK

compress and re-extend (‘rebound’). By opening and closing the ports or adjusting the amount of force needed for the oil itself to open them, you can control how the fork feels in different situations. External adjusters allow you to do this without disassembling everything. In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but those are the basic principles. In a rear shock it’s the same, except that everything is consolidated into one unit. See, it’s pretty easy really!

getting started Initial fork and shock set-up is simple too. You set the ‘sag’ – the amount your suspension compresses when

“There were rough sections, steep chutes, turns and jumps – enough to test every aspect of their suspension”


Left: A root maze like this will put any suspension set-up to the test. Ed’s leaves him nice and central over the bike

you sit on the bike – by pumping the air spring up to an appropriate pressure for your weight and riding style (see overleaf). If your fork/shock uses a coil spring, it’s just a case of fitting the right weight spring for your weight. If you fall between spring weights, you’ll need to dial on a bit of preload (effectively pre-compressing the spring) to compensate. Then it’s time to add some rebound damping. Turn the red (usually!) knob in small increments until the fork/ shock reacts in a controlled manner when you push down on the bar/bounce on the pedals. After that, it’s just a case of tweaking things further out on the trail and maybe adding a bit of compression damping to help get the right balance of grip, impact absorption and ride stability. (For a more detailed explanation of basic set-up, see the panel on page 64.)

Going nowhere? But what if you’ve done all that and you still don’t feel like your bike is working as it should? Maybe it’s time to enlist the help of an expert. People often balk at the idea of spending money on suspension tuning. But when you’ve shelled out thousands on a bike or the best part of a grand on a fork, it can be a sound investment. To give you an idea of how a tuning specialist can help, we got in touch with Jake Ireland, from Sprung Suspension in the Forest of Dean. The plan was that two of our guys would spend a day with him, fine tuning their long-term test bikes to overcome a few issues they’d been having. Art Editor Jimmer, a fun-loving trail rider, and Staff Writer Ed, a keen downhiller, put themselves forward as test subjects.

Video stars Over tea and bacon sarnies, Jake made notes of Jimmer and Ed’s existing sag and compression settings, and then it was time to hit the trails. They headed to a section that would give him a good understanding of how they ride and how their bikes were working. There were mellow yet rough sections to carry speed across, steep chutes, compressions, interlinking switchback turns and jumps – enough to test every aspect of their suspension. Armed with a camera phone, Jake stood at various points and filmed the pair as they rode past. After each

Jake films Jimmer to see how his bike handles the turns and terrain

Staff Writer Ed Discipline: Downhill Aim: Ed has been racing for over 10 years and, while he’ll never be world class, is a competitive type. He was looking to eke out those extra milliseconds on the track. Bike: Kona Operator DL Fork: RockShox BoXXer RC, 200mm travel Shock: RockShox Kage RC, 200mm rear wheel travel

“While I’ve been pretty impressed with the Operator, the suspension definitely wasn’t perfect out of the box. The fork was set up correctly for my weight, with a firm spring and two preload spacers, but I’d been having problems with it spiking and diving – as Jake’s footage showed. He explained that this was due to its fairly basic ‘Motion Control’ damper. On high-speed hits, the internal ports aren’t big enough to let the oil flow fast enough, so the fork jars (‘spikes’) part way through its stroke. Conversely, when it’s compressed at low speeds the oil rushes through too quickly, so it blows through its travel (‘dives’). An upgrade to the ‘Charger’ damper of the top-end BoXXer forks is needed to fully solve the problem, but there’s a sneaky fix that Sprung and other tuning companies can do. “As for the rear shock, it felt too soft, compared to the front, and blew through its travel too easily. To compensate, I fitted a stiffer spring, but that increased the ride height of the bike and reduced grip. Jake told me the problem wasn’t with the shock but with the leverage curve of the bike, which is progressive but not to a huge extent. He said we should drop the spring weight to let the bike

sag more, but increase the low-speed compression damping to add more mid-stroke support. We tested various combinations, using 50lb and 75lb lighter springs and adding two to five clicks of damping. Watching the footage, we could see where the bike was getting hung up on roots or using too much travel, tweak the damping again and repeat until we reached a point where we were both happy. “With the heavier of the two springs, I was running 23 per cent sag, which is akin to what a top World Cup racer might run. This gave me a solid platform for hitting things hard, which meant the bike felt good in full attack mode and I was a second or two quicker over a 90-second run. It was definitely a wilder ride though, and as soon as I backed off and slowed down, the bike felt sketchier and I started over-braking. The lack of small-bump sensitivity was hard on the body too. As an amateur, it would be difficult to ride consistently on this set-up over a full race weekend, but it’s definitely something I’ll be experimenting with. “If there’s one thing I took away from the day, it’s that seemingly very subtle adjustments can dramatically alter the feel of a bike.”

Mountain Biking UK 63


suspension

section, he asked them for feedback and then played back the footage in slow motion, showing them exactly what their suspension was doing, as well as highlighting flaws with their set-ups and technique. A few adjustments later, they returned for more testing on the trail. Because Jimmer and Ed had different end goals, the specifics of what they changed varied – see their panels – but both agreed that their bikes felt a lot better and the time spent had been well worth it. Suspension clinics like this aren’t even that expensive – Jake’s charges start at £60 for a three-hour session.

Do it yourself Expert help isn’t essential, though, and a bit of know-how and some willing mates can go a long way. To set up your own ‘suspension clinic’, select a track that has a good variety of terrain and take it in turns to do runs, while someone watches or films you. As you’re riding, think about what you’re feeling through the bike, then play back the footage to see how the suspension is behaving. This is a great way to discover any flaws with your set-up, and to isolate the effects of any changes that you make. Be sure to keep tyre pressures constant, because they have a big effect on damping. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do it in small increments and keep a note of all your air pressures and settings. What you’re aiming

“Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do it in small increments and keep a note of all your air pressures and settings” for is to find a good base setting that can be tweaked to suit different trails and conditions. Consider booking an uplift day and using it to focus on set-up. That way, you can hammer out multiple runs of the same track, trialling different settings while keeping the other variables the same. If you’re still having trouble, Quark’s ShockWiz system is good for getting you in the right ball park. It’s pricey, but could be worth it if you split the cost with some mates. Some shops hire the units out. We reckon you’ll be amazed at what difference a good suspension set-up makes, and you’ll be going faster and having more fun in no time. Who knows – you may even be a world champ yet!

Basic suspension set-up To set your sag, get dressed in your usual bike gear and stand on the pedals in a neutral riding position. Use the rubber O-ring around your fork/shock stanchion to record how much it sags (or a tape measure for a coil shock). Adjust air pressures (or spring rates) until you get it right.

2. Adjust the damping

Setting the correct sag ensures that your bike is set up hard enough for your weight and riding style, but not too hard. Having your suspension partially compressed to begin with is what allows the wheels to track the ground, smoothing out holes as well as bumps and giving you grip. How much sag you should run is specific to each bike and rider, and manufacturers’ guidelines should only be used as a start point. As a general rule of thumb, try the following:

1. Set the sag

Trail riding 20% to 25% fork sag, 30% shock sag Downhill 15% to 20% fork sag, 30% to 35% shock sag Cross-country 25% fork sag, 20% to 25% shock sag

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You’ll hear the terms ‘low-speed’ and ‘high-speed’ bandied around a lot. They have nothing to do with how fast you’re going, but rather how fast the suspension is compressing or rebounding. Low-speed shaft movements are generally forces that you exert on the bike – by pumping, pedalling or loading it through a corner. High-speed movements are everything else – trail chatter, landing a jump or rattling across roots. Top-end forks and shocks will often have separate dials to adjust all the variables independently, while entry-level kit will generally just have low-speed rebound and compression adjusters. Rebound speed can make a big difference to traction. Set it too fast and your bike will bounce around with little grip. Conversely, set it too slow and your suspension will still be partially compressed when you hit the next bump and will feel harsh. Compression damping alters the way your bike behaves in different situations. It shouldn’t be used to compensate for it being set up too soft though, so get the sag right first. Start from the fully open position (no damping) and adjust in small increments. We’d advise using minimal high-speed compression but adding some low-speed damping if you want more support for pumping and jumping, or to reduce pedal bob on climbs.

For more suspension set-up tips, check out this video from our tester Seb: https://youtu.be/xhnKTZu2AKs.


Below: With roots and rocks under tyre and a bouncy puppy of a man in the saddle, Jimmer’s bike has a lot to deal with

Art Editor Jimmer Discipline: Trail/enduro Aim: Jimmer is your typical trail rider. He rides regularly and is a competent bike handler, but there are areas where he feels he can hone his skills. He was hoping to find a set-up that would increase his confidence and help him improve, but still be fun to ride. Bike: Giant Trance Advanced 2 Fork: RockShox Yari RC Solo Air, 150mm travel Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT, 140mm rear wheel travel

Shock tuner in your pocket Quarq’s ShockWiz system (£359, www.zyrofisher.co.uk) attaches to your fork or shock and sends tuning suggestions to your smartphone. While it can help quantify what you’re feeling on the trail and provide reassurance that you’re heading in the right direction, it can only analyse the data you put in, so you’ll need to ride a wide variety of terrain if you want accurate recommendations. It’s no substitute for feel and it’s not infallible, so take all readings with a pinch of salt.

“I’ll admit from the outset that I’m a ‘fit and forget’ kinda guy when it comes to suspension. As Jake identified almost instantly from watching me ride, I tend to adapt my riding position to suit the bike, rather than change how it’s set up. I don’t check my spring pressures often either, and it turned out that I’d been running my fork around 12psi too soft and my shock 15psi too hard. This imbalance had been making the front of my bike dive when I hit the rough stuff, pitching my weight forwards. I didn’t make the connection between this problem and my suspension being too soft, so I raised the handlebar and tipped the brake levers up to put my weight further back. The problem with this – as Jake explained to me, using the video footage – was that it made my front wheel ride too light, so I was understeering in the turns. “We pumped up the fork, let some air out at the back and added quite a

bit of rebound damping at both ends, because I’d been running things much too quick. The difference when we got back out on the trail was amazing! My weight was much better centred and I didn’t have to shift around on the bike half as much to make it do what I wanted. “Throughout all this, I’d had Quarq ShockWiz units strapped to my fork and shock. Looking at the readouts on my phone after our fettling, it now said we were bang on! I guess that’s what you get when you’ve got a suspension expert on hand. The big thing I learnt from the day is that it’s easy to pick up bad habits when you don’t fully understand how it all works. I reckon the day has helped my riding massively – my mates had better watch out now!”

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INVERNESS FORT AUGUSTUS

LOCH NESS

FORT WILLIAM

The Way A 79-mile ride across the Highlands? Doesn’t sound too difficult – until you add a ton of camera gear, diversions down steep singletrack and riding one-handed Words and photos Tommy Wilkinson

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wanted the good stuff – 10-minute descents, stunning scenery, eagles flying overhead. Stories I could regale my mates in the pub with. But rides that are long and challenging yet still enjoyable can be tricky to find. Scotland is always a first port of call for me, but it can be a fickle place from autumn to spring, and I sensed that heading to the higher, more remote parts of the Highlands might be biting off more than I could chew. When the Great Glen Way was first mentioned, my reaction was, “Yeah, but that’s not real riding!” Still, with some more persuasion and the introduction of guide Mark Clark, I decided that we would tackle the 79-mile path between Inverness and Fort William. Only, we had to do it with a twist. We had to incorporate as many amazing trails as we could that were close to, but not on, the waymarked route. Two factors would make the task harder. Firstly, I suffered a brachial plexus [a network of nerves near the neck and shoulder ~ Ed] injury in 2013 that paralysed my right arm, upper chest and back for life. I’ve done a few big journeys since, notably the Old Ghost Road in New Zealand – but that was in summer. The second challenge would be all the kit we’d have to carry – fullsize camera gimbals, tripods, three cameras, lenses and food. Add to that another 3kg of water, and suddenly we’d be lugging quite a bit of weight. That would be OK if the going was flattish or gently downhill. The Scottish Highlands are neither!

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Great Glen gang Tommy Wilkinson A professional photographer and film director from Northumberland, Tommy used to race DH but suffered a devastating set of injuries in 2013 when he hit a tree after landing from a jump. Told he might not walk again, he made a stunning recovery, though his right arm will remain paralysed for life. Neil Stewart Hailing from Perthshire, this former Junior World Cup racer and Crankworx Whip-Off winner knows the Scottish mountains and can throw a bike about with reckless abandon in any terrain. Now retired from racing, Neil is focusing on just having fun.

Above The Great Glen offered up some spectacular riding, as well as some typically Scottish weather Below You can’t beat a night in a bothy – as long as the fire is burning!

In at the d p As we set off, banter flowing, I found the going fairly easy. After 20 miles of pedalling, we arrived at our first proper set of trails, which were steep, rooty and had big jumps. I was hoping for a warm-up first! Steep and rooty I can just about handle, if I cross my fingers and toes, but jumps are a different ball game, especially with 12kg of camera gear on my back. Still, I survived, and we pressed on through some incredible scenery. Reaching Drumnadrochit, we were presented with a sublime descent on flowing singletrack. We stopped to take images and film of the riders we were with, and then enjoyed a further five to six minutes of holding on for dear life. Journeys like this are made worthwhile by moments like that. When it’s not really steep, I can let off the brakes and let the bike work properly, feel the tyres edge and compress into loamy dirt, and get that feeling of riding a bike how it should be ridden.

Mark th ma After a big night’s rest, we rose at 5am to take on one of Mark’s choice add-ons to the route – the ‘Coffin Trail’, above Laggan Locks. The beast of a climb soon turned into a hike-a-bike, which wasn’t ideal, but with some serious gamesmanship going on among us we made it

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Brett Penfold A railway line engineer in his other life and relatively unknown in the bike scene, Brett is a demon on two wheels and blew our minds more than a few times with his ability to perform Chris Akrigg-esque trials manoeuvres.

through the day, before laying our heads to rest at Invermallie bothy. Our guide soon earned the name Sparky Mark, due to his love of lighting fires. Still, we kept it going through the night and enjoyed our first good sleep in a few days! One of the hardest parts of the trip was keeping time on the route. This was managed by Mark, who ruled with an iron fist! If it was getting late, he’d get us off the mountain before it got dark, no matter how much we whinged. This was invaluable, because the last thing we needed was to be stuck huddled round a cairn at night in minus temperatures.

Trials and tr b at With the finish line now visible on the horizon, we made one last detour, to head up to the famous CIC [Charles Inglis Clark] hut on the north face of Ben Nevis. This is a popular ride with the locals, but varies massively in technicality – the lower slopes are fairly flowing, with small water bars, but the upper sections are tricky to negotiate. These were left to Neil and Brett, who both have a background in trials riding. On terrain like this, where I deem that the risks far outweigh the rewards, I’ll often leave my bike. There’s just no way I can bunnyhop a huge water bar with one arm. While this can be frustrating sometimes, the key is not to focus on what I can no longer do, but what I can do and enjoy. Seeing riders shred, no matter their standard, still gives me a grin, and when I can join in the fun, I’ll take it with both hands. Mates, bikes and seeing new places – now that’s living!


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*£3.75 a month based on Adult Membership of £45 on a monthly direct debit payment option. The offer of XLC Tahiti multi lens glasses is subject to availability and whilst stocks last. One set of glasses per membership. Applies to new members or memberships only. Glasses offer valid until 30.11.17. Other T&Cs may apply. Cycling UK is a trading name of Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no: 25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales charity no: 1147607 and in Scotland charity no: SC042541. Registered office: Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX


azores

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These nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic have incredible scuba diving, surfing, swimming – and singletrack Wo r d s G e r h a r d C ze r n e r P h ot o s M a r t i n B i s s i g

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O SOONER HAS the plane taken off than we begin to prepare for landing. The 15-minute flight takes us to San Miguel on the southernmost island of the Azores, Santa Maria. About 5,000 people live here, and we’re welcomed by two of them, Andre and Miguel, who’ve agreed to show me and my riding buddy Jenny Kupferschmied around. We’re also joined by Luis Melo, a keen rider who grew up here. On the way to the hotel, Andre tells us that there are more than 20 trails on this tiny island. As we tuck into breakfast Luis rushes over, looking excited. The postman, Nuno Aguiar, is here, and we have to meet him! This isn’t just any postman, though. Nuno is the man who brought mountain biking to the island. When he arrived here a few years back, he began clearing old paths with a shovel and pick so that he could pursue his passion for downhill. Although Nuno has little time left to care for the trails, others have now taken on that task. We can hardly wait to shred our first trails!

