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ROUTE
MAPS

CUMBRIA, SNOWDONIA, NORTH DOWNS & PEAKS
FOUR PULL-OUT MAPS AND DETAILED DIRECTIONS FOR YOU TO FOLLOW
JULY 2014 l £4.50 l mbr.co.uk

JEWEL
OF THE
PEAKS

YOUR GUIDE TO CUT GATE, THE
PEAK DISTRICT AT ITS FINEST

Service your bike in 60 minutes
The ‘healthy’ foods to avoid
Boost your fork’s performance
ON TEST

Trail packs
10 OF THE BEST ON TEST
PLUS 6 SETS OF GRIPS

GREAT VALUE
TRAIL BIKES

NEW 650B BIKES FROM
CANYON, GT, KONA & VITUS

PLUS LATEST BIKES FROM TREK, SARACEN, MERIDA & MONDRAKER  

  
   
    

   

 

  
  

   
    
  

 
 
  

 

 

   

  

    

 


 
  

 


 
 

 

  

   

 


 
  

 


 
   

  

     

 



ON THE COVER
When you’re as good as Fabien
Barel, every trail is a racetrack.
Here he shreds a descent on the
volcanic ash of Guatemala, and
you can read the story behind
the photo on page 66.
Photographer: Jeremy Bernard

Contents
JULY 2014

Prime Peak District
singletrack in the
spotlight on page 56

FEATURES

BIKES IN
THIS ISSUE

ON THE COVER

56 BRITAIN’S BEST
SINGLETRACK: CUT GATE

Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 130
Commençal Meta AM Girly 94
Giant Trance Advanced
27.5 2 98
GT Sensor Elite 132
Kinesis MaxLight Sync Ti 38
KTM Ultra Race 29 98
Merida One-Forty 1-B 40
Mondraker Dune XR 96
Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR 42
Norco Fluid 7.1 134
Orange Five RS 100
Orbea Rallon X30 92
Saracen Kili Flyer 121 36
Specialized Stumpjumper
FSR Comp Evo 94
Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5 34
Vitus Escarpe 275 VRS 137
Whyte T129 94

The most famous — and best — stretch of
singletrack in the Peak District gets its turn
in the Britain’s Best Singletrack limelight

66 DOUBLE AND ASH: GUATEMALA
Cover star Fabien Barel takes an amateur
under his wing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip
to the volcanoes of Central America

74 FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING:
ME VERSUS THE PEOPLE
mbr’s editor tries his hand at an organised
group ride in the Lake District
We head to Molini,
Italy, to try out the
latest enduro bikes

BIKES & GEAR
22 HOT STUFF
Temptation, thy name is mtb gear
ON THE COVER

34 FIRST RIDES
An adventure shared
is fuel for months
of pub tales, p74

Trek’s 650b Remedy leads the line-up
of the most exciting new bikes

ON THE COVER

what’s worth buying, and what’s
best avoided

112 GRIPS

92 LONGTERMERS

Get your contact points sorted with
our guide to the best grips

It’s time for Ben to bid a reluctant
farewell to his Orange Five
ON THE COVER

86 PRODUCT TESTS

102 TRAIL PACKS

Months of thorough testing reveals

Ten of the best to choose from

ON THE COVER

126 GREAT VALUE
TRAIL BIKES
Four 650b trail rippers put to the
test in this month’s shoot-out

JULY 2014

mbr 5

EDITOR’S LETTER

CONTENTS

In the limelight
The pros and cons of media
attention for a sport that’s on the up

E
Different bikes respond
to different riding styles.
We show you why on page 120

HOW TO
116 FIX Q&A
Got a new suspension fork? Here’s when
and what to service to keep it on top form