Tunnel vision We shuttle to the highest point on the island, the Pico Alto, at 587m. The further we climb, the denser the vegetation gets, until the undergrowth engulfs us. Once we hit the top, there’s a short push before we dive into the jungle-like forest. Luis accelerates away, while we’re trying to get used to the soft earth, which is riddled with roots. He waits for us at every crossing so we don’t get lost in the spider’s web of trails covering the mountain. ‘Santa Barbara’ – our trail, which leads into the town of the same name – zigzags through dense brush, affording occasional glimpses across the green island. Luis warns us to take care on the next section, which passes through a mini canyon. Three metres deep and barely wider than our shoulders, it doesn’t allow much room for mistakes. And the drop into the tunnel-like passage is strewn with slippery stones. The only option is to let go of the brakes and hang on. I slip and slide, my bar touching the canyon wall twice before it spits me out into a meadow, where we stop to let our pulses slow down. Back at the summit of Pico Alto, we reflect on the impressive variety of the trails. They’re laboriously maintained by hand, and the berms, small drops, jumps and short pedalling sections almost feel like they’ve developed naturally. The tracks are all named, and

“ The mini canyon is three metres deep and barely wider than our shoulders” 72 Mountain Biking UK


CORVO

UK

GRACIOSA FLORES

TERCEIRA FAIAL SAO JORGE SAO MIGUEL PICO

FRANCE SANTA MARIA

SPAIN PORTUGAL THE AZORES MOROCCO

All about the Azores Start planning that dream holiday…

The islands The Azores are a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean. There are nine larger and several smaller islands, located 1,369km west of the European mainland. Mount Pico, on the island of the same name, is the highest point, at 2,351m. São Miguel and Santa Maria are best set up for mountain biking, and have incredible singletrack. There are bike shops, shuttle services and guides on both islands. There’s plenty here for XC riders and roadies too. Getting there The easiest way is to fly to São Miguel (Ponta Delgada, PDL). Azores Airlines (www.azoresairlines.pt) will transport bikes. Direct flights leave from Germany and take about 4.5 hours. Small shuttle planes fly from São Miguel to Santa Maria daily. They’re cheap and carry bikes.

When to go The best months for biking are May, June, September and October, when it’s around 22-24°C and the humidity is lowest. It’s also the quietest time. Guiding and shuttling Smatur organise shuttles, guiding, and other activities on Santa Maria (www.smatur.pt). Azores Adventure Islands offer full packages, individual tours and shuttles, and all the guides are enduro riders (www.azores adventureislands.com). For trail maps see www.trailforks.com, for general info head to http://biking. visitazores.com. Accommodation There are B&Bs, hotels and hostels, mostly in the towns. Hotel Colombo is the largest on Santa Maria (www. colombo-hotel.com), Pedras do Mar is a five-star resort on São Miguel (http://pedrasdomar.com)

these monikers often have stories connected to them. ‘Aeroplane’, for example, is named after a Boeing 707 that crashed on Pico Alto in 1989. The next day we follow steep trails down to lonely bays and cross the Barreiro da Faneca – a soft and flowy landscape of red clay, also known as the ‘Red Desert’. At noon, we take a break on the Praia Formosa, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. The short flight back to São Miguel that evening isn’t nearly long enough for us to process all the experiences of the past two days.

Lake of fire The next morning begins just as impressively. After a short bus ride, we reach our starting point high above Lagoa do Fogo (‘the Lake of Fire’), a crater lake formed 15,000 years ago. Seeking shelter from the howling wind, we witness a stunning sunrise. The ‘Kathedral’ trail begins right here, and our senses are soon overloaded as we enjoy the longest descent on the island. From the crater rim, the views are magnificent. Seagulls scream loudly as they circle above and follow us for a while. Further down, we dive into the thick, green vegetation and the silence of the forest that cloaks the mountain. This varied and fun trail leads all the way to the ocean, and on its own is reason enough to bring a bike to the island. Our next destination is Faial da Terra, a coastal town that hosts an annual two-day enduro race. The closer we get, the more excited Luis becomes. He points in all

Main pic The trails are super-fun and encompass a range of terrain

Left What mountain biker could resist singletrack as sublime as this?

Above There are some great DH-style tracks on the islands for air bandits

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directions, counting umpteen different trails, many of which are used for the event. Our trail drops steeply to a dry riverbed with a jump over it. I don’t like jumping gaps that I haven’t scoped out first, but pluck up the courage to give it a go. I clench my teeth as I hit the jump, then land softly after a few metres in the air. “Built perfectly,” I think, with a huge smile on my face.

Thermals and Luis Sun, rain, wind and fog constantly take turns here on the Azores. You can have fog over the plains in the morning, sunshine in the afternoon then a short downpour in the evening. It’s the islands’ temperate climate and warm rain that has allowed their unique flora and fauna to flourish. The next day we visit the town of Furnas and its lake of the same name. Hot sulphur springs bubble from the ground and we marvel at this natural spectacle until the stench of rotten eggs forces us to leave. Around the corner from the lake lies a, thankfully odourless, highlight for mountain bikers – the ‘16 Seconds’ trail. Regularly used for downhill races, this rollercoaster of a track is filled with perfectly-built turns, doubles and tables. It drops 550 vertical metres through a jungle-like forest, with multiple line choices. There’s another trail parallel to it, and a third is being planned. It’s so much fun we insist on riding down through the huge ferns for a second run. We end the day in truly magical surroundings, at the Caldeira Velha hot springs. A waterfall feeds the top pool and serves as a shower. Lower down, a smaller pool that’s a few degrees warmer invites you to linger. As we relax we reflect on our visit to these wonderful islands. The mountain biking possibilities are so great – whether you’re into cross-country, trail or enduro riding – that we’ve already planned when we’ll be back for more.

Top When your clothes colourcoordinate with the buildings, you gotta get the shot!

Above Don’t worry, there are plenty of sandy beaches too if you fancy going in for a dip

Below Riding through the primevalfeeling forest is an awesome experience

“ This rollercoaster of a track drops 550 vertical metres through a jungle-like forest” 76 Mountain Biking UK


Ch a m pi o n

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TH E BEST BIKES AND M TB KI T TESTED TO DESTRUCTI ON

HOW WE TEST THE KIT Starts with a detailed product check in the workshop. We strip and rebuild, checking for any problems. Next we hit the trails… hard! We test in real riding conditions for the complete picture. And finally we re-test with another tester.

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ABOUT OUR TEST TEAM Our Technical Editor in Chief, Rob Weaver, gets new products in as soon as they’re available and coordinates all the testing through our vastly experienced band of reviewers. Our main bike tester, Guy Kesteven, has ridden nearly 3,000 bikes over the past 26 years.

WHY OUR TESTS ARE THE BEST! Our test team is made up of the most respected bike and kit testers in the world. We have unrivalled knowledge and experience, and spend a vast amount of time making sure we get it right. We tell you the truth and aren’t influenced by PR or advertisers.

TE

80 THE BEST NEW PRODUCTS Body armour, tools, stems & more

E U S S I S I H T D E T S

88 SIX OF THE BEST Rear lights, £18-£50

96 BIKETEST 2018 trendsetters, £2,300-£7,999

90 LONG-TERM RIDES Our team bikes – ridden for a year

114 GROUPTEST Knee pads, £40-£120 Mountain Biking UK 79


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HIGHS Lightweight

MEET THE MBUK TEST TEAM

R O B W E AV

ER

With two decades of riding experience, Rob knows what work doesn’t

Large cutaways for mud shedding

LOWS

OUR RATINGS

Lack of concavity means your feet feel perched and less secure, especially when the pedals are covered in mud

We base our scores on value for money and performance

Could do with more/taller pins to improve grip

EXCEPTIONAL

A genuine class leader

Not the widest platform out there

VERY GOOD

One of the best you can buy

A LE X E VA N

S

Al gives gear a real thrashing but makes sure he’s still in bed by nine o’clock sharp

GOOD

It’ll do the job and do it well

BELOW AVERAGE

Flawed in some way

ED THOMS

ETT

POOR

Simply put, don’t bother!

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

M AT T O RT

ON

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

S E B STOT T

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

No slouch on the race track, Seb’s passion for engineering helps him pick products apart

A truly outstanding product, regardless of price

B E N CA N N

E LL

Ben rides hard and fast, and has a keen eye for the technical details too

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Acros A-Flat MD flat pedals £74.99 Weighing just 353g, the A-Flats from Acros are some of the lightest flat pedals around, especially for the price. The platform is 18mm deep, 98mm wide and 100mm long. It has eight pins per side, which are around 5mm tall. The pins on the leading and trailing edges screw in from the underside for easier removal. Because the centre of the platform stands ever so slightly proud of the outside edges, the sole of your shoe feels perched, rather than cupped. While traction isn’t too bad on smoother trails, when you start to get rattled around a bit by the terrain it can be hard to keep your feet planted on the pedals, which sometimes means having to readjust your foot position when you least want to. Adding a central pin to both the leading and trailing edges of the platform would go some way to improve traction, as would increasing the height of the pins. These changes would also provide more grip for shoes caked in slop, although the large cutaways in the platform, at least allow the pedals to shed mud pretty quickly, which makes a difference on properly boggy days. While the A-Flats felt just about broad enough with Specialized’s 2FO shoes, wearers of chunkier Five Ten footwear may prefer something a little wider for a more surefooted feel. Rob www.oxfordproducts.com

Light pedals with enough traction for smooth trails, but more grip is needed when things get rough

Porcelain Rocket Albert seat pack CAD$225 (exc. shipping) The Albert is one of the first bikepacking seat packs that’ll work with a dropper post, though you’ll need to check tyre clearances if you’re on a full-suspension bike. You’ll also need to make sure that the clamp on your dropper sandwiches the saddle rails from above and below, not from the side. Once fixed firmly in place, the pack’s chromoly rails and Cordura cradle add the support needed to keep your gear up out of the way of the rear tyre and seatpost. The drybag that’s included will swallow a respectable 9l of kit and does a good job of keeping it dry and safe. At 450g the pack isn’t too heavy, and the handmade quality is impressive. Matt www.porcelainrocket.com


AGS B S E ID V O R 36 P THE L ATEST GING SUPPORT AR OF HARD-CH F TR ACTIONO WITH GOBS IVIT Y IT S N E S G IN EXTR ACT

HIGHS Initial sensitivity supplies tremendous traction and comfort Confidenceinspiring support when you need it most Surprisingly long service intervals

LOWS Occasional top-out knock is frustrating at this price

Fox 36 Float FIT4 Factory fork £1,049 Fox’s 36 fork has always sat near the top of our wild riding wishlist and for 2018 it’s got even better. This is largely down to the new ‘EVOL’ air spring, which uses a larger negative chamber to provide a softer initial feel and more mid-stroke support. The FIT4 damper has been tweaked too, and now has a slightly more forgiving feel over high-speed hits. We found we needed slightly more air pressure than Fox recommended for our weight to get the correct sag (96psi, rather than 80-89psi), along with two volume spacers to get the fork ramping up nicely towards the end of its stroke. Unless we were riding steep low-speed tracks, we kept the low-speed compression damping dial turned towards the fully open end of its range of adjustment. On the trail, the performance of the new 36 is really impressive. When tested back to back with a 2018 RockShox Lyrik RCT3 (£970), the Fox fork felt noticeably suppler, offering more traction and a glued-to-the-trail feel. We also noticed less hand pain and feedback on long, rough descents. Yet the Fox also offered

a touch more support, remaining higher in its travel when thrown into gnarly rock gardens, never diving unexpectedly and bottoming out less readily. That EVOL air spring makes the beginning stroke super-supple, so it doesn’t take much force to get the fork moving. This results in a planted feel and loads of grip. Support builds gradually throughout the mid stroke, and the fork doesn’t ramp up too suddenly as you reach the end of the travel. It feels smoother than the Lyrik too – almost like it’s coil rather than air-sprung. The damper tune is good too, providing a relatively supple feel over small bumps yet not giving too much travel away when faced with harder hits. Trail chatter or pedalling gets the fork moving through its travel easily, suggesting the 36 doesn’t have much in the way of binding friction. The fork has a respectably long service life of 125 hours (the Lyrik’s is 50 hours). When our test sample was opened up after over 100 hours of riding everything from Italian dust to the finest Welsh slop, the foam rings under the wiper seals were a little dirty and servicing made it feel

slightly smoother. But it wasn’t the nightand-day difference of a fork desperate for a bit of TLC. Our only gripe with the 36 is a noticeable top-out “thwunk” when pulling up hard on the bar. Fox promised a rolling change to the air spring to fix this, but our updated spring still tops out when really wrenching on the bar or bunnyhopping. Although noticeable, the noise isn’t that annoying during general riding. Overall, the latest Fox 36 provides bags of hard-charging support with gobs of traction-extracting sensitivity. It’s comfortable yet confidence inspiring. If you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind the occasional top-out knock, the performance is top class. Seb www.ridefox.com

If you don’t mind the occasional top-out tap, this is probably the best burly single-crown fork you can buy

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Gore Rescue B GTX waterproof jacket £220 Choose light or choose durable – so goes part of the decision-making process when it comes to waterproofs. But this new offering from Gore is a three-layer jacket that weighs just 175g in size large (less than half the weight of your average waterproof). The fit is relaxed enough for layering but slim enough for speed. We particularly like the hood, which fits under your helmet and is so well shaped that you barely know it’s there. The jacket is pared back in terms of features, with just a single chest pocket, which it folds into. While it’s seriously expensive, the quality is impeccable and it’s very versatile. This is a waterproof that you can keep stashed in your pack for emergencies, but also one that feels sturdy enough for all-day, rain-lashed days out, when we stayed as dry on the inside as with any jacket we’ve tested to date – it’s that good. Russell www.goreapparel.co.uk

Halfords Rear High Mount three-bike car rack £59 The High Mount rack is a relatively cheap boot-mounted affair with a large tubular frame that packs down flat for storage. Six straps attach it securely to the back of your car, and the shape of the frame can be adjusted easily using a quick-release ratchet system. Damage to paintwork is cleverly avoided by the use of a continuous strap that threads through the boot, supplying lateral stability, and plastic inserts that sit under the top of the door to provide vertical restraint. The overall result is one of the most secure-fitting boot racks we’ve tested. Unfortunately, the High Mount is let down by its bike attachments. The rubber fastening straps are too stiff and fiddly to stretch around frame tubing easily, making it hard to achieve a secure-feeling fit. You also need to add your own padding to stop the bikes banging into each other when you’re in transit. Ben C www.halfords.com

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Nukeproof Horizon SL saddle £49.99 At 134mm wide the Horizon SL is decidedly on the slimmer side, which means it won’t suit everyone, but those with snake hips will appreciate the easy pedalling stance it provides. There’s a decent groove/cutaway down the middle to take some of the pressure off your nether regions, and the fairly broad nose is handy when hunched forwards on steep ascents. The microfibre cover gets slippery when wet, so we found we had to angle the nose down to give enough support when climbing. It’s an unobtrusive perch when descending though, and it’s impressively light for the price, at 267g. Seb www.hotlines-uk.com


HIGHS

ION K_Sleeve knee pads £49.99 These super-slim strapless pads from ION use a thin, perforated layer of memory foam to stop you scraping your knees up should you take a tumble. Thanks to the stretchy mesh sleeve, they’re incredibly comfortable and didn’t irritate our skin even on long days spent churning out the miles. The mesh means they don’t get overly hot too, which is another big plus. Some of that comfort does come at a price, though, in terms of security. Although we found the openings at the top and bottom to be more than tight enough to hold the K_Sleeves up on our legs, the padding itself wasn’t held in position quite as securely as we’d have liked and was able to move around the knee a little. Still, the foam wraps a decent way around the knee and extends to cover the top of the shin too, which is good considering just how lightweight these pads are. Rob www.ion-products.com

Provides genuine puncture protection Reduces squirm when cornering hard, allowing lower pressures Provides a quieter, more controlled ride in the rough

LOWS Can be a pain to fit, especially with narrow rims and tyres

CushCore tyre protection system US$168.99 inc. shipping Weighing 265g per wheel (29in size), each CushCore insert takes up almost half of your tyre’s cross-sectional area, as well as filling the rim bed. The low-density foam is said to cushion impacts, absorbing some of their energy while protecting the tyre and rim. It’s also claimed to stop tyre squirm, by supporting the sidewalls. With the foam fitted, things are noticeably quieter and our tyres felt more controlled over rocky terrain – both when compared to running a regular tubeless set-up and similar systems such as Huck Norris and Flat Tire Defender. With the same tyre pressures, CushCore let through a little more feedback — it felt as if we’d added a few clicks of compression damping. But we found we could run lower pressures and still corner hard without the tyres squirming on the rims or slam into square-edged rocks without flatting. We’ve yet to puncture a tyre with CushCore inside, which says a lot. It’s a pain to fit, taking 10 to 25 minutes per wheel, depending on tyre and rim width (wider is easier). But the protection, bump absorption and sidewall stability make it worth the wait for rock-smashing riders, especially racers. Seb www.cushcore.com

Pricey and fiddly to fit, but offers the best stability and cushioning of any in-tyre system we’ve tested

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HIGHS Highly customisable shoe interface Classic free-floating, mud-friendly Mallet feel Decent bearing life so far

LOWS Expensive

Crankbrothers Mallet DH clipless pedals £139.99 Mallet DH pedals are about as popular with World Cup downhill racers as the word “stoked”, and for good reason. Crankbrothers’ ‘Eggbeater’ mechanism sheds mud quicker than Jimmer can remove his pants, so engagement is easy even with filthy shoes. It also allows you to clip in both forwards and backwards. The huge platform supports the foot nicely, and does a decent impression of a flat pedal if you’re forced to wait for a smoother section until you can clip back in. You can choose to set up the cleats with a 15 or 20-degree release angle (we find 15 offers plenty of movement). With a massive six degrees of float in the mechanism and a slightly vague unclipping action, CrankBros pedals can give a slightly disconnected feel. This is a love/hate thing, but we’re big fans of the freedom to twist in the turns. These latest Mallet DHs weigh 480g a pair and have replaceable ‘traction pads’ and adjustable grub screws so that you can tailor the contact with your shoe. The chamfered leading corners help the pedals glance off rocks, but the feel is very similar to the previous generation pedals. Older Mallets had a reputation for eating bearings for breakfast, but more recent versions have lasted pretty well, and service kits are available for £20 if they do develop play. Seb www.extrauk.co.uk