118 MAINTAIN YOUR PEDALS
Your pedals take a battering every ride —
here’s how to show them some love

120 ADJUST YOUR TECHNIQUE
TO YOUR EQUIPMENT

Cutting edge advice
in Workshop, p118

Why different bikes need a different style
Forward Geometry:
fad or rad? p18

REGULARS
10 BIG PICTURES
17 BUZZ
44 REAL WORLD RIDING
46 TRAIL-FINDER GENERAL
51 MAILBOX

verywhere
you look right
now, people
are talking
about cycling. If it’s
not Plaid Cymru
making party
political broadcasts
at Bike Park Wales,
it’s international
UK trail centres
bike races kicking
are booming
off here in Blighty
(don’t they have
their own start lines?). You can take your pick from
articles in the Independent about how mountain
biking is dead, to articles in the Guardian about how
great mountain biking is. That’s before we mention all
the companies using feel-good photos of bridleway
coasting and seat-of-the-pants shredding to flog
bank loans, breakfast cereals and phone networks.
Fact is, this sport is in great health. If you don’t
believe me, try booking a slot on the BPW uplift with
less than two months’ notice. It’s already getting
harder to find some of the best 2014 bikes, and there
are lengthy waiting lists for the most successful
direct-sales brands.
All of which makes you realise that there’s a
downside when your sport is on the up, yet I get
the feeling we’re all supposed to be competitive on
behalf of our pastimes, to will them to get bigger,
more visible and ever-more popular. Maybe it began
with the decade of build-up to 2012, when every
sport had to fight with cold-eyed ruthlessness to
ensure inclusion, funding and even (shiver) legacy.
As a mountain biker, I’m happy that bikes are
getting better, that bike parks are getting bigger, that
new lines are being dug all the time. It’s
nice when mountain biking is in the
public eye — but I might have to get
up earlier at the weekend to get the
trails to myself…

54 READER PHOTOS
114 RIDE GUIDE

Editor, mbr

146 AFTERIMAGE

Now available on the iPad,
Kindle and all Android devices
mbr.co.uk/digital-edition
mbr.co.uk

6 mbr JULY 2014

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BIG PICTURE

10 mbr JULY 2014

S p o n s o r e d b y S i l v e r f i s h w w w. s i l v e r f i s h - u k .c o m

Big picture
I rarely ride Lake District trail
centres — the natural trails woven
into the Cumbrian fells are just too
damn good. That said, whenever I
do sneak off for a play on grit, the
Grizedale black run brings a smile
to my face every time. Matt Wight
corners under the cover of conifer
trees that have since received a
significant chop.
Sam Needham

JULY 2014

mbr 11

BIG PICTURE

12 mbr JULY 2014

S p o n s o r e d b y S i l v e r f i s h w w w. s i l v e r f i s h - u k .c o m

Big picture
A trip to Sedona, Arizona led us
to a trail called Hangover, and it’s
easy to see why. After a punchy
climb up on slickrock, the descent
starts with this traverse in a narrow
band of vegetation high up on
the mesa. With a big drop to the
right along much of the trail, Toby
Pantling keeps tight to the huge
wave-like rocks.
Roo Fowler

JULY 2014

mbr 13

BIG PICTURE

14 mbr JULY 2014

S p o n s o r e d b y S i l v e r f i s h w w w. s i l v e r f i s h - u k .c o m

Big picture
The life of a pro isn’t just about free
bikes, armfuls of free clothes and
more scars than a plastic surgeon’s
mistress — you also get to go to
the places the rest of us can only
dream of, like this volcanic range
in Guatemala. Well, except for one
ordinary Joe who got to do just
that. Read all about it on page 66.
Jeremy Bernard

JULY 2014

mbr 15

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH

S TA RT YO U R R I D E H E R E

Edited by Jamie Darlow

GEAR

RIDES

FA S T & F I T

I N S P I R AT I O N

G E T S TA RT E D

F OX G O E S
PIKE
FISHING

“ S H E E P B L E AT
AT M E O N T H E
WAY PA S T; I
B L E AT B AC K .
WHY THE
HELL NOT ”
Mile-munching mentality , page 74

New chassis is
a half-pound
lighter than old
36 (from 1,901g)

New 36mm fork has RockShox in its sights
For the past year, everybody has
been talking about how great
the RockShox Pike fork is for trail
riding. Now Fox is hitting back with
a brand new 36 RC2 that is lighter,
plusher and stiffer than any we’ve
previously seen.
That’s the theory behind
the completely redesigned 36
(so-called because of its 36mm
stanchion diameter). The negative
spring is no longer a coil, replaced
instead by an air spring that’s
automatically charged from the
positive air chamber. That’s going
to save a whole load of weight,
with Fox claiming a difference of
something like half a pound over
the old version.

RC2 damper with
high and low-speed
compression adjust

There are a host of other changes
too, from multiple wheel size
applications to a whole new seal
design. But the gist of it is that Fox
has made a fork lighter, stiffer and
probably better than their 34mm
forks… which raises the question:
why would you buy a 34? Here’s
hoping it’s really that good.

Different
lubrication oil
and redesigned
seal head could
make the fork
feel plusher

New convertible
thru-axle design
(15mm and 20mm)

Fox claims better
small-bump
compliance and
reduced friction,
plus better
traction and
tuning

New retro
‘heritage’ graphics
are styled on the
first Fox motocross
decals, from 1974.
There’s also a
special-edition
‘stealth black’
sticker set

Redesigned
for 26in,
27.5in and 29in
wheel sizes

JULY 2014

mbr 17

GEAR

WEIRD SCIENCE

Is Mondraker’s Forward Geometry just daft-looking stems or a genuine advancement?
What is Forward Geometry (FG)?
Most bikes are designed to ride with (relatively)
long stems to get the reach and fit right.
Mondraker has ditched that concept and built
the reach into the top tube of the frame,
lengthening the whole bike while keeping the
handlebars in the same position. Its Forward
Geometry bikes are built for weird-looking 30mm
or even 10mm stems.
Why go to all this effort?
It’s to give you a better position on the bike

when things get steep. A long stem puts your
weight further forward so you need to shift
backwards or risk going over the bars; with an
FG bike your weight is already back, even in
the neutral riding position. That gives you more
leeway to move the bike as you want by shifting
your body weight.
How does an FG bike ride?
Like a downhill bike: that super-short stem
matched with a wide bar definitely adds stability
when you’re descending.

See p96 for
Danny’s
opinion on his
Mondraker
longtermer

18 mbr JULY 2014

What does it mean for our bikes now?
Just chucking on a short, 30mm stem probably
isn’t going to be right for your bike — it’s designed
for a long stem so your total reach (the bike length
+ the stem length) will come up short and make
the bike feel small. A 50 or 60mm stem and a
wider, 750mm bar will keep your reach roughly
constant (because you’re reaching outwards
on the bars rather than just forwards). “You’ll
basically lose your fears when the track is steep
and your confidence will multiply,” says Mondraker
designer Cesar Rojo.

T H E BI K E T E C H A R M S R AC E
Big debate: Can you buy bike satisfaction or does big spending miss the point?

GO AND SPEND
YOU R S E L F H A PPY

B E N J I H AW O R T H

G

as bills? Just put another jumper on. Car bills? Flog it
and buy a road bike. Food? There’s always the skips at
the back of Tesco’s. Sorted. There is quite simply nothing more rewarding
than spending your hard-earned on your mountain bike.
OK, I’m exaggerating. Don’t get yourself into debt or ill health by spending
all your money on bikes. I’ve done that. It’s not good. But you’ll never regret
spending almost all your disposable income on mountain bike stuff. When
some interesting new technology comes along, get
on it. Being an early adopter has its advantages
— you can trade in your existing stuff before it
becomes worthless.
If you have the money,
spend it in the bike industry.
As well as ending up with an
even better, more enjoyable
bike, your investments will
speed up the process of said
new technology trickling
down to a level where us
poorer folk — and the
young riders in our sport
— can afford to buy it
too. It’s a philanthropic
exercise, literally.
Of course, “it’s not about the
bike”. Wasn’t that the title of some
cyclist’s autobiography? That person was wrong. It’s always about the
bike. Try riding without one.

The skinny steel
tubing of old is
gone, replaced
by modern
6061-T6 custom
butted aluminium

Purple detailing on
the Hope hubs, rotors,
headset, seat clamp and
pedals (optional extra)
works with the silver

L U D D I T E S H AV E
MORE FUN

JA M I E DA R L O W

I

don’t need to fight
Benji’s argument with
science or logic. I’ve got an anecdote
instead, and that’ll do all my talking for me.
I like riding with my old mate Steve — he’s
a long-time rider but less into it than I am,
unwilling to commit to spending the entire
weekend doing it. He’s a man who has (whisper
it) other hobbies and interests too. He’s also
the kind of chap who wears the rotten old Sidi
cycling shoes he bought back in 2001 and
stubbornly refuses to ride anything other
than his rusty, creaking hardtail.
Every ride we’re on I spend a fair
portion of it berating him for his
rubbish bike and gear. He’d ride
faster, go further and spend less
time mending his shonky ride if he
invested in the latest technology,
I tell him. I’m totally right on
this, and it winds me up that he
doesn’t care.
Here’s the thing though — Steve
enjoys the trails just as much as I do.
His time on a bike is not in any way
devalued by the old technology
he’s riding. And it’s not that
he’s blissfully ignorant
about the latest advances,
he’s just progressed and
worked out how to be
happy without spending a
fortune. Who’s backward now?