Pricey and not everyone loves the free-floating feel, but nothing comes close for those who do

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Deity Intake direct-mount stem US$110 exc. shipping Designed to complement Deity’s Blacklabel bars, the Intake stem comes in a choice of seven colours and is available with a 35mm or 31.8mm diameter bar clamp. It only comes in one configuration though – 50mm long, with a zero-degree rise. Although this is the most popular size for downhill, it would be good to see other options, or perhaps the inclusion of some directmount spacers in the box for fine tuning. The stem is made up of three pieces – a base plate and two brackets that clamp the bar onto it. It’s a massive 69mm wide, which makes it stiff enough to keep any unwanted flex at bay, even when running a wide 780mm bar. The sleek CNC-machined profile means it weighs just 152g, which is a bonus. Our only complaint is that there are no markings to assist with bar alignment. Ed www.deitycomponents.com

Alpinestars Paragon bib shorts £200 We love the idea of the Paragon bib shorts. As well as having some handy pockets at the rear to stash essentials in, they also come with a removable back protector. While the fit and feel of the shorts is hard to knock, we do have a couple of issues. The first is how low the three pockets at the rear are positioned. When loaded, they sit right at the base of your back and just on top of your bum. This means the contents don’t sit flush with your body and can get buffeted as you move around on the bike. The pockets are still usefully deep though, and will easy hold a tube, phone, CO2 inflator and multi-tool. Our other complaint is with the bib straps, which are wickedly sharp-edged and soon rubbed our nipples raw. Wearing a baselayer underneath the Paragon bibs is a must. On the plus side, the back protector doesn’t budge when riding and feels properly comfortable even if worn all day in the hills. Rob www.zyrofisher.co.uk


HIGHS Versatile material Great build quality

LOWS Too much material in the arms Hood is annoying

Leatt DBX 4.0 All-Mountain waterproof jacket £119.99 This softshell jacket won’t repel the heaviest rain but it shrugs off puddle splashes and does keep the worst of the weather at bay when things take a turn for the worse. Softshells tend to be pretty warm in use and, although the fabric is thin, the DBX 4.0 AM is no different. We tended to wear it with just a baselayer underneath, and even then, used the long pocket zips to allow a little extra air through the jacket. It does breathe well, though – far better than a regular waterproof. The body is well proportioned – long enough at the back and roomy to wear, but fitted enough for our tastes. While the arms are a good length too, with useful scuff panels, they’re just too baggy, unless you wear elbow pads underneath. We found the hood redundant while riding too. It’ll fit over your lid, but unless you have the front zip fully done up, it ends up flapping around your shoulders too much. If the arms were a little less voluminous and the hood were either not there or stowable, we’d have got on well with the jacket, but sadly these two features detract from its overall performance out on the trail. Tom www.hotlines-uk.com

A versatile jacket, but a couple of niggles with the cut prevent a higher score

Fabric 8 in 1 multi-tool £17.99 Measuring just 71mm by 36mm and weighing only 85g, this compact multi-tool from Somerset-based Fabric is small enough to stow in a shorts pocket. It has 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm Allen keys, along with a T25 Torx key and both flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers. While there’s no 8mm Allen key included, it was the 2.5mm size that we missed – we’d have happily exchanged the flat-head screwdriver for one. The tool body is long enough to get some weight behind when tightening bolts and comfortable to hold, although the smooth finish can be a little slippery. For the price, the solid, high-quality aluminium construction is very good. Rob www.fabric.cc

Ryders Invert veloPOLAR antiFOG Green glasses £118.50 As the name ‘Invert’ suggests, Ryders have taken a traditional half-rim frame design and flipped it, so that the frameless edge is along the top of the lenses. This unconventional approach provides a clear and distortion-free field of vision. The nosepiece is comfortable and offers some adjustability, and when things got sweaty our glasses didn’t slip or move about. Ryders’ anti-glare ‘veloPOLAR’ lenses are on a par with other high-end options, in terms of optical clarity. We missed the flexibility of having interchangeable lenses though, especially as the green option we tested was quite dark. While fine out in the open, it made things a little too gloomy in the woods (the antiFOG Clear lens would probably be a better bet for UK conditions). The anti-fog treatment works really well. Our glasses only misted over once, and that was when the lenses were smeared with sweat and dirt. After a couple of months of hard use, the lenses are still scratch free, though. Matt www.ryderseyewear.com

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Topeak ALiEN II multi-tool £39.99 Comparing the ALiEN II with a flyweight multi-tool would be doing it a disservice. This thing is more like a pocket-size toolbox. Topeak have covered almost all the bases with an extensive array of Allen keys (2-10mm) and spanners (8-10mm) for day-to-day maintenance tasks, a robust chain tool and chain pin store for trailside repairs, and bonus survival tools including a serrated knife. Because the tool splits into two parts, you don’t have to manoeuvre the whole bulky unit while making delicate adjustments. The halves also interact, with the Allen keys on one part being used to drive the chain tool on the other. We particularly like the way that the safety catch on the knife also restrains the spanners, enabling more torque to be applied. The build quality is very high, with no noticeable play in the pivots and pristine surface finishes on the tools. At 292g it’s certainly not lightweight though. Ben C www.extrauk.co.uk

Schwalbe Magic Mary Downhill ADDIX Ultra Soft 27.5x2.35in tyre £58.99 Schwalbe’s Magic Mary is indisputably one of the best treads for muddy conditions. This new ‘Ultra Soft’ version, delineated by a purple stripe, replaces the old ‘VertStar’ tyre as the choice for all-out grip. The rubber is tacky enough to offer superb traction, but not so soft that the knobs deform under load and make the tyre feel vague. While the wide-spaced tread can feel a little skittish on hardpack trails, the thick carcass helps the tyre maintain its shape when pummelling into berms. We’d have no qualms running it as an all-rounder. Schwalbe say their new ‘ADDIX’ tyres are more durable, but the lifespan of ultra-soft rubber is never going to be amazing. After just a few rides our tyres are already showing a bit of wear – that’s the sacrifice you make for this level of traction. Ed www.schwalbe.com

Wolf Tooth B-RAD accessory mounting system From US$17.95 (exc. shipping) The B-RAD (Bottle Relocation and Accessory Device) system consists of a slotted aluminium base that attaches to your bike’s bottle bosses and lets you shift your bottle away from the frame/ shock while also providing somewhere to mount accessories. These rails come in three sizes ($17.95-$22.95), and you can also buy a Velcro strap mount ($29.95) or an adapter to let you stick two bottles side by side ($23.95). We found the B-RAD mounts a great way of adapting bikes to carry extras securely. Even with two bottles mounted for long-haul stints, we had no issues with knee clearance when pedalling. Matt www.wolftoothcomponents.com


HIGHS

Vorsprung Luftkappe fork piston kit CAD$85 exc. shipping

Useful, well-considered design features Great fit and coverage Low-profile padding and decent articulation means movement is unimpaired

LOWS Shoulder pads don’t feel as securely fitted as we’d like

Alpinestars Evolution LS armour jacket £190 If you’re in the market for some upper body protection with a twist, the Evolution jacket from Alpinestars is worth a look. First off, it’s comfortable and, for the most part, fits really well. The thick spine protector may appear a little bulky, but it more or less goes unnoticed once riding. Cleverly, you can slide a hydration bladder into a compartment on the back, and there’s routing for its hose too – a nice touch for enduro enthusiasts who don’t want to carry a pack. The features don’t stop there, though. If you don’t want to use the shoulder and elbow pads, the sleeves zip off in seconds to leave you with a protective vest that’ll fit under a jersey. Should you leave the sleeves in place, the well-shaped elbow pads hug your arms securely without budging when the going gets rough, but aren’t so

tight that they’ll give you arm pump or restrict movement. Unfortunately, the large cutaways under the armpits, while good at dumping heat, mean that the shoulder pads can still move about a bit, leaving areas at the front of the shoulders exposed in places. We’d prefer them to be more securely anchored in place, even if that meant getting a bit sweatier. That niggle aside, in terms of comfort, coverage and ergonomics, the Evolution jacket is up there with the best of them. Rob www.zyrofisher.co.uk

The Luftkappe is a Canadian-made replacement air piston kit for RockShox Yari, Pike and Lyrik forks equipped with ‘Solo Air’ springs. Installing it is quite an involved process, so we got the guys from Sprung Suspension in the Forest of Dean to fit our test sample, in a 2017 Pike. The difference on the trail was immediately noticeable. It lives up to Vorsprung’s claims of increased small-bump sensitivity, with the extra suppleness at the start of the travel making the fork incredibly active over minor trail chatter. When things get a bit burlier, the fork sits nicely in the mid stroke, providing plenty of support and working away unflustered. And even without any volume spacers fitted, there’s still enough ramp-up at the end of the travel to avoid any harsh bottom-outs. Vorsprung claim that the Luftkappe “makes a good fork a great fork”, and we can’t argue with that – our sample has certainly boosted both traction and overall control. Ben P www.vorsprungsuspension.com

Comfy, lightweight protection with some seriously handy features

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REAR LIGHTS

BEST These USB-rechargeable tail lights have got your back 6 OF THE

Blackburn Click USB £17.99

Topeak Redlite Aero USB 1W £36.99

Moon Shield-X Auto £39.99

SO GOOD This is the cheapest light on test. It’s small and light, with an LED battery indicator. IP65 water resistance means it’ll cope with everything except complete submersion. Mounting is simple with the laddered rubber strap. NO GOOD It only has two modes – steady and flashing. Run times aren’t particularly long – 90 minutes and three hours, respectively – considering the output is only 20 lumens. Visibility is significantly reduced for traffic approaching at a 40 to 60-degree angle, due to the lens design (one focused lens and a peripheral distributing lens). www.zyrofisher.co.uk

SO GOOD Outboard placement of its LEDs means the Aero can be seen from further to the side than any other light on test. It’s bright when viewed from up to 75 degrees off-centre, and some visibility is maintained beyond 90 degrees. There are four modes, giving an output of up to 55 lumens and between two and 50 hours of run time. NO GOOD Other lights here are brighter when seen head-on or from up to 45 degrees. It’s fiddly to attach and migrates round the seat tube as you ride. Also, you can’t secure the rubber strap to the light when not in use. www.extrauk.co.uk

SO GOOD With 20 small LEDs arranged around a single higher-power LED, the Shield-X has a central focused beam and a broad (but dimmer) spread of light for side visibility. There are four solid modes, five flashing settings and an ‘auto’ option, which switches the light on when daylight levels are low. Run time is 80 minutes on max power (80 lumens) and up to 40 hours when flashing. The aluminium casing gives it a solid feel. It comes with three mounts. NO GOOD The flashing modes are quite slow, creating gaps in visibility. Switching between modes isn’t intuitive. www.raleigh.co.uk

Knog Blinder MOB V Four Eyes £37.99

Lezyne Strip Drive Pro £49.99

Cygolite Hotrod 50 USB £39.95

SO GOOD Knog’s Blinder MOB is a beautiful piece of design. The solidlybuilt, rubber-coated body houses four LEDs with a claimed max output of 44 lumens. IP67 water resistance means it’ll shrug off being hosed down. The integrated USB plug is ingenious and adjustable, and the quick-release mount is the best on test. Run time on max power is 2.5 hours. NO GOOD There’s not much side visibility from the focused 35-degree beam, although Knog do offer a ‘Mr Chips’ variant with a wider spread of light for the same price. The built-in USB plug won’t work with all USB ports. www.silverfish-uk.com

SO GOOD The most powerful light on test pumps out a whopping 300 (claimed) lumens in its ‘day flash 1’ setting. It produces a circular beam, of fairly consistent brightness. Run times are reasonable, the shortest being two hours in 50-lumen steady mode. While it’s expensive, the lumens per pound count is better or on a par with the other lights here. The integrated USB plug means no charging cable is needed. NO GOOD The beam is narrow, with almost no visibility beyond 30 degrees to each side. It can be a struggle to fit the built-in plug into some USB sockets (because the light sticks out behind it). www.upgradebikes.co.uk

SO GOOD Cygolite’s slimline Hotrod provides six modes, peaking with a 50-lumen (claimed) flash, with a run time of three hours and 30 minutes, and a 30-lumen (claimed) steady beam, with a run time of 90 minutes. We liked the ‘Steady Pulse’ setting, with its mix of solid and flashing LEDs. The Hotrod puts out a wide, oval-shaped beam of consistent red light, which is the brightest on test (when viewed from up to a 45-degree angle). Mounting is a breeze, using the laddered rubber strap. NO GOOD The loose fit of the rubber USB cover means the Hotrod 50 isn’t as weatherproof as other lights here. www.extrauk.co.uk

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TEST BI KES RI DDEN HARD FOR A YEAR

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L E U F K E GUY’S7 T2R9 £2,700 E X 9.

Guy’s Fuel is keeping on trekking, into the darkness… The season is well on the turn but the Trek isn’t showing any signs of slowing down or suffering in the wet as it heads into its second winter. As tends to happen, it’s inherited a lot of test kit I’m running long term. E*thirteen’s TRS+ dropper post is establishing itself as a favourite. It’s certainly not light, and it takes a while to learn how to engage the intermediate positions of the springloaded action, but I’ve been enjoying its relentless reliability. My SRAM Code brakes are on their second set of pads after accelerated burn-up work in the Alps this summer, and I bled the rear one when that got a bit spongy. Both have been totally on point otherwise, with different-level braking fine control compared to most alternatives. The SRAM love-in continues with the new RockShox Pike fork, which has been equally sorted since I installed it. I’m finding that the softer start of the longer ‘DebonAir’ negative spring is boosting traction as ambient levels of grip plummet with the changing weather. The ‘X-SYNC 2’ teeth of the Truvativ Descendant cranks seem to be living up to their claims of extended chain and ring life, thanks to the three-point pickup of the hooked tooth profile. Also going

strong are the Fuel’s original SRAM GX shifter, rear mech and cassette, proving that, while the transmission spotlight is on 12-speed Eagle, SRAM’s 11-speed offerings are still a benchmark for tough, sequentialshift survival. I’ve finally managed to stop the Pavlov’s dog auto-response that convinced my brain that the enlarged section on the inboard end of DMR’s DeathGrips was a GripShift shifter. The grips are now on the latest Gusset S2 800mm bar, but they’re going to be swapping between tons more pipework over the next few weeks as I get stuck into our upcoming handlebar grouptest. I’ll likely be swapping the Fuel EX back to 29er mode as the mud gets deeper, not just because there’s a mud tyre test in the pipeline, but because plus rubber tends to get pretty sketchy when the going gets soft. For now, the increased rollover smoothness and speed sustain means I’m sticking with 2.8in tyres for as long as possible to keep the Trek at the front of the pack. www.trekbikes.com

MY MONTH

HIGHS Transmission and e*thirteen seatpost still impressive as mileage increases and weather quality decreases

LOWS Press-fit bottom bracket is getting creaky Steering lock of ‘Knock Block’ headset can be irritating

SPEC CHECK RockShox Pike RCT3 £940 www.zyrofisher.co.uk Gusset S2 handlebar £54.99 www.ison-distribution.com

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R ICOur’SmanFatOtheCEWS is now a suspension Wiz, thanks to Quark With the Enduro World Series drawing to a close, I had some time at home, with plenty of opportunities to get out on the Focus. While Evil’s The Wreckoning, which I use for EWS course preview videos, feeds on the roughest, steepest stages, I’m always pleasantly surprised by how lively and suited to my home trails the JAM feels. Whereas enduroing necessitates a laden pack, rides on the Focus are only ever ‘water bottle and spare tube’ affairs. My set-up doesn’t tend to change too much, but I felt that I could get a bit more performance out of my RockShox suspension. I got hold of a pair of Quarq ShockWiz units (for more see page 64) and set about

92 Mountain Biking UK

installing them on the Focus’s Yari fork and Monarch shock. This was a pretty painless affair – you simply mount the boxes somewhere they won’t get damaged, connect the hoses to your dampers’ air spring valves then reinflate them to your desired pressures. Alex from Quarq had talked me through the set-up, and what was impressive was just how much effort SRAM have put into the app interface. The devices pair with your phone via Bluetooth, then walk you through calibration. Once that’s sorted, it’s just a case of going for a ride and seeing what ShockWiz has to

MY MONTH

HIGHS Improved suspension performance (plus the morale boost of affirming that I nearly had it right)

LOWS The tyres are now well on their way to the tip

say about your settings. The results are easy to understand, with a green grading alluding to things working well and yellow or red meaning there’s work to be done. An overall score tells you the broad strokes. My base settings weren’t a million miles off, but the bike did benefit from slightly quicker rebound and a bit less compression damping to free the suspension up a bit. What’s great about the system is that it takes away the guesswork, and with multiple setting templates available, it’s easy to try something new as well. www.focus-bikes.com

SPEC CHECK Quarq ShockWiz £359 www.zyrofisher.co.uk Quarq ShockWiz hose kit £45 www.zyrofisher.co.uk


E s) T I N A R G E e S d O a r R g S p ’ u N / E w B 2 £ 2 ,87 2 ( CHSadItoEsay,F the Rose ain’t looking too rosy, but she’s riding as well as ever The Granite Chief is continuing to get on with business without fuss, taking everything in its stride – especially now I’ve added a Vorsprung Luftkappe air piston (approx £58) to the fork. Now that the trails are nice and muddy after all the recent rain, we’ve been spending most of our time going sideways, skidding about the place and having a great time. Considering the amount of mud, water and jetwashing the bike has endured over the past year, I’m impressed that none of the bearings or pivots has needed any maintenance or attention and she’s running as smoothly as ever. One thing that does let the Rose down is the paint. When I first got the bike, I was struck by the glossy

candy-red finish, as it really looked great. Sadly, the paintwork quickly lost its shine, especially on the top tube where my shorts and pads rubbed it. Ten months later, there isn’t a single part of the bike that still has remotely shiny or glossy paint. It looks really tired and shabby, especially with the big dent I put in the chainstay! I’m now in the nice position where I have the Rose exactly how I like it. There’s no need to think about upgrades, so I can just get on with having fun. The only thing I may do is pop a more mud-friendly front tyre on. www.rosebikes.com

MY MONTH

HIGHS I’ve been having a blast getting loose on the muddy autumn trails The Rose has required minimal maintenance

LOWS Her paintwork now looks very old and worn

AI ame) L O C I N / O J ROB’S MTROON G16 £2,600 (fr GEOME

Photo: ASDesign.co.uk

Rob’s been practising emergency stops I’ve been switching between bikes a lot lately, so haven’t spent as much time aboard the G16 as I’d have liked. Riding different bikes has made me really appreciate some of the component choices I’ve made on the Nicolai though. I’ve used SRAM’s Code RSC anchors for a good few months and they’re some of my favourites, especially when the going gets fast and rough. The lever feel is light, they’re consistent even on long descents and the stopping power on tap is incredible. They even saved me from disaster when my chain came off while sprinting towards the take-off of a jump. Thankfully, I managed to stop before flying off the lip. www.mojo.co.uk

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MY MONTH

HIGHS

ROC C I T O C S ’ T MAT

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ame) r f ( 9 9 ,4 1 £ TMA X

Matt’s chuffed with the performance of his original spec choices You may have noticed that I haven’t jumped on the upgrade wagon with the Cotic. After opting for a frameonly build, it seemed like a good idea to stick with my original components. As my year with the Cotic nears its end, I’m feeling rather happy with my initial set-up choices. Shimano’s SLX groupset has proven faultless and truly been a ‘fit and forget’ foundation for the Cotic. It’s needed minimal fettling and

ENT P M G E S E G N AL’S OR A £ 3,540

shifting and stopping is as crisp as when first installed. The KS Lev Si has held up well. This wallet-friendly dropper has remained play-free and responsive through the year. It isn’t the lightest option but non-weight weenies won’t be disappointed. SUNRinglé’s Mulefut wheels have lasted well too. I’ve enjoyed riding the 29+ version for short periods in the past and spending a year on their 650b+ siblings has done nothing

RO

Last time I reported that I’d spotted an issue with my Segment’s frame. The down tube and swingarm looked cracked, and Orange have now confirmed this. Although it sounds drastic, it hasn’t come as a surprise as I’ve ridden the Segment really hard. Orange said that if a customer cracked their bike, regardless of how it was ridden, they would honour the warranty. Orange also recommend a burlier bike if you expect to be dealing out as much abuse as I have. I wish I’d gone for a model with more squish and not tried to be a hero! www.orangebikes.co.uk

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Initial kit selection has proven sound

I A LIZED ED’S SPOEECLITE ENDUR N 29 £4,200 CA R BO

So far it’s given maintenancefree fun

LOWS to put me off them. The cut-out rim adds a little faff to setting them up tubeless, but with some persuasion they work just fine. WTB’s iRanger 2.8in tyres saw me through the drier months perfectly. Fast rolling and with plenty of grip, the only reason to take them off was their lack of mud shedding when things got wet. Getting my hands on Specialized’s awesome Butcher and Slaughter tyres with their ‘GRID’ casing means that plus tyres finally have a place in wet-weather riding. www.cotic.co.uk

Testing the underwater capabilities of a bike wasn’t something I’d done much of, until I headed home to race the ’Ard Moors Enduro. Biblical rain turned the race stages into a quagmire of axle-deep ruts and puddles. I’ve had no problem with mud clearance on the Enduro before, but the rear wheel got so clogged up it stopped turning a few times. The mud also played havoc with my rear brake, bending the pad spring inside the calliper so that it dragged on the rotor. At least it’s given me an excuse for my poor result! www.specialized.com

Still dreaming of more free time to get out and play

ED’S KOTNOAR DL £3,799.99 OPER A I’ve been mostly riding trail bikes lately, so the Kona hasn’t been getting a huge amount of love, but a weekend watching Red Bull Hardline and uplifting at Llangollen has got me chomping at the bit for some big-bike action. Usually I find that watching a race has me itching to be on the other side of the tape, but, given the conditions at Hardline, I was happy to be spectating on this occasion! It’s inspired me to get the boys together for some winter uplifts in the valleys though. I’m just hoping the Welsh weather will be a bit kinder to us! www.konaworld.com


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Tel: 0131 319 1444

Cycling UK is a trading name of Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no: 25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales charity no: 1147607 and in Scotland charity no: SC042541. Registered office: Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX


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T S E T E BIK

2018 TRENDSETTERS y gg g faster and more fun? We test six brand new rippers, from XC to e-bike, to find out

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BIKETEST

THE TESTERS

R O B IN W E

AV E R

With a background in downhill racing, Rob’s need for flat-out speed and machinery that’ll help him find it is totally unwavering. From Nomad to Epic, Rob’s keen to get under the skin of each and every bike he rides.

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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I

n calendar terms there are a couple of months left before it’s 2018, but in bike terms we’ve been living next year since spring. That’s when the first offerings from new ranges started to break cover at individual press launches. These certainly give us a good heads-up on the direction of bike evolution, but they tend to be premium machines with maxed out potential. The late-summer trade show season is where we get to see full ranges and can build up a broader picture of pricing and spec expectations for the year ahead. As experienced as we are, riding bikes in isolation on foreign trails is no substitute for testing them on tracks and segments we’ve been riding for years and know inside out. That’s why we’ve spent the last couple of months hammering six brand new trendsetting bikes round our favourite calibration trails to see how they stack up against our

existing benchmarks. This is not a head-to-head bike test like usual, because they’re all such different machines, designed for different styles of riding, It is also the broadest bike type line-up we’ve ever had in our annual ‘crystal ball’ test, and the first to include an e-bike, in the shape of Scott’s E-Genius 710. We’re covering travel bases from 100 to 170mm too, but it’s been a while since travel totally defined how we’d categorise a bike or expect it to ride. Evil’s The Following MB only has 20mm more travel than the Specialized Epic XC whip, but generates an insane amount of rough-terrain speed with it. In contrast, Santa Cruz’s Nomad has a coil shock and DH-derived linkage but pedals like an XC bike. That means it’s the geometry that sets the 2018 scene, but as you’ll see from the individual reviews, increasingly radical numbers don’t always work out as a win on the trail.

S E B STOT T Seb’s very long and very fast, and loves immersing himself in the most complex details when it comes to bike technology. Does Whyte’s latest hard-charging all-rounder stand up to his scrutiny?

G U Y K E ST

EVEN

He’s tested more bikes than anyone else on the planet in the past 20 years, but that doesn’t stop our Kes still being rabidly excited to ride the latest bikes. So did Marin, Scott and Evil deliver the goods for him?


P U E N I L E TH

SCOT T

£5,899 0 1 7 S U I N E- G E

We were seriously impressed with the non-assist Genius at this summer’s Scott launch. The e-bike shares similar front-end geometry and the same remote-control suspension system, but does every aspect of the new long-and-low geometry translate well to e-bikes? And is the spec tough enough to cope with an extra 10kg of highvelocity, high-voltage machinery?

ED EPIC SPECIATL£I4Z,800 EXPER The Epic has been Specialized’s stalwart XC race machine for years and regularly at the pointy end of some of the biggest races. The Epic changes quite a bit for 2018, with significant refinements to the Brain suspension technology and a move to more stable geometry. Plus, it drops a chunk of weight. But have any of these changes affected the Epic’s speed and pedal efficiency?

Z NOMA7,D999 U R C A T N SA R ESERV E £ C C X X1

While the old Nomad was good, there were a number of things that needed attention. Santa Cruz aimed to deal with these with this new model, which gets a totally overhauled suspension platform, aggressive geometry, more travel – and Santa Cruz’s own carbon wheels. But with a whopping 170mm of travel, will the new Nomad be too much bike for most?

50C W H Y T E S- 1 £5,499

WOR KS

Whyte have always done things their own way, and the new S-150 is a great example of that. This versatile 150mm-travel bike is compatible with 29in and 650b+ wheels, and has sorted suspension and innovative geometry. It should be capable of blasting round trail centre loops and taking on some serious enduro terrain. This model is the flagship of the three-bike range.

ONE 3 Z T F I R N I MAR

£2,300

A fresh frame gives Marin’s shortertravel 29er family a whole new level of trail authority, with a switch to a fully active suspension system and properly progressive geometry. The Rift Zone 3 comes equipped to make the most of the new chassis without breaking the bank –but does it suffer in terms of the easy speed and distance-devouring that most shorter-travel riders are looking for?

OLLOW F E H T L I V E €7,499.99

ING MB

Evil aren’t known for treading the line, and their latest trail weapon only subscribes to one of the current holy trinity of longer, slacker and lower. The suspension has been rearranged around the latest RockShox piggyback shock, and the back end is now Boost width. But does this actually make one of our favourite full-gas trail bikes ‘More Betterer’, as the name suggests?

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SPEC Frame Aluminium, 150/100mm (5.9/3.9in) travel Fork Fox 34 Float FIT4 Performance Elite with TwinLoc remote, 150mm (5.9in) travel Shock Fox Nude EVOL with TwinLoc remote Drivetrain Shimano EFC-E8050a 250W motor with 500Wh battery, Shimano Deore XT M8000 gearing (1x11) Wheelset Syncros X-30S rims on Formula hubs, Maxxis Rekon+ 3C Maxx Terra EXO (f) and Maxx Speed EXO (r) 27.5x2.8in tyres Brakes Shimano Deore XT M8000, 203mm rotors Bar/stem Syncros FL1.5, 760mm/ Syncros FL1.5, 60mm Seatpost/saddle Fox Transfer 150mm dropper/Syncros XM2.0CPC Nack Weight 22.59kg (49.8lb), large size without pedals

0 1 7 S U I N E G E T T O C S £5,899 Radical geometry but control and clearance issues

S

cott’s 2018 Genius bikes are state-of-the-art bombers with some neat, unique features, but ground clearance and fork issues undermine the obvious potential of this electric version.

The frame The 500Wh battery is encased in the down tube of the alloy frame. Switching to Shimano’s compact motor has allowed Scott to make the rear end 30mm shorter than last year, but it’s still long at 460mm. The kinked top tube, short rocker link and unique Fox Nude shock with remote control ‘Lockout’, 100mmtravel ‘Traction Control’ and 150mm ‘Descend’ modes are the same as on the standard Genius, as are the slack 65-degree head angle, steep 75-degree seat angle and generous

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465mm reach (large). We measured the bottom bracket (BB) height as being 330mm (high/650b+ setting) – 10mm lower than stated on Scott’s website and very low for an e-bike.

The kit Shimano XT gears and brakes match the STePS motor. The e-bike version of Fox’s 34 fork has a solid crown and thicker tube walls. Production bikes will have reinforced ‘Double Down’ Maxxis tyres, but the 30mm rims are slightly narrow for the 2.8in width and dent easily. The e-bike gets a 10mm longer stem matched to a 760mm bar with internal routing for the STePS control cables.

HIGHS Quiet, user-friendly motor and sorted remote control rear suspension Progressive, super-slack and long mainframe geometry

LOWS Needs a stiffer fork for confident control of 22kg of runaway train BB height too low for pedal clearance with supplied tyres

planted through turns and rock gardens, and the rear suspension is supple and controlled, creating a proper steamroller. Power assist meant we rarely used the ‘Traction control’ and ‘Lockout’ modes. Unfortunately, fork flex (it really needs a Fox 36) is unnerving when pushing hard through big terrain, and it deserves a wider bar and shorter stem to aim with authority. The low BB and long 175mm cranks meant we repeatedly smashed our pedals, which is irritating on an otherwise promising chassis. GUY www.scott-sports.com

The ride We’re big fans of the Shimano motor in cadence/torque terms. It’s quiet and there’s no drag if you pedal past the 26kph limit. The slack, long front end, super-low BB and 22kg weight make the E-Genius very stable and

Impressive motor and aggro geometry, but flexy fork and constant pedal strikes let it down


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SPEC Frame 6061 aluminium, 120mm (4.7in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RC, 120mm (4.7in) travel Shock RockShox Deluxe RT DebonAir Drivetrain Shimano SLX M7000 with FSA V-Drive cranks (1x11) Wheelset Marin rims on Formula hubs, Onza Ibex FRC120 RC255a 29x2.25in tyres Brakes Shimano Deore M6000, 180/160mm rotors Bar/stem Marin, 780mm/Marin, 45mm Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb dropper/Marin Weight 13.99kg (30.84lb), large size without pedals

3 E N O Z T F I R N I R A M £2,300 New frame puts the Rift Zone into the ‘fast but fun’ zone

M

arin’s Rift Zone gets an allnew frame this year. The result is a progressively shaped trail ripper with kit to match, plus it’s priced to impress.

The frame The redesigned Rift Zone has bigger tubes, straighter lines, and a kinked seat tube in place of the S-bend design. Marin stick with a linkage-actuated single-pivot rear end, but seatstay pivots are now used in place of the old flex-stays. Travel has gone up by 10mm, the shock mounts directly onto the frame, not a bridge, and the linkage has been beefed up. The back end is now Boost width (148x12mm). There’s internal routing for the gear and dropper cables, and the BB is a screw-in unit. Geometry is all-new

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too, with a slacker 67.5-degree head angle, steeper 75-degree seat angle and generous 460mm reach (large).

The kit Marin’s sorted cockpit from last year now syncs perfectly with the updated geometry. While our sample had a RockShox Pike fork, you can still expect impressive control from the Revelation on production bikes. There’ll be a TranzX dropper in place of the Reverb on our bike too. The Shimano SLX and Deore go and stop gear works fine. The wheels pair top-spec Onza Ibex all-rounder tyres with 29mm (internal) rims to give a super-surefooted trail connection.

HIGHS Sorted all-round trail geometry and ride Good value, high-control kit package to match Still efficient enough for big days out

LOWS Tight shock feel can make it choke and clatter in rougher sections

the balanced head angle and seat tube ensure it climbs well. Grippy but not too draggy, the tyres deal well with most terrain, and they’re tough enough that you can drop the pressures to offset the firm rear shock feel. That same feel keeps the Marin keen to push on under power, and means it hides its weight well. We’d be tempted to retune the shock to make it softer, then rely on the ‘pedal’ setting for XC action, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker on what’s otherwise a great value, fun to ride all-rounder. GUY www.marinbikes.com

The ride The net result is a bike that feels confident and ready for anything. It’s not crazy slack, but steering is predictable rather than twitchy. The long reach and relatively low BB make it stable at speed, while

Reshaped for rioting but still naturally efficient, the Rift Zone is now a real trail contender


THE TRAILS

RECL AIM T HE NIGHT WIT H T HE BEST BIKES, LIGHT S, AND WE AT HER PROT ECTION

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SPEC Frame Carbon, 170mm (6.7in) travel Fork RockShox Lyrik RCT3, 170mm (6.7in) travel Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RCT Coil Drivetrain SRAM XX1 Eagle (1x12) with e*thirteen chain guide Wheelset Santa Cruz Reserve 30AM carbon rims on i9 hubs. Maxxis Minnion DHF 3C EXO TR WT (f), Maxxis Minnion DHR II EXO TR WT (r) 27.5x2.4in tyres Brakes SRAM Code RSC, 180mm rotors Bar/stem Santa Cruz AM carbon, 800mm/Race Face Turbine, 50mm Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb Stealth, 150mm/ WTB Volt Race Weight 13.85kg (30.5lb), medium size without pedals

D A M O N Z U R C A T N SA 1 R E S E RV E CC X X £7,999 Big-travel speedster that’ll let you push the limits

T

he fourth-generation Nomad gets some significant changes over its predecessor – and they’ve really paid off.

at the head and seat tube, and 5mm of adjustment to the BB height) plus a threaded BB for easy maintenance. Length has been increased, with the medium bike fitting our 5ft 8in tester well and sporting a reach of 440mm (in the high setting), 25mm longer than the previous model.

The frame

The kit

While the Nomad’s travel has been upped to 170mm, that’s only part of the story. It still uses the Virtual Pivot Point suspension platform, but its layout has been dramatically changed. The shock is much lower in the frame and pierces the seat tube. It’s also driven via the lower of the two links, just like on Santa Cruz’s DH bike, the V10, which it shares a similar leverage curve with. The new Nomad also gets a neat little fender to help keep the shock clean(ish). There’s space for a bottle cage, a grease port in the lower link, a flipchip to alter geometry (0.4 degrees

This model sports Santa Cruz’s new Reserve Carbon wheels, covered by a lifetime warranty, which spin on Industry Nine hubs and add £1,200 to the complete build price. As you’d hope at this price, there’s little to fault with the components package.