O R A N G E AT 2 5

Back to where it all began with a special
anniversary-edition Clockwork

Twenty-five years ago Orange produced the Clockwork, its first ever
production mountain bike. In the days when race bikes were built like road
bikes, with super-long stems and steep head angles, the Clockwork was
something different. Slack geometry and a lightweight chromoly frame made
it an instant hit. Now there’s this anniversary edition — 26in wheels are out, 29
are in. Steel is gone, replaced by alloy. It’s a modern bike with a retro twist.

RockShox SID is really
an XC fork, but this RL
model with 120mm
travel and a 15mm Maxle
is trail-bike territory

JULY 2014

mbr 19

GEAR

F O U R- P O T P O W E R . . .

Magura 2015 delivers four-pad brakes, electric lockout and flirts with an auto dropper post
This is Magura’s new four-piston brake, the MT7. It’s
designed for all-mountain use, delivers 15 per cent
more power than old Magura two-piston brakes and
has four — yes, four! — brake pads.
The idea is that power is massively increased
by using four 17mm pistons, instead of two 22mm
stoppers. There’s more hydraulic leverage this way,
although it does mean the pads are closer to the
rotor. Don’t worry though, Magura has thought of
the consequences of inhibited pad retraction, and is
using magnets rather than the usual springs to pull
back its pads.
A first ride suggests a light lever action and
plenty of stopping power delivered in a very smooth
and controlled way. The ergonomics have been
improved and the tool-free adjustments are handy
additions. Potentially the new pad design offers
better heat dissipation, increased wear rate and,
even though there is twice the number, they should
be easier to fit.

Two brake pads
good, but four is
15 per cent better

Master cylinder with
its radial piston

...AND ELECTRIC SHOCK
Magura’s new eLECT
technology is a wireless
lockout for their forks and
rear shocks, locking and
unlocking the suspension
automatically (or manually)
as the trail demands. It’s
controlled by sensors that

OVA L & O U T
Spanish firm Rotor promise more pedal
power for your push, with oval chainrings
Remember BioPace? Shimano’s oval ring system was designed to help
you pedal by accelerating the cranks through the top and bottom dead
phase (six and 12 o’clock positions) where pedal force is difficult, but
it never really caught on.
But now there’s the Q, a new oval chainring working in precisely
the opposite way to BioPace: harder at the quarter past three
position, easy at 12 and six. Spanish manufacturer Rotor says it’s
like having two different gear ratios on one ring — the overall gear
doesn’t actually change, but the effort required to turn the cranks
at key points in the pedal stroke does.
First impressions? The effect is startling. Power delivery is
more even, there’s greater traction and it also seems to reduce
pedal feedback.
There are double and triple Q rings, and a new single ring with a
narrow/wide tooth profile called the QX1. Available in 28, 30, 32, 34
and 36t sizes, it only fits SRAM and Specialized cranks with a 30mm axle.
A QX1 ring with spider is £124 — more details at rotoruk.co.uk.

20 mbr JULY 2014

tell whether you’re climbing
or descending. It’s not cheap
though, at £499 and £999
(shock and fork). But the
rumour is Magura is also
incorporating this technology
into a new dropper post too,
coming later in the year.

Finger-tip control
toggles eLECT on or off 

 

  

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GEAR

HOT STUFF

WHAT WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT THIS MONTH

MOST
WA N T E D

N O T U B E S VA L O R C A R B O N W H E E L S E T £ 1 , 8 0 0
Carbon-fibre can be used to make components
and frames that are lightweight, stiff and
incredibly strong, but one of the most
underplayed qualities is the material’s ability to
dampen vibration. This is due its low density,
allied with the fact that you can build in some
give and resilience into the finished product.
On the scales, No Tubes’ new carbon 29in
Valor wheelset weighs a feathery 1,277g (578g
front, 699g rear) while, in addition, the company
is using a specific lay-up of carbon engineered
to soak up radial vibrations. In fact it claims the
new rim is so good it actually absorbs impacts,
adding a form of passive suspension to the bike.
Whether this will be detectable on the trail is
debatable, because any movement in the rim is

22 mbr JULY 2014

likely to be masked by the deformation in the
tyre. We’ll find out when we put it to the test
over the next few months.
Like all No Tubes rims, the Valors feature
Bead Socket Technology and are tubeless
ready. The rim dimensions are pretty
healthy with an external rim
width of 26.4mm and 21.3mm
internal — the added width,
combined with extremely
low rim walls (the bead
hook is almost nonexistent), increases tyre
volume, reduces rolling
resistance and lessens
the risk of pinch-flats.