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HIGHS Improved sizing Impressive balance, composure and traction that keeps confidence levels maxxed out Remains lively and climbs well despite the amount of travel

LOWS The price – though there is an aluminium version for a whole lot less

the Nomad’s limits through the turns takes some serious bottle. There’s support and pop when you need it, and when the trail flattens, it still carries pace incredibly well. Sometimes you feel a little feedback through the cranks, but it never upsets the well-balanced feel of the suspension. Stability and composure when things get rowdy are impressive. Uphill performance is exemplary for a bike of this travel too. And while the geometry may not be radical, it feels incredibly natural and easy to ride. ROB www.santacruzbikes.co.uk

The ride As soon as your tyres hit dirt, the swagger, confidence and balance the Nomad exudes is entrancing. With a good chunk of the weight set down by the low-slung BB, the supple stroke of the coil shock and a well-considered tyre choice, finding

A top-end performer – fun, fast and won’t back down, no matter what lies ahead of it


SPEC Frame ‘FACT 11m’ carbon fibre, 100mm (3.9in) travel Fork RockShox SID with BRAIN, 100mm (3.9in) travel Shock RockShox/ Specialized Micro Brain with AutoSag Drivetrain SRAM GX Eagle with Truvativ Stylo cranks (1x12) Wheelset Roval Control Carbon rims on Specialized hubs, Specialized Fast Trak GRIPTON 2Bliss 29x2.3in (f) and 29x2.1in (r) tyres Brakes SRAM Level TL, 180/160mm rotors Bar/stem Specialized Mini Rise, 720mm/ Specialized XC, 80mm Seatpost/saddle Specialized rigid/ Specialized Phenom Comp Weight 11.56kg (25.5lb), medium size without pedals

I L A I C E P S

T R E P X E ZED EPIC

£4,800 XC race whippet with serious trail potential

T

he Epic has notched up a staggering 96 major victories over the years, but Specialized were still determined to make it lighter, faster and smarter for 2018.

The frame The Epic Expert boasts Specialized’s ‘Brain’ system, which uses a tunable inertia valve to dictate the level of pedalling efficiency. For 2018, the Brain reservoir has been moved just behind the rear axle and its oil path has been improved, to increase the sensitivity and accuracy and deliver more grip on the trail. Specialized have also reduced weight significantly, claiming to have shed a whopping 525g from the Epic Expert’s frame alone. This saving has, in part, come from removing the chainstay pivots and instead relying

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on flex in the rear triangle to help deliver the Epic’s 100mm (formerly 95mm) of rear wheel travel. Geometry has been given a working over too, with 10mm added to the reach across all sizes. The head angle is a slacker 69.5 degrees, and the bike is designed to use a fork with a shorter 42mm offset. Topping things off nicely is internal routing for a dropper seatpost, although Specialized don’t include one with any of the Epic models.

The kit The Expert component package helps to create a seriously cohesive ride. Aside from a problem with the Brain unit, which required us to swap our test bike (the replacement has been fine), we had no major issues with kit reliability. The Specialized Fast Trak tyres do struggle in soft mud though, and puncture quite easily. We’d recommend making the switch to a tubeless set-up. We also

JARGON BRAIN TECHNOLOGY Housed inside the Brain reservoir is an inertia valve. This remains closed while you pedal and move around the bike, but opens up when the rear wheel hits a bump. The Brain Fade lever lets you adjust how sensitive the bump response is.

had to crank the saddle clamp up tight to prevent it creaking.

The ride Push on the pedals and the Epic feels taut under power, accelerating rapidly and climbing with little exertion. The suspension feel has a lot to do with this. Specialized’s Brain system has five settings to choose from, ranging from ‘soft’ to ‘firm’. In the firmest shock setting, the Epic sits up in its travel and, even when you’re out of the saddle pedalling hard, there’s next to no suspension bob. When you do thump the rear wheel into an edge, the suspension comes alive. This is accompanied by a dull knock through the frame, which takes a little getting used to, but is easy to forgive if you’re racing. In the softest mode, pedalling isn’t as efficient, though the ride is noticeably comfier and quieter. The settings in-between these extremes balance traction with efficiency well,


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ELY M E R P U S E T IS ON R E P X E C I P E THAT N I THE E H C A M E R AC CONFIDENT IN COR NERS A ND UR ATE C C A S L PACE E E T F A E L B A T COMFOR HIGHS Confident geometry and handling

and we found ourselves toggling the ‘Brain Fade’ lever between the second and third (from softest) positions for most of the test, especially when riding trails blind. Up front, we found that leaving the Brain-equipped RockShox SID fork in the softest setting provided the best control, especially on technical climbs, where it felt less fidgety when the going got steep. Too firm and the front wheel would lurch and skip from bump to bump rather than track the terrain. Open it back up and the Epic would claw its way confidently up some pretty steep pitches, providing the rear tyre had enough traction. Once you get comfortable with the suspension settings, you’re rewarded on the trail. Speed into a fast, undulating section and the wide bar, revised geometry and shorter fork offset come together to produce one supremely confident race machine that feels accurate in

Great component package Ability to tune the Brain system to balance pedalling efficiency and comfort

LOWS One Brain unit failed during testing The knock from the Brain takes getting used to

corners and comfortable at pace. Things don’t feel twitchy or nervous as you navigate natural technical descents or chewed-up high-speed sections of trail. While the fast-rolling, highervolume front tyre helps to provide a little extra cushioning up front and is rapid on hardpack surfaces, its shallow tread means it can feel pretty dicey in soft mud. Adding a tyre with deeper tread would enhance the Epic’s performance without undermining its XC intentions, only increasing its appeal. ROB www.specialized.com

A race-ready machine that handles more like a trail bike when it matters

FOR A LITTLE MORE Specialized S-Works Epic XX1 Eagle £8,500 Alongside the higher grade carbon frame, this gets Roval’s Control SL carbon rims and a carbon seatpost.

FOR A LITTLE LESS Specialized Epic Comp Carbon £3,500 The Comp doesn’t get a Brain-equipped fork, but the RockShox Reba SL is still a safe bet. Gearing is SRAM GX 1x11.

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SPEC Frame Carbon fibre front triangle, aluminium rear end, 150mm (5.9in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RCT3, 150mm (5.9in) travel Shock RockShox Deluxe RT3 DebonAir Drivetrain SRAM XX1 Eagle (1x12) Wheelset Whyte 30mm carbon hookless rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs, Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO TR (f) and Maxxis Minion SS EXO TR (r) 29x2.3in tyres Brakes SRAM Guide RSC, 180mm rotors Bar/stem Race Face SIXC, 800mm/Whyte Gravity, 50mm (40mm on size M) Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb Stealth 170mm dropper (150mm on M and L)/Whyte Weight 13.4kg (29.5lb), XL size without pedals

WHYT

S K R O W E S- 1 5 0 C

£5,499 UK-designed trail pinner that thrives on almost any trail

W

hyte’s latest trail bike is a do-it-all ripper. It’s a 150mmtravel, plus-compatible 29er that can take on virtually any trail with aplomb.

The frame A tried-and-true Horst Link design delivers the S-150’s 150mm of rear wheel travel. The suspension is slightly progressive all the way through the stroke. Whyte say it’ll work well with a coil shock, but the leverage curve complements the stock air shock too. The layout offers decent pedalling efficiency without too much pedal feedback. On the two S-150C models, a carbon front triangle is mated to an aluminium back end. There’s room for a full-size water bottle and clearance for 27.5x2.8in plus tyres.

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The kit The Works is the top-end model, with SRAM’s XX1 Eagle 12-speed gearing (though you don’t get the bling gold cassette). RockShox provide the solid suspension units and long-travel, size-specific Reverb dropper post. You also get Whyte’s own 30mm carbon 29er rims, laced to Hope hubs and shod with skinny Maxxis tyres. Whyte spec 170mm crank arms – as opposed to the usual 175mm – on all sizes to reduce the chance of pedal strikes due to the super-low 335mm BB height. They also use a short custom fork offset of 42mm to increase the trail figure (how far the contact patch of the front tyre sits behind the steering axis) and calm the steering, making the bike handle as if it’s even slacker than it is.

The ride The first thing we noticed riding the S-150C is how well it corners.

JARGON PEDAL STRIKE Clipping a pedal or crank arm on the ground or a trail obstacle, usually because of low ground clearance. FORK OFFSET The distance between the centre of the front axle and the steering axis, which is an imaginary line that runs through the mid-point of the fork’s steerer tube. Offset affects the speed of the steering.

We immediately felt comfortable carving turns and exploring the limits of grip, thanks to the low BB, short fork offset and impressive chassis stiffness. The BB height makes it feel fighter-jet nimble when banking from left to right, while the weight balance and composed geometry make for predictable, confident cornering. In rougher sections the S-150 keeps its composure well. The reach is pretty roomy (459mm on the medium, 490mm on our XL) and the head angle is moderately slack, at 66 degrees, but the low BB and shorter fork offset help here too, calming down the handling and helping the bike remain confident and fast. Because the linkage builds in firmness throughout the suspension stroke, small-bump sensitivity is excellent, but there’s plenty of support deeper in the travel to hold you up in corners or when pumping and jumping. This means traction over trail chatter is excellent, yet


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IR ING P S N I E C N E CONFID ’S E T Y H NSION W E P S THE U S E L SUPP D N A Y R T E A BLE P A C G EO M Y L E S IMMEN N A R O F ER E M K A T N MA I A R R ROUGH TE HIGHS the rear end still swallows big hits without blowing through its travel. The Pike fork is a good match up front, offering impressive sensitivity and support. While the suspension does bob a little when pedalling hard, it doesn’t noticeably sap energy on trail centretype terrain, and it’s easy to toggle the shock’s ‘climb’ switch on if you want maximum sprightliness. The Works model is nice and light so it climbs fast, but a steeper seat angle would make tricky ascents easier. Thanks to its fast-rolling tyres and stiffness under power, the S-150 feels eager and fun on mellower terrain. It responds well to hopping and pumping, building and maintaining speed remarkably well. Despite having 150mm of travel, it never felt like too much bike. At the same time, the confidence-inspiring geometry and supple suspension make for an immensely capable rough terrain tamer. We fitted a

Stable yet agile geometry makes the Whyte a riot in the rough Suspension balances subtle sensitivity with big-hit composure and pedalling-friendly manners

LOWS We weren’t big fans of the own-brand saddle and grips

higher-rise bar and a shorter stem (40mm) to make it even more authoritative on steep descents. You could also fit beefier tyres, and even a coil shock, to turn it into a true enduro weapon, but the S-150 rarely felt out of its depth in stock form. A 650b+ wheelset with 2.8in tyres will be available separately from Whyte. This adds extra grip and even better rough-terrain speed sustain, and drops the BB below 330mm. The result is an even more agile feel in corners, though you have to be careful of pedal strikes. SEB www.whyte.bike

Exquisitely balanced suspension and geometry translate into a fast, capable yet playful package

Whyte S-150C RS £3,850 The carbon-framed S-150C RS doesn’t get the top tier fork or shock of the Works, but keeps the 1x12 transmission, albeit in the slightly weightier GX flavour.

FOR A LOT LESS Whyte S-150S £2,850 This alloy version has the same shock as the S-150C RS, but the fork is the cheaper, less sophisticated RockShox Revelation RC. It also keeps the 1x12 GX Eagle gearing.

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SPEC Frame Carbon fibre, 120mm (4.7in) travel Fork RockShox Pike RCT3, 130mm (5.1in) travel Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RCT DebonAir Drivetrain SRAM X01 Eagle (1x12) Wheelset e*thirteen TRS Race wheels, e*thirteen TRSr (f) and TRS+ (r) 29x2.35in tyres Brakes SRAM Guide RSC, 180mm rotors Bar/stem Race Face SixC, 820mm/Race Face Turbine, 50mm Seatpost/saddle RockShox Reverb Stealth 170mm dropper/ WTB Volt Comp Weight 13.27kg (29.26lb), large size without pedals

B M G N I W O L L O F E H EVIL T E L G A E 1 X0 €7,499.99 Rewriting the rules of short-travel chaos control

O

ur Guy loved Evil’s original The Following when he had it on long-term test in 2016. Is this evolution of the 120mm-travel shredder really ‘More Betterer’?

The frame It’d be easy to miss the frame changes on the new Following. It is still single-pivot, with the shock driven via the twin rockers, short links and flippable (‘Low’ or ‘X-Low’) swingarm plates of Dave Weagle’s DELTA System. Those rockers now hold a trunnion-mount RockShox Super Deluxe piggyback shock though, and each pivot gets cartridge bearings. The bike also gets an inset sag indicator on the non-driveside. In common with other Evils, the BB is now threaded for better longevity. There’s also a built-in upper chain

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guide and a custom e*thirteen lower guide/bashguard for the two-screw mount. The back end is Boost width, so it can fit high-volume 29er tyres – up to 2.35-2.5in depending on brand – or 2.8-3.0in 650b+ rubber. Although the 66.8 to 67.4-degree head angle, 73.7 to 74.3-degree seat angle and 330 to 338mm BB height remain the same, the carbon frame is now on average 20mm longer per size (with a 450mm reach on size L).

The kit Evil are now selling direct and via a few selected dealers, which means prices have dropped markedly, although they’re still premium level. We tested the top build kit here, with X01 Eagle gearing and a 130mmtravel RockShox Pike RCT3 fork.

The ride A super-sticky front tyre, custom chain guides and 820mm bar aren’t typical short-travel 29er trail bike

JARGON TRUNNION MOUNT Shock with side-mounted fixing bolts rather than an eyelet at the end. PIGGYBACK Shock with an additional damping oil reservoir mounted above the main chamber to increase heat capacity and consistent control.

spec, but then, The Following MB isn’t your typical short-travel 29er trail bike. Yes, the rear wheel follows a simple single-pivot arc, but the way the DELTA linkage manipulates the rates and leverages driving the shock at different points in its short stroke produces as perfect a suspension response as we’ve experienced. In fact, it doesn’t feel like suspension in the normal, reactive sense – rather some velocity-generation engine that converts normally choking impacts and chunder into extra speed. The shifting shock rate and stiction-free linkage bearings create an ultra-sensitive and connected ‘sucked onto the trail’ feel around the sag point. In the progressive mid stroke, rocks, roots and ruts are screened out to give a stable, feedback-rich platform for pumping and carving corners. The final endstroke ramp-up protects the rims and absorbs body blows and landings with ricochet-free control. It’s totally


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T YI C O L E V A L S LIK E E E F N O I S N VERTS N O C T A THE SUSPE H T NGINE E N O I T A R S AND E T C A GEN P M I G HOK IN C Y L L A EED M P R S NO A R T X E NTO CHUNDER I HIGHS unfazed by pedalling or braking too, snapping power down firmly or dumping speed regardless of what’s happening under the rear wheel. Because there’s no excess shock stroke or suspension wallow to alter geometry dramatically, steering and rear wheel chop-and-hop reactions stay accurate and agile too. The result is an almost slow-motion feel, in terms of the time you’ve got to react to the craziest terrain. It feels like you’re cruising as you stick the most radical lines, but strings of PBs down trails we’ve ridden countless times in faster conditions confirm the DELTA System is in a class of its own. RockShox’s impeccably controlled and accurate Pike fork is a great match up front, and the extra frame reach and low BB add welcome stability at speed. The Following’s sheer speed can make the 67-degree head angle and slim front frame tubes feel borderline nervy in suicide sections, but the bike’s immediate

Benchmarkresetting short-travel control and speed Efficient and agile enough for XC singletrack hustling Carbon-rich kit collection

LOWS Still very spendy despite recent price drop Even large size requires a sideentry bottle cage

reactions and the fact it has just enough compliance to boost traction let you surf and savour the adrenaline rush through the super-wide bar. The Evil feels agile on climbs and singletrack too, so it’s far more than just a gravity slave. The only real criticism we have is that it has so much grip and control that the sticky tyres are overkill and suck speed. Switching to faster-rolling 27.5x2.8in tyres on 35mm rims added speed and created an even more bolteddown connection to the ground, until things got really sloppy. GUY www.silverfish-uk.com

Unbelievable control and freakish speed breeding meet epic efficiency and practical versatility

FOR A LITTLE LESS Evil The Following MB GX Eagle €5,499.99 The same frame, fork and shock, but shifting, wheelset and cockpit downgrades save you £2,000.

FOR A LOT LESS Evil The Following MB frame €2,999.99 Choose between ‘Drunken Olive’ and ‘Smashing Pumpkin’ orange, and build the bike of your dreams.

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DIC F IN A L V ER

B

T

ecause we have six very different bikes on test, we’ve not pitted them against each other like we usually do. As a result, we’ve no overall winner. But what gathering this eclectic mix of new rides has done is highlight just how capable modern mountain bikes are, across each and every discipline. The fact that the Specialized Epic is handier on the fun trails and even faster for racing than its predecessor perfectly underlines this. In a similar vein, Scott’s latest e-Genius offers a potentially great package if teamed with a stiffer fork and raised up on bigger tyres and wheels, and is a great example of how far e-MTBs have come in a short space of time. Marin’s Rift Zone has a ton of potential too, particularly if you’re prepared to get the shock tweaked for better flow. Santa Cruz’s Nomad and Evil’s The Following MB have pretty much flawless suspension, in terms of both pedalling efficiency and insanity-proof control, but sit at opposite ends of the travel spectrum. Money is always an issue though, so it’s the Whyte that gets the highest score, combining superbly

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balanced suspension with smart geometry and practical toughness, while still coming in way under the price of most bikes that can come close to it in terms of performance. The ‘Works’ model is still eyewateringly expensive though, and as much as it’s always interesting to read about the latest bikes, it can be really frustrating if you can’t afford them. In the lower price brackets, rising costs mean that you’ll get less good kit for your cash in 2018 – on paper, at least. The good news is that on-trail performance is still improving, and year-on-year parts comparisons are often invalid anyway. Next year’s RockShox Revelation fork is way better than the 2017 version, and SRAM GX is now an ‘Eagle’ system with more gears, sweeter shifting and better wear life. Shimano Deore brakes are arguably better than SLX, and Fox’s 34 ‘Rhythm’ forks are often smoother than their pricier ‘Performance’ units. Add ever more affordable dropper posts and better tyres, rims and cockpits as standard, and 2018 is looking like a killer year, whatever your budget.

NEXT MONTH Sub-£500 hardtails Can a bike that costs £500 cut it in the hills? We test four to find out ON SALE 1 DECEMBER


LE SA E TO IN R ED NL E! OU TIS ! O SIT AV ER KE EB DE DV LI W EN A R R L Y FO OU IL AN KE IA W I E CH L T V W AT CE ES M RI U P Q

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You can now save up to 42% off the cost of a bike for work through your employer as part of the Green Transport Plan Initiative. Quotations available online: Cyclescheme • Bike2Work.co.uk • On Your Bike • Halfords Cycle2work • Bikes for the NHS (SME HCI) • Salary Extras.

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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!

THE TESTER

T S E T GROUP

KNEE PADS

We’ve tested seven minimal-protection options and seven burly bike park protectors, from £40 to £120 After a helmet, knee pads are among the most important pieces of protective equipment to buy. Unless you’re churning out very mellow miles, we’d recommend wearing a pair as a matter of course. There are now pads that provide meaningful protection while being so lightweight and comfy that there’s almost no penalty for wearing them, even on long days in the saddle. Others are a little bulkier and sweatier, but offer superior protection and peace of mind. We called in all the pads in a size large to compare weight and fit fairly. Some were too big, some too small (in which case we tested smaller/ bigger replacements), so we’d recommend trying a few pairs. Getting the fit right will make a huge difference to how comfy they feel, and how effective they are when you come off. Even if the sizing is bob on, some pads stay up more securely than others. Velcro straps can help, but good placement is vital. In our experience, pads with straps that sit above the widest part of the calf and above the tapered lower part of the thigh tend to stay put far better. Fit aside, the most important thing to consider is how much protection you need. Obviously, the

more the better, but this has to be balanced against comfort. One thing to look out for is EN 1621-1 safety certification. Most pads here have this, but that’s not to say they’re all the same safety wise. If you’re into riding gnarly tracks or are a regular crasher, look for pads with thick padding that covers a large area around the knee. Or, if you like long, pedally rides, you’ll want something lightweight, with plenty of ventilation and which articulates easily with the movement of your legs. We’ve taken these pads on enough big rides to weed out any issues with fit, chafing and sweatiness. While we drew the line at deliberately falling off, we ended up accidentally crashing in most of them at one point or another. Crucially, we tested them against one another, often wearing different pads on each knee, to achieve the fairest and most direct comparison possible. It wasn’t a great look, but it gave the best impression of how they performed. We also took on board feedback from a wide range of experienced MBUK testers. The best pads here provide impressive protection without being too heavy, uncomfortable or restrictive when pedalling.

JARGON S E B STOT T

D3O

EN 1621-1

Seb is a top rider, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t crash! He’s been putting these 14 pads through the wringer over the past few months. For reference, his 39cm calf and 51cm thigh measurements put him right in the middle of most brands’ ‘large’ size ranges.

A polyurethanebased material that is soft and flexible until it experiences an impact, when it hardens. In theory, this helps pads remain comfy while still absorbing impacts effectively.

The European safety standard for body armour. Pads must pass a test where weights are dropped onto them and the force transmitted to the inside stays below a certain threshold.

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SILICONE GRIPPER A strip of silicone inside the cuff of the pad, which grips the wearer’s leg and helps prevent the pad falling down.

KNEE CUP

PRE-CURVED

THIGH GAP

The protective pad that covers the kneecap. Usually made of foam or a D3O-style material, and sometimes covered with a plastic cap for extra protection.

A knee cup or pad that’s shaped to follow the bend of the rider’s leg. This helps the pad stay in place, while also allowing easy movement.

Often referred to by a less PC name, a gap between the top of your pads and bottom of your shorts is a fashion faux pas that can occur with pads that sit low on the knee.


DETAILS PROTECTION How effectively a pad cushions impacts is measured in standardised lab tests. Those that pass a certain threshold are given the EN 1621 accreditation, which is a benchmark for safety that many pads carry. It’s far from the whole picture though. COVERAGE As well as the ability of the padding to absorb impacts, the other consideration is what area it covers. Look for padding that extends from above to well below the kneecap, as well as around the sides. FIT Great protection is no use if the pads fall down while riding or when you hit the deck. Look for elasticated cuffs or, better still, adjustable Velcro straps that sit high up the thigh and above the calf. MATERIALS Most knee pads use some form of composite foam to cushion the blows. Some pads use hard plastic outer shells to add protection. The hot ticket material is D3O (and similar alternatives such as SAS-TEC), which hardens on impact to boost protection without feeling stiff while you’re riding. COMFORT Knee pads are no good if they’re so uncomfortable that you don’t want to wear them. They mustn’t be restrictive or move around when pedalling, which can cause chafing. Also, look for ventilation to prevent sweatiness and overheating on hot rides.

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SixSixOne Recon £52

S TRAIL PAD

We ig h t 14

6g

With minimal padding, these are the lightest and most breathable pads on test, which makes them well suited to long, hot rides where the chances of injury are low. They aren’t EN 1621-1 certified, but do achieve the lesser EN 14120 standard and cover from just above the top of the kneecap to a little below it. The padding is thin, though, and provides little protection in a serious crash. Because the upper cuff is short, it grips the tapered part of the thigh

just above the knee, where it has a less firm purchase than if it reached higher up. The cuffs slipped down regularly on our ‘large’ samples, even though the pads felt tighter than the same-size competition. Some testers found this caused a little chafing. Though they’re cool, light and unrestrictive when pedalling, the fit isn’t great and protection is minimal. www.hotlines-uk.com

Troy Lee Designs Speed £60

We ig h t 2 3

1g

TLD’s Speed ‘knee sleeves’ are simple tubes of material with a strip of silicone gripper above the knee and a D3O panel for protection. There are three sizes, and our ‘medium/large’ set fitted perfectly. They stayed up reasonably well, despite the upper cuff stopping just above the kneecap. This does mean there’s often a gap between pad and shorts, though. The minimal padding is unrestrictive, but they’re not especially comfy. The sleeve itself is

rather thick and surprisingly sweaty. It also bunched up behind the knees, where it irritated the skin of some testers. The 4mm of D3O foam isn’t enough for these pads to have any safety accreditation, and while they stay up OK when pedalling, they don’t feel as secure as others here, which is disappointing, considering the price and relative discomfort. www.saddleback.co.uk

Alpinestars Paragon £40

We ig h t 26

7g

These are the cheapest pads on test, and the lightest in weight to still meet the all-important EN safety standard. That makes them sound promising on paper, but we had some issues in practice. The fit was a little on the snug side at first, but they loosened up after a few washes. While the lower cuff fits tight for the size, the upper cuff is relatively loose, so unless you’ve got big thighs and skinny calves, they slip down easily. The knee panel is pretty flat too, so

they don’t stay in place very well in a crash, and the coverage is just OK. Several testers found they chafed a little too. Because the upper cuff sits quite low, the pads don’t look great with shorter shorts because they leave a gaper gap. They’re relatively cool on hot rides and pretty comfy for pedalling in, but be aware of the odd fit and sizing. www.zyrofisher.co.uk

Specialized Atlas £60

We ig h t 17

0g

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The Atlases are the second-lightest pads here, and we found them among the most comfortable too. The upper elastic cuff has silicone grippers and sits well up the thigh, so you don’t get that unsightly gap between knee pad and shorts. While some testers felt the sizing was spot on, others complained that the upper cuffs slipped down occasionally. They’re a faff to pull back up too, because they sit so high on the thigh. Superb pedalling comfort makes the

Atlas pads great for long rides, and they remain nice and cool on hot days thanks to their lightweight and breathable construction with mesh fabric at the rear. But the thin ‘anti-shock foam’ padding feels pretty basic and doesn’t carry any safety credentials, so we wouldn’t fancy crashing on rocky ground wearing these. www.specialized.com


Dainese Trail Skins 2 £69.95

We ig h t 3 2

2g

Dainese’s second-generation Trail Skins are a huge improvement over the slightly uncomfy originals, with a pre-curved plastic knee cup that’s nicely shaped and lets the pad articulate well with pedalling movement. They pass the allimportant safety tests, and there’s a little extra foam padding around the sides. The honeycomb knee cover gets clogged if you crash or kneel in mud, though. They size up as expected, but the small Velcro tabs at

the top and bottom don’t do a great job of adjusting and securing the fit. The upper cuff also sits a bit low, making it harder to get them to sit just right on the knee without chafing. They do stay in place pretty well though, and feel unrestrictive when pedalling and cool on hot days. Ultimately, we preferred the fit and comfort of the Bliss and 7iDP pads. www.windwave.co.uk

Bliss ARG Minimalist+ £59.99

We ig h t 3 10

g

We were big fans of the supercomfortable original Minimalist pads, but they offered very little protection in a crash. These provide far more coverage, extending around the sides of the knee and well down the shin, and also pass the EN safety tests. They remain exceptionally comfy to pedal in, with their breathable sleeve and flexible, perforated knee cup. They’re cool on hot days, and notably unobtrusive when pedalling. We found the fit of the ‘large’ size a little

on the baggy side, which meant they shifted around a bit more than some of the other pads here. The high-upthe-thigh silicone grippers hold them up pretty well anyway, but they’re not quite as secure as the 7iDP Transitions. Because of the slightly loose fit, we’d recommend trying them on before buying. But if they fit you well, they’re great. www.madison.co.uk

7iDP Transition £59.99

We ig h t 2 7

2g

The Transitions strike a superb balance between comfort and protection. At first, the stiff and highly concave knee cup feels strange, but once you start pedalling they’re spot on, never feeling tight or restrictive, yet staying in place exceptionally well. After six months of regular use, they’ve softened up, making them even comfier. Sizing is bang on too, matching 7iDP’s fit chart. The elasticated thigh cuff sits high up the leg, preventing any thigh gap. During long days in the saddle and the occasional off, the pads have remained securely in place. They pass the EN standard and the foam padding extends well down the shin, although side padding is minimal. They’re impressively light and breathable, making them our choice for trail riding. We also tested the Transition Wrap pads, which use a similar knee cup but Velcro straps, and found them less comfortable, sweatier and fiddlier to get a good fit. www.decade-europe.com

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SixSixOne Rage Hard £64.99

TING T I H Y V A E H ADS P

We ig h t 4 3

4g

They may sound like they’ve been named after some dodgy mail-order pills, but that’s not the only thing that’s a bit misguided about these pads. The sizing is odd. Out of all the ‘large’ pads on test, these are by far the tightest fitting. In fact, the lower cuff is uncomfortably snug around the calf. Despite this, they still tend to drop too low on the leg, because the lower cuff sits below the thickest part of the calf and the upper Velcro strap crosses the tapered part of the lower

thigh. This means that if you were to upsize, you might struggle with them slipping down. Coverage is good, with a solid plastic knee cover and some thin peripheral padding around it. They’re not too sweaty and don’t chafe, but the stiff knee cup pulls on the upper cuff when you bend your knee, making them feel restrictive when pedalling. www.hotlines-uk.com

iXS Dagger £70

We ig h t 4 5

1g

The Daggers are a little on the tight side for their size, though we soon got used to this on the trail. They’re some of the lighter and better ventilated pads in our ‘heavy hitting’ category, although they feel a little stiff and slightly restrictive when pedalling for any length of time. Twin Velcro straps and silicone grippers mean they stay up really well, though they can gape a little at the top when your knees are fully bent. The protection on offer is a little

inconsistent. While the kneecap is well-cushioned behind a solid plastic dome, there’s only a short and fairly thin pad below this, which is prone to lifting off slightly when the leg is bent. Foam padding extends well up the thigh, which isn’t somewhere we feel is particularly in need of protection – we’d rather have more substantial padding protecting the shin. www.hotlines-uk.com

Nukeproof Critical DH Pro £64.99

We ig h t 4 6

5g

These burly pads are a lot more comfy than they look. The fit is bob on – they stay up nicely and don’t move around much when riding, without feeling tight. They’re pretty sweaty, but the mesh panel behind the knee adds a little ventilation. The huge area of thick foam padding incorporates a tough plastic knee cup and extends from a few inches above the kneecap to halfway down the shin, offering useful protection in crashes and against pedal slips. This

makes them a good choice for beginners. They do feel slightly restrictive when pedalling because the stiff front padding doesn’t articulate all that well. We also found they chafed slightly at the upper cuff, so we wouldn’t like to do a long, hot ride in them. But the reassuring coverage makes them well suited to colder days or uplifted riding. www.nukeproof.com

Race Face Ambush D3O £69.95

We ig h t 5 4

118 Mountain Biking UK

3g

Race Face’s Ambushes are solid and comfy – if sweaty – pads, at a good price. There are Velcro straps to tailor the fit, and the pads are also joined at the back with Velcro. That means you can quickly whip them off without having to remove your shoes. This design also allows the fit to be adjusted, which means the sizing isn’t as critical as with some of the other pads on test. Despite using D3O in the knee cup, they feel a little stiff when pedalling, especially when

compared to the suppler Scott Grenades. They’re hotter too, but feel like they offer better protection, thanks to the robust knee cup and foam side pads. If you don’t mind slightly bulky-feeling pads, or are prepared to take them off and stuff them in your pack for long, sweaty climbs, then these are a great option for the price. www.silverfish-uk.com


Fox Launch Pro D3O £110

We ig h t 6 2

8g

While these are the heaviest and second most expensive pads on test, we’re fans all the same. Both the fit and sizing are great, with many testers really getting on with the shape. The knee area is nicely sculpted, so they stay in place particularly well, with no need to crank up the straps or pull them up mid-ride. Because the lower strap is quite long it sits loose, but the pads stay up well regardless. The plastic knee cup is designed to slide off

rocks in a crash, and it’s backed up with thick D3O padding. It can be removed for easier washing too. These pads don’t cover much of the shin, but the knee protection is second to none. Despite the heft, they’re not particularly sweaty, and articulate nicely when pedalling, so they can be used for longer rides as well as gnarly leaps. www.foxracing.com

Scott Grenade Evo £79.99

We ig h t 5 4

2g

Scott’s Grenade Evos are some of the comfiest big-hitting pads we’ve tested. There’s an important caveat to that, though – they come up on the big side. After trying the ‘large’ Grenades, we switched to ‘mediums’, so be sure to size down. If you do, the fit is superb. The lower strap sits nice and high, above the thickest part of the calf, meaning they stay up really well without feeling tight. Pedalling is comfy too, thanks to the supple D3O knee cup. While the Grenades offer

plenty of padding above and around the sides of the knee, they don’t extend very far down the shin. The knee cup isn’t as substantial as that of the Fox pads, so they don’t feel quite as protective. They do stay properly glued in place though, and come in a good chunk cheaper too. They’re also some of the comfiest pads on test. www.scott-sports.com

Troy Lee Designs Raid £120

We ig h t 4 2

3g

Probably the comfiest burly pads on test, the Raids have substantial D3O padding that covers the knee and extends down the shin. Foam adds protection at both sides, as well as above the kneecap, making them feel reassuringly secure on dicey terrain. Watch out for the sizing, though – our ‘medium/large’ set fitted our main tester Seb perfectly, but others had to size down. They’re extremely comfy, even when pedalling for hours at a time, and stay up exceptionally well too, thanks to a slightly pre-curved knee cup and an elasticated strap that sits above the widest part of the calf. The Velcro thigh strap lets you tailor the fit, but doesn’t need to be done up tight to hold the pad steady. They can get a bit sweaty in hot weather, but given the level of protection on offer, this is easy to forgive. If you’re after big-terrain security with no pedalling penalty, the Raids have the versatility to justify the hefty price tag. www.saddleback.co.uk

Mountain Biking UK 119


SKILLS, KNOW-HOW, NUTRITION & FITNESS

-manual-

U S S I S I H T IN

E

q 122 RACE YOUR MATES How to leave your buddies eating dirt

124 RIP DOWNHILL We reveal the secrets to riding DH tracks at lightning speed

126 JUMP OBSTACLES CONFIDENTLY If there’s something in your path, the best option is often to loft over it

H O W TO... BOSS A E P 12 5 K I – L S L P A I U T N E A E R M OP TH T S I H S E V I AL BOND G

128 GRIMETIME How to bleed Shimano brakes, clipless shoes explained, tech Qs answered Mountain Biking UK 121


Race your mates

02

Don’t be wet! If you’re not winning the race then you need to do everything in your power, at any cost, to get in front! Mates’ races or challenges tend to have fewer (or no) rules and regulations than standard competitions, so think outside the box (or tape!) to get a fair, or unfair, advantage!

Top tips for getting on the gas and leaving your buddies eating dirt!

Everyone loves an impromptu race with their mates, but it sucks when you get beaten. We’ve come up with some foolproof tips so that you’re practically guaranteed to beat them in any unofficial race. Don’t forget though, it’s only for fun so don’t take it too seriously…

01

Eyes on the prize If you’re leading out a pack of mates hungry for the win, you’ll have a target on your back. The best thing you can do is keep your eye on the finishing line and try to ignore what’s going on behind you. Let the competition take themselves out while you concentrate on riding as fast as you can.

04

The trail Some trails are more suited to mates’ races than others. Dual tracks and BMX tracks are ideal, as are wide DH trails – there’ll be loads of opportunities to pass each other and make a break for glory. Try to avoid nadgery, tight singletrack, which doesn’t make for good racing.

122 Mountain Biking UK


I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H

Build a dual track When it comes to taking on your mates, nothing beats the thrill of dual slalom racing. If you set up your own course, you can get as wild as you want without wrecking someone else’s spadework.

1 THE HILL

First make sure you’ve got the landowner’s permission to dig and build. Pick an open hillside with as few trees, stumps and roots as possible. You want a hill that’s a decent length and not so steep that you’ll need to be on the brakes or so flat that you’ll need to pedal lots.

2 THE LINE

Pick a line down the hill that maximises the space and gradient you’ve got, putting in as many turns as possible to make things fun without slowing the riding down too much. Open grassy fields are a good place to consider building a dual track.

3 JUMPS AND TURNS

Build a mix of flat and bermed turns, making sure to turn left and right in equal amounts – if you turn one way more, those on the shortest route will have an advantage. Build sections of rollers that riders can choose to jump, pump or manual. It’ll be a great test of skill.

03

Straggler at the back Don’t be disheartened if you’re always at the back trailing behind everyone else, because the race ain’t over till it’s over. It could be a case of tortoise and hare, and the aggressive clowns who are battling over the spoils may end up taking each other out. Sometimes patience is the best way to win.

Top tips Take the racing as seriously as you want, but remember to draw up some basic rules, like no foul play. No one wants to go home in an ambulance or with a broken bike!

Mountain Biking UK 123


shred the downhills

The inside line on how to ride DH tracks at lightning speed

Whether you’re used to riding downhill or not, there are things that can catch you off guard. The speed and roughness of DH tracks requires a dynamic blend of aggression and passiveness. By making your arms strong and braced – but not rigid – you’ll stop your body getting jolted and bounced around by bumps, jumps, rocks, holes and compressions. Rough terrain will push through the bike and you’ll need to do your best to work with this movement rather than against it, which is key to holding your line and not turning into a passenger. At the same time, you need to be relaxed enough through your arms to adapt to and absorb bumps and lumps that you didn’t anticipate. The easiest way to imagine this is to think of yourself as water – water can crash and it can flow. You need to be able to do both on the bike, flowing where necessary and being more forceful on the bike if you need to.

The speed you can reach on DH runs can be pretty overwhelming. Make sure you’re reading the trail far enough ahead to be able to react to obstacles. If you’re looking too close to your front wheel, it’ll seem like features are rushing up on you. But if you’re looking far enough ahead, then your body should naturally handle what’s currently under your bike, while your brain is working out what to do next. With the speed of riding downhill, you’ll need to adapt your body position. You’ll naturally want to get further back on the bike, putting less weight on the front wheel. This makes it harder for you to get pitched over the bar, which is good, but can also cause your front wheel to wash out in turns because it has less grip, which isn’t so good. Ideally, you’ll battle the desire to lean back and remain in a fairly neutral position over the bike. Remember to stay as relaxed and as ready as possible.

DOWNHILL BIKE SET-UP Suspension Reduce fork and shock rebound speed and increase compression damping. This will make the bike more stable and stop you getting bucked around on rough stuff.

Contact points Bar roll, stem height and saddle angle and height are matters of personal preference, but make sure your brake levers are closer to horizontal than vertical, your bar and stem are higher than normal and your seat is low and angled as flat as comfortably possible.

Components Downhill tyres have tougher casings so won’t puncture as easily as lighter rubber and will suffer from less deformation. Softer DH-specific compounds will help with grip. Make sure you’ve got big disc rotors front and rear if you’re doing long, steep descents, and you have enough travel for the terrain you’re riding.

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I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H

-QUICK TIPS-

AL BOND’S TOP THREE TIPS FOR MANUALLING

EVENING CLASSES A short weekly exercise class or gym session can make a huge difference to your riding fitness.

THE DAILY GRIND

DIET Losing weight doesn’t need to be as hard as some people think – and doesn’t have to mean eating only lettuce. Cut out the junk and lose weight easily.

Maximise your weekend!

Coach Alan Milway explains how to get the most from your trail rides

Is there a way to freshen up the journey to work? Or pop out at lunchtime? Add these little sessions up and you’ll notice a big difference after just a few weeks.

S S B O DY 1. COMPREBIKE AND Practise this on flat ground. Riding at a slow speed, cover the rear brake and start to sink in towards the bike, bending at the knees and elbows. Push down with your whole body into the bike’s suspension (don’t worry if you don’t have any!), as if you’re trying to pump the bike..

A 2. SLIDE B

CK WARDS

Once you’re sunk down, with your body and the bike’s suspension compressed, the aim is to slide yourself backwards. To do this, drop your heels and push into the pedals, while at the same time straightening your legs and bringing your bum as far back over the rear tyre as possible. Your arms should be almost, if not completely, straight.

FRONT 3. LET THEOME UP W HEEL C From the position you should be in now – really far off the back of the bike, arms and legs straight – the front wheel should start to rise, thanks to where your weight is and the momentum carried from the pumping. You shouldn’t have to do any pulling with the arms if you get the technique right. From here, use your back brake and move your body weight forward slightly to control the height and duration of the wheel lift.

alex bond MBUK TEAM RIDER

For many of us, our mountain biking time is limited by work, family and home commitments. We dream of month-long trips away in the Alps or endless summers in Whistler, but in reality we have our local playground where we try to get a couple of hours’ riding in each weekend. The problem, all too often, is that riders don’t progress and performance doesn’t improve. Unfit riders stay unfit, less skilled riders remain unskilled and the dynamic of the group doesn’t change at all. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. If the rides are fun, jokes are had and steam is let off, then mountain biking has done its job – the main reason many of us ride is for fun. But if you’re frustrated at a lack of improvement – even though you push yourself every ride – there are ways you can make changes. Lifestyle changes are a simple way to make big changes in performance. There are many amateur riders I have spoken

to who feel their diet is good, only to then explain that they have a pack of biscuits always half opened, have a takeaway every week and drink a few pints in the evenings and at weekends. It may take keeping a food diary – or just a long, hard look in the cupboards – but cutting out snacking and eating junk food could mean the difference between being at the front or back of the group come the weekend. Then there’s the daily commute. Could you change this journey by cycling? Or dodge the traffic on a motorbike and use the time saved for exercise? I know of friends who drive to the station with their bike in the boot so they can ride the last (congested) part of the journey and feel so much better for it. Committing to a weekly exercise class – especially if you pay up front – is a good way to increase your fitness and stick to a routine. Spin classes, yoga, swimming, crossfit, rock climbing – the list is endless.

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Jump obstacles confidently Sometimes the best way around a trail feature is to go straight over it

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Brace, brace! Assuming you spotted your landing earlier, before taking off, you should know where you want to touch down. As you come in for landing, extend your arms and brace your legs to absorb the impact.

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Landing pad Now that you’ve hit the ground, wheels first, you should be looking up and ahead and focusing on the next section of trail, and the jump should be just a distant memory!

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Pull up The type of take-off will determine how hard you need to hoick on the bars for maximum lift. If it’s a ramped take-off, treat the jump like a normal double, but if there’s nothing to kick the wheels up off, such as when clearing a tree stump, then you’ll have to use more of a bunnyhop technique.

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Approach As you approach the feature, spot your take-off and landing. You’ll know whether you’ve got enough speed to clear the obstacle, so now is the time to commit! If you decide to bail, make sure you scrub off enough speed to avoid piling into whatever it was you were planning to jump!

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Flight time Relax in the air and level your bike out. This is the moment to enjoy as the clatter from your chain stops.

Top tips 1 STEPPING UP YOUR GAME

Don’t expect to jump like Evel Knievel right away – you’ll want to up your game in steps. Pick a single jump that you’re used to hitting and place a rock or small branch on the ground after it. Practise jumping over it and clearing it, slowly extending the distance you need to clear. Before long you’ll be jumping further than you imagined.

2 TRANSFERRING THE SKILLS

You’ll want to take this newfound skill to the trails to help you ride faster, smoother lines. Normally, there’ll be sections of trail that you can double, clearing a hole, some roots, rocks or other gnarliness. Once you’ve mastered and identified where and what the best things are to gap, you’ll notice you’ll be riding much smoother and quicker.

3 SUCK IT UP!

Now that you’re riding faster and hitting lines harder with your new skills, it may be worth considering setting up your bike to tackle bigger hits, by increasing your fork and shock’s compression damping and slowing the rebound down. If you’ve got firm suspension you can use that to help you pop off lips and obstacles.

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www.muc-off.com

Grime TIME Your questions answered

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

ID parade I bought my bike secondhand about six months ago and, after some seriously hard use, it’s developed a creak. My more experienced riding buddies assure me it’s emanating from the bottom bracket. I’m happy to replace the BB myself, but I don’t have a clue what type it is or what tools I’ll need to do this. My bike is a 2014 Kona Process. Any ideas? Gareth Maines, via email With all the different ‘standards’ used these days, finding the right BB can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know what you’re

To remove your BB you’ll need a press-fit BB bearing removal tool and rubber mallet

looking for. Your Process was originally equipped with a SRAM PressFit GXP BB92 unit. ‘BB92’ refers to the width of the frame’s BB shell – 92mm. ‘GXP’ is just SRAM’s model name. ‘PressFit’ is how the BB is installed. If your previous bike was a little older, it’s likely that it used a BB consisting of two cups (containing the bearings) that screwed into threads at each end of the BB shell, plus a sleeve for the crank axle. This is known as an ‘external’, ‘threaded’ or ‘screw-in’ BB. The BB you need also has two cups and a sleeve, but they have to be pushed into your frame (like headset cups), rather than screwed in. To remove the current cups (we’d suggest only doing this if you’re sure you

want to replace the BB, because it’s easy to damage them) you’ll need a press-fit BB bearing removal tool, such as Park Tool’s BBT-90.3, and a rubber mallet. When it comes to fitting the new BB, we’d recommend using a bearing cup press, such as Park’s HHP-3, to ensure the cups remain correctly aligned as they’re pressed into the frame. If in doubt, get along to your nearest bike shop, where they’ll be able to help.

Going pop My suspension fork is a good few years old now. On a recent ride I managed to blow a seal up and out of the lower leg, leaving it stranded halfway up

Quick fix tips Bleeding a Shimano brake

Mount the bike in a workstand and remove the wheel. Insert a flat-bladed screwdriver between the brake pads and use it to push the pistons back into their bores. Remove the pad retaining pin, then pull the pads out of the calliper. Insert a Shimano bleed block.

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Use a 4mm Allen key to loosen the brake lever bar clamp. Rotate the lever to horizontal and tighten. Use a 2.5mm Allen key to remove the bleed port screw (and then the O-ring) on top of the lever’s reservoir. Thread the Shimano bleed cup clockwise into the bleed port.

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Take the dust cover off the bleed nipple on the calliper. Connect a bleed hose to the bleed syringe, and fill with mineral oil. Invert it and squeeze out air bubbles. Put a 7mm ring spanner over the bleed nipple, attach the other end of the hose to the bleed nipple.

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For non-series Shimano brakes, insert a 3mm Allen key into the bleed valve instead. For all brakes, turn the spanner/Allen key anticlockwise a quarter turn. Use the syringe to force oil through the system. Stop before air enters the calliper then close the valve/nipple.

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www.muc-off.com the stanchion and my fork low on air pressure. Is it knackered or can it be fixed? Alan Braithwaite, via email

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Cleat slots

The cleat is secured with two bolts, inserted through grooves in the sole – the cleat slots. Longer slots allow a wider range of adjustment when positioning the cleats.This is important for riders who want their cleats to sit near the middle of the foot for a more confident descending position.

While this isn’t a common problem, it can happen from time to time, and is fixable. It’s time your fork got a full service though, as there could be an issue with its internals (in this case, most likely the air spring). If it’s a Fox fork, get in touch with Silverfish (www. silverfish-uk.com) and get it booked in. For RockShox, Marzocchi, Manitou and others, try Jake at Sprung Suspension (01594 860381) or the guys at TF Tuned (01373 826800).

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Fastening mechanism

The most basic mechanism is the humble lace, used on cheaper shoes. Others, including most Shimano SPD shoes, use a combination of Velcro and ratchet straps. Boa dials (shown here) are the quickest to use – they use a ratchet to adjust the tension in a wire that criss-crosses the shoe.

Better protected I have a Bell Super 2R helmet, which I love. Problem is, I’m looking to enter a couple of downhill races next year and I’ve been told the Super 2R doesn’t meet the safety requirements. What exactly do I need from a full-face helmet? Rachael Flanders, via email

s ’ r e f f u Bl -GUIDE

C L I P L ES S S

In this sort of situation, we’d always recommend that you buy the best you can afford. Look for a helmet with ASTM downhill certification, but be warned that some lids that meet this standard still aren’t permitted at certain races if they have a removable chin bar. We’re big fans of the Troy Lee Designs D3, which exceeds the main ASTM, CPSC and EN standards, but it’s not cheap, with prices starting at £299.99. If you want to stick with Bell, their new Super DH lid (£249.99) still allows you to remove the chin bar, just like you can on your 2R, but comes with MIPS and meets the key full-face standards. Just make sure it’s allowed at the races you’re planning to enter.

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Sole

How stiff a shoe’s sole is affects how much power is transferred to the pedals, as well as how pressure is distributed on the foot. Cheaper shoes often use plastic soles, pricier ones stiffer carbon fibre.The treaded rubber outsole is bonded onto the sole for traction on the pedals and in the dirt.

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H O ES

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Insole

The shape of a shoe’s insole affects your foot, ankle, knee and hip alignment, which can impact comfort, power transfer and your chances of picking up an injury through cycling long distances. It’s possible to buy aftermarket insoles to suit different riders.

Jargonr buste MINERAL OIL

Remove the syringe. Put the hose, pointing down, into a bag. Open the valve/nipple. After half the oil in the bleed cup has drained out, close it. Pump the brake lever a few times, open the valve/nipple, squeeze the lever to the bar, close it, release the lever. Repeat four times.

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Close the valve/nipple and remove the bleed hose. Tap all along the brake hose to unsettle any air bubbles. Flick and release the brake lever a few times. Repeat with the brake lever tilted forwards and then back by 30 degrees. Return the lever to horizontal.

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Install the bleed cup’s plastic plug and remove the cup. Reinstall the bleed port screw and O-ring, taking care not to overtighten. Remove the bleed block, clean the brake with water and paper towel. Reinstall the pads and the wheel. Pump the brake to check it’s firm.

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Shimano brakes use mineral oil, as opposed to DOT fluid. It’s much less harmful to skin and can be stored longer without soaking up water from the atmosphere. DOT fluid can be more resistant to heat, though.

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GREAT FRYUP DALE, NORTH YORK MOO We head to the new Yorkshire Cycle Hub for a cracking ride up hill and down dale Words Max Darkins Photos Russell Burton

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WHERE ARE WE? NORTH YORK MOORS

The North York Moors National Park is one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the UK, covering an area of 1,436 km² in North Yorkshire. www.northyorkmoors.org.uk

Expect moody, dramatic, leaden skies – and the odd burning beacon – and you won’t be disappointed

Middlesbrough

Great Fryup Dale

North York Moors National Park

York Leeds

RS

Hull

Sheffield

This is an area of big, open landscapes and big hills – prepare for some steep grunts

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PRO-FILE

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

he cold and exposed north-east coast of England may not be an obvious place to go riding when the weather is on the turn, but that’s exactly what we’ve decided to do. There’s reason to our madness though. Firstly, many of the trails drain well, secondly, the heather is still out (just), and thirdly, the new Yorkshire Cycle Hub is now open and ready for business. This grand venture is the result of the vision and hard work of Sarah and Philip Thurlow, two local riders who’ve created an amazing facility for cyclists. The new building is beautifully made, and we’re given a quick tour around the comfy bunkrooms with amazing views, the bike shop, showers, changing rooms and all-important cafe. Phil tells us he’s also building some camping pods and working on a mountain bike trail in the woods just out the back. He’s a busy man, especially considering he still has a day job building stoves.

Download THE VIEWRANGER APP to ride and share this route

Time for a Great Fryup After our long drive from the south, Russell and I need some reviving, which comes in the form of a Great (Hub) Fryup and strong coffee. We study the OS map with Neil, resident mechanic and trail guru, making plans for the day. With some big milemunching moorland to cover, we’re happy to be on 29ers. I’m aboard my trusty Whyte T-129, while Phil is on his Intense Carbine, disappointed that

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IFUL, T U A E B T U , A BIG, B B U H E H T FROM EEN, Y R A G , W H A S G U N L I L E ROL T OF TH U O P U S K AND U A S E L E B K A E T H T B CLIM D ONTO N OR A O Y M E L H L G I A H V Y D L , DA N B U F CULTIVATE I T U A E B T STILL U B , N E R R BA

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ENTER S U S E E S T ESCEN D Y S S A E FIR M R C G I N A ’S E A FAST, R R E THE E H W , K R A CLE AN O T Y D A N BY P T I N U PPORT O N A D N ASH A L L P S M TR AI A E R IN A ST F F O S E V L E OURS

BEST EATING YORKSHIRE CYCLE HUB

The Yorkshire Cycle Hub, where we start and end this ride, is a superb new facility for cyclists, set in the stunning valley of Great Fryup Dale. There’s a fantastic cafe, with seating inside and out, from where you can enjoy amazing views of the valley. They offer a wide range of delicious hot and cold beverages, as well as amazing homemade cakes and food, including burgers, soup, breakfasts and sandwiches. There’s also a bike shop and workshop, along with a bike wash, bike hire, showers, a bunkhouse and camping pods, so you never need to leave. www.yorkshirecycle hub.co.uk

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his new Marin Wolf Ridge isn’t being delivered until tomorrow. It’s a hard life... Rolling away from the Hub, a quick spin awakens our legs before a big, but beautiful, climb takes us up out of the lush, green, cultivated valley and onto the bleak and barren, but still beautiful, Danby High Moor. Phil grew up in this area and knows all too well that there are numerous trails across these moors that would avoid the tarmac, but we need to stay legal. Especially as we’ve managed to time our ride to coincide with a local shoot. With guns blazing and grouse flying in all directions, we dutifully ride along the road, doffing our helmets as we proceed past a dozen or so Land Rovers, all sporting the private number plates of the local estate. It’s quite staggering how much these gentlemen pay to shoot birds. Let’s just say you could buy a whole fleet of very nice bikes if you were to forego a weekend of shooting…

Ducks and dogs With the sun shining intermittently, the imminent threat of rain, the strong, cold breeze off the sea and the combination of long climbs, sheltered valleys and exposed moorland, we’re finding it difficult to dress appropriately. But, unaware of what the beaters’ coloured flags actually stand for, we’re reluctant to keep taking our jackets on and off in the strong wind in case we inadvertently signal something to the men with shotguns. We keep disturbing grouse too, and duck down – just in case – as our noisy feathered friends take flight

into the strong wind, which simply suspends them in the air, like sitting ducks. Much like ourselves. Eventually, we pull off the tarmac, past Trough House and around the head of Fryup Dale, where we have the most stunning views down the valley. We can even see the Yorkshire Cycle Hub, plus some giant moguls in the foreground that look straight out of Red Bull Rampage. With the wind now at our backs, we zip along the gradual downhill of the Glaisdale Rigg trail, with barely a hint of all the recent rain. The only interruption comes when we feel obliged to stop because a young Labrador, who’s gleefully chasing us down the trail, keeps tripping in the heather and faceplanting.

Darkness descends After descending through Glaisdale village, we drop to cross the ford, although photographer Russell and I pull short of following Phil down some sketchy steep steps. Then it’s time to dig deep and regain some height once more. The broken tarmac track leads us up and through Lealholmside, where we once again join a wide, rough track that climbs back onto the exposed moorland to Danby Beacon. Riding back into a headwind, I tuck in behind Russell on his e-bike, head down, and gurn out the next few miles along the bumpy track. As we crest the top, we’re met with an ominous sight – it’s as if a huge black blanket is being pulled across the sky, cutting out the sun and warmth, like an eclipse. It makes a dramatic picture, but seconds later we’re pelted with hailstones, which entertains the


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voyeurs in their cars as we try our best to hide from the storm behind 6in-wide signposts. I’ve been complaining about the hood of my jacket all day because it’s been flapping annoyingly and slapping me in the face, but I take it all back as I pull the drawcord tight and listen to the deafening thump of hail on fabric. It’s futile trying to hide though, so we admit defeat and decide to ride through the eye of the storm. As we spin along the road we soon warm up, and it’s not long before we’re out from under the dark blanket of cloud and at the start of some skinny, heather-hidden moorland singletrack that leads down the hillside. Some flagstones help keep us flowing, and the bonus of the damp, encroaching heather is that it polishes our shoes – and shins – clean once more. Where the stones sink beneath the bog, the aforementioned parts become filthy once more, but with gravity on our side, we pedal hard and get through with minimal fuss. Happily, the mud is the butt-soaking and face-splattering type, which looks impressive but doesn’t hinder the ride that much.

Sheep-shit slalom A fast, grassy descent sees us enter Danby Park, where there’s a nice firm trail and an opportunity to clean ourselves off in a stream splash. At the far end of the park, Phil disappears down a track that’s hidden deep in the undergrowth, by which I mean nettles and brambles. Dutifully, Russell and I follow his yelps and screams until the fun little trail pops out at a road, which we follow to Castleton. Phil

nips into the toilets to refill his bottle and emerges some time later, after a cat and mouse game of trying to catch the water but avoid the soap in one of those metal dispensing contraptions. Maybe the shop or pub would have been a better bet! Back on track, we cut around the back of Ainthorpe, emerging by the very appealing Fox & Hounds Inn. But, with a dark sky looming behind us and swathes of rain visible beneath it, we decide it’s best to push on and climb the last hill of the day. The wind is pushing hard and the rain soon engulfs us once again, just as we start the rocky off-road section to the summit. Bang goes the chance of any kind of a view, but the rocky descent off Danby Rigg is still superb fun and surprisingly grippy, despite the disconcerting shine of the wet boulders. Although it’s the end of a long, cold and wet day, Phil and I are more than happy to go up and down a few times for the camera, before one last push up to ride the whole thing in one glorious uninterrupted run. After a steep, rocky start, the trail opens up for a fast blast down the hillside, and the short, sheep-sheared grass offers a fun, slippery lottery of control as we weave between their droppings. As if that weren’t a good enough end to the ride, we’re soon back at the Yorkshire Cycle Hub for last orders, where bikes and bodies are quickly and easily hosed down. Today’s punters have kindly left us three pieces of Sarah’s delicious Guinness cake, which we devour on the veranda, gazing down the spectacular valley we’ve just circumnavigated.

WHAT IS VIEWRANGER? ViewRanger is an app that lets outdoor enthusiasts plan, navigate, record and share their adventures. With offline mapping (including OS maps), turn-by-turn navigation, and live trip stats – like ride time, distance, and current, average and maximum speed – it’ll turn your phone into a fully-fledged GPS unit. You can also download detailed route guides, broadcast your location and share your adventures with friends. In 2016 ViewRanger released Skyline, a free augmented reality feature that uses your phone’s camera to label landscape features such as peaks, towns, lakes and cliffs within 20 miles of your location. ViewRanger is also the first app to use the built-in GPS on Apple Watch Series 2, allowing you to follow directions with a quick glance at your wrist.

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

rock ’n’ roll

The North York Moors have plenty of steep, rocky sections, which are surprisingly grippy in the wet – just as well, as they usually are!


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ROOTS MANOEUVRES, BIKEPARK WALES Rooty by name and nature, BikePark Wales’s latest trail is a natural-feeling wake-up call for those expecting an easy ride Words Alex Evans Pics Andy Lloyd

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WHERE ARE WE?

BIKEPARK WALES, MERTHYR TYDFIL

Hereford Brecon Beacons National Park

BikePark Wales Swansea

Newport Cardiff

TRAIL STATS

Distance 2.5km for Roots Manoeuvres (other trails are shorter or longer) Climbing Uplift or singletrack Time Up to five minutes per run Grading Roots Manoeuvres is red graded, but BPW has green through to double black trails WHY RIDE HERE?

The UK’s widest selection of all-weather downhill trails, all ridable on trail bikes.

RAD… Flowy, exciting, well-maintained trails with loads of variety Speedy uplift service Lots of happy people to get you stoked!

BAD… BPW can get busy at the weekends You have to book your space on the uplift well in advance

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Mike, one of BPW’s trail crew, is one helluva rider and sends it at every opportunity

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE Locals do… Respect when the trails are closed for maintenance Say hello to the trail crew Eat plenty of cake from the cafe

Locals don’t… Drop litter anywhere Push up the trails Ride without paying for a pass

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A

re you alright, dude?” I call out to Mike, from the BPW trail crew, as he picks himself up. We’ve only ridden a few hundred metres and he’s already hit the deck, making a huge gouge in the dirt with what I can only assume was one of his limbs. “Yep, all good!” he shouts back. “I just tucked and rolled it out!” I don’t know who’s more shocked – him or me – because that was one spectacular crash. As we carry on down Insufficient Funds it quickly becomes clear you shouldn’t judge a rider by their crashes. Mike is absolutely flat out on his rental bike, hitting loads of sneaky gaps and whipping off the jumps with flair. Our descent is one wild ride, and sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Sum of its parts We’re here to ride the red-graded Roots Manoeuvres, one of four new tracks opened this year (the others being the techy black trail Escort, the flowy Surfin’ Bird red and the Popty Ping ‘red+’ jump trail). We emerge from the uplift van, with its all-pervading stench of sweaty pads, mouldy helmet liners and damp riders (a small price to pay for the energy it saves us), and head for the 50 Shades of Black DH run. Roots Manoeuvres starts right next to it and is made up of three sections. First off, the trail flows through young pine trees, with small rollers and gentle turns that help you pick up some pace. Mike’s in front of me, spotting lines that weren’t designed to be ridden. As he hops from one bank to the other, using stumps and undulations as take-offs and landings, it’s an impressive sight, especially as his back wheel kicks

up mud and dirt each time he flicks it from side to side. Unable to follow suit – Mike’s flamboyant style is virtually impossible to mimic – I take the easy option and ride the centre line of the trail. After the relative simplicity of the top section, we’re fired into outright carnage in the second part. Given the name of the trail, it’s no surprise to find that it’s one rooty beast. The track is still fresh – we’re being given an exclusive preview before it opens to the public – but we can see a maze of roots peeking out through the dark Welsh dirt, ready to catch out anyone who doesn’t pay them enough respect. Now joined by Rowan Sorrell, one of the partners behind BikePark Wales and its chief trail guru, we’re shown exactly how the trail should be ridden. Rowan fires his Orange Alpine 6 off the first rocky drop, round a tight left-hand corner then across a camber into a right-hand turn, followed by more roots and natural-feeling turns. The trail heads across the blue climb, Beast of Burden. It’s surfaced in parts, but doesn’t get any less wild. Slow roots are replaced with high-speed


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MEET THE CREW

ALEX EVANS Features Ed Alex was loving the Welsh slop until he realised he had wet feet and had to clean his kit

T S, B U T R A P N I D E URFAC S S OOTS I R L I W A O R L T S . D THE L LESS WI Y HAT N T A S T N E R G U T T ’ D N DOES H -S P E E G I H H T I W BOUT CED A A L E P K I E B R E E H R A FLICK T O T U O Y E ENCOUR AG

ED THOMSETT Staff Writer Ed was stoked to ride a natural-feeling trail in a bike park and came away with a smile

ROWAN SORRELL Rowan’s been planning this trail for the past seven years and is stoked to see it become reality

MIKE BEASLEY A member of the Dusty Huckers and the BPW trail crew, Mike’s not short of skill or balls

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turns that encourage you to flick the bike about. Through the dark pine trees, the trail weaves a precise path that demands attention and delicate accuracy. Rowan tells us that once it’s matured and bedded in, there’ll be more exposed roots and it’ll ride faster. The result should be a gratifying sense of accomplishment if you nail it. Standing at the side of the trail, I watch Ed, Mike and Rowan hit a slimy and fun wiggly section. Their wheels jolt from side to side as they crash through the big rocks that have been laid to give a break from the mud.

WRECKING CREW WISDOM

Chaotic dreamland Further down, Mike finds another way to impress us with his riding. The trail bursts into a clearing where a hardpack berm sends you quickly back into the chaotic dreamland of greasy roots. Just inches in front of me, Mike hits the turn flat out, drifts up the bank and ends up with both wheels pointing diagonally across the trail. Just before the point of no return, he shifts his weight to straighten up the bike and rockets towards the next section. Riding 100 per cent committed, Mike hurls the bike into a root-infested right-hander, trying to muscle through the roots rather than tiptoe over them. But he loses grip and starts to slide. Time slows down and I’m awed by the ferocity with which he hits the ground, bouncing not once or twice but

three times before coming to a stop. He appears unscathed, just considerably muddier than before. Mike’s ‘do or die’ attitude certainly accentuates the gnarliness of the trail, but it can be ridden in a calmer and more composed way too! At the end of the pine forest, Roots Manoeuvres follows the same line as 50 Shades of Black for 100m, then branches off just before the black trail’s rock drop. The pines give way to ancient oak and beech trees, and the pace picks up. With a little more breathing room between the trees, we take a leaf out of Mike’s book… Rowan is the first to throw caution to the wind, deciding to gap into the second left-hand berm. He sends it seriously deep and only just manages to keep his hands on the bar and feet on the pedals. Bucked off-line, he goes into survival

ED THOMSETT MBUK STAFF WRITER

“I had a blast riding BikePark Wales’ new red trail. It’s bit rawer than what you’ll find in the rest of the park, but that adds a good challenge and it feels much more ‘real’ than a surfaced descent. The builders have achieved a good balance, leaving the natural features to speak for themselves, but adding a few manmade sections to maintain speed and flow. The trail might look mellow now, but after a winter hammering, I reckon it’ll be fully deserving of its name!”

They weren’t kidding about the roots!

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OF K A E R T S A IN LIK E G N I ONG T L N P I R M P U S J E H ENDS T S D E , G N I N ER M B E LIGHT H T S E V EN CA R H T , W O L D AN MING R I U Q S S E R Y WITH HIS T

mode as he crashes through the undergrowth and into a giant drainage ditch, where he comes to a halt – luckily, still on his bike. Ed’s up next – sprinting in like a streak of lightning, he sends the jump long and low, then carves around the well-formed berm with his tyres squirming. Nice!

Trainwreck The trail continues to thread its way down through the ancient woods, with berms, jumps and the odd rooty section thrown in. Our snapper, Andy Lloyd, eyes up a tidy 180-degree left-hand berm with cracking views in the background and we decide to train it in. Rowan shoots out of the woods, dips his shoulder and pushes through the turn. Close on his heels, Mike pushes hard through his bar and pedals – but his front wheel can’t take the pressure and starts to wash up the berm. His bike flies out of the top and he slides round the turn on his hands and knees. As Mike jumps back to his feet smiling and laughing, Ed and I have to abort our runs. Neither of us can believe just how committed Mike is to sending the hell out of anything and everything. With rain setting in and the already slick trail surface starting to feel more like black ice, we decide to Foxtrot Oscar quick sharp. It’s fair to say Roots Manoeuvres is a bike park trail unlike any other. It’ll take a bit of time to bed in over the winter months, so you can expect a wild ride. We’ll be back to sample the gnarliness once it’s in full swing.

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THE

DIRECTORY

Everything you need to know about BikePark Wales GET THERE

CONTACT

BPW is in Gethin Woodland Park, just off the A470, 20 minutes from junction 32 of the M4. The postcode CF48 4TT will get you to the nearest roundabout.

www.bikeparkwales.com

FACILITIES

Parking, cafe, toilets, shower, bike shop, bike hire, bike wash, uplift service, skills coaching, GoPro hire

WHAT ELSE IS NEARBY?

Forest of Dean The Pedalabikeaway centre has several (uplifted) DH runs and two waymarked XC routes.

NEARBY BIKE SHOPS

Black Mountains Cycle Centre With massive jumps and loads of trails, the BMCC is a great uplift destination if you have a need for speed.

BPW has its own shop on site, complete with expert mechanics, suspension tuning and bike hire.

Cwmcarn Two awesome XC trails and two fun DH tracks with an uplift service.

VERDICT BPW’s new red trail is a wild and wonderful departure from the hardpack and paved tracks you expect to find at a bike park. The rocky, muddy and rooty surface will challenge you at every turn. If you manage to nail the perfect line down the hill, you’ll be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and achievement normally reserved for the sort of backcountry or off-piste gems everyone likes to keep quiet.


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Please remember to mention MBUK when responding to advertisements

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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 DUH DYDLODEOH LQ ¯YH GLIIHUHQW IRQWV ZLWK RSWLRQV IRU WKH FRORXU WRR 7KH\ FRPH LQ D VWDQGDUG SDFN RII  D VHW RII  RU D VHW YDOXH SDFN

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Afan Valley Cottages Self-catering accommodation near the Afan Forest trails. Cottage sleeps 7 from £280w/e £450/week. House sleeps 12 £360 w/e £500/week. www.afanvalleycottages.co.uk

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. www.llwyncelyncottage.co.uk or ring Hugh on 07958928096 for more details. All have free WiFi, Freesat TV, DVD and secure bike storage. g


DIRECTORY

To advertise in Mountain Biking UK please contact Oli Pascoe on 0117 300 8278 or oli.pascoe@immediate.co.uk

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PRICE

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COME CHECK OUT OUR BRIGHTON STORE C

Ritchey Timberwolf £2,237.00

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Ibis Mojo HD3 CALL FOR DETAILS

FREE DELIVERY ON ALL ORDERS. Download our iPhone App Mountain Bike Trails UK from the App Store.

Cannondale F-SI Carbon 4 was £2,499.00 £1,989.00

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Advice line: +44 (0)1865 596 112


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PHOTO : JB LIAUTARD /COMMENCAL

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