The wheels use No Tubes’ 3.30Ti disc hubs
and are built with 24 spokes at the front and 28
on the rear. Multiple axle options are included
in the box and there’s an 11-speed XD driver
available for use with SRAM XX1/X01. The
wheels will be available in 26, 27.5 and
29in sizes but there’s a snag for
those of us that love our pies.
No Tubes has put a weight
limit on these hoops which is
230lb (just over 16 stone)!
A full test on these wheels
will appear in a future
issue when we’ve er…
lost a bit of weight.
paligap.cc

SEE OUR
T R A I L PAC K
T E S T, P 1 0 2

T- M O E N D U R O

NOISE IN THE HOOD

P R O T E C T YO U R WA L L E T

This Deity carbon bar is a Tracey Moseley signature
model designed for enduro and all-mountain riding.
With a 15mm rise, 9° bend and 5° upsweep it’s a
great shape but there’s only one width, 735mm.
£130, hotlines-uk.com

With integrated speakers and headphones,
Scruffs’s Speaker Hoodie lets you listen to tunes
while out riding. It’s soft, comfy and machine
washable even with the gadgets inside. Groms
will love it. £59.95, scruffs.com

Fancy giving enduro a try but don’t want to spank
loads of money on new kit? Take a look at this
budget 920 backpack from B’Twin. It has 16L of
storage, three-litre reservoir capacity and built-in
spine protection. £54.99, btwin.com

D I A L -A- R I D E

U K ROU T E M A ST E R

F E AT H E R L I G H T

Updated for 2014 with a BOA dial closure, the
F-75 is FLR’s pro-level race shoe. It has a carbonreinforced sole, removable toe studs and is SPD
compatible. Also available in white, and 37-48 sizes.
£99.99, bob-elliot.co.uk

Great Britain Mountain Biking by Tom Fenton
and mbr’s own Andy McCandlish has 56 of the
best off-road routes in the UK. It’s only a flavour
of what’s on offer but it’s a great place to start.
£25, v-publishing.co.uk

Ultralight and stowable, the ClimaPlus insulation in
this Craghoppers hooded jacket provides perfect
central heating when you’re stood around the
campfire all night talking nonsense.
£60, craghoppers.com

C
EX

LU

V
SI

E!

IT’S THE ECONOMY

S P E E D S T E R S O N LY

SMALL AND SWEET

Bionicon’s new C Guide Eco is 32 per cent cheaper
and 25 per cent lighter than the old aluminium C
Guide 2.0, hence eco (economy) in the name. It’s
easier to fit and can now pivot in three directions,
making it more effective too. £23.99, bionicon.com

Troy Lee has refocused its Ace range for 2014
and a tighter fitting XC aesthetic now prevails.
It also sees a hike in price — Ace shorts are now
£119.99 while the jersey is a penny shy of £60.
£59.99, fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Here’s a first look at DMR’s new V12 Mag flat pedal.
It’s cheaper than the award-winning Vault and is
slightly shorter front-to-back, but has the same
concavity, thickness and pin placement.
£69.99, dmrbikes.com

JULY 2014

mbr 23

RIDES

YO R K S H I R E ’ S PA R A D I S E
TRAIL
Finding somewhere to ride with a newbie or the family is
tough… and then along came Sutton Bank in Yorkshire

Situated at the highpoint of the Hambleton Hills,
the new green-graded mountain bike trail at
Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire starts next to a
signpost pointing to the ‘Finest View In England’.
It’s a bold claim, but there’s definitely a huge
panorama across the Vale Of York waiting for
riders who’ve slinked through the trees and
crossed wide open spaces on this newly armoured,
4.5km loop in the North York Moors National Park.
The ‘Cliff Trail’ is the first of three new routes
to be constructed by the National Park. It’s part
of a plan to build a purpose-built trail system that
acts as a stepping stone between forestry-style
trail centres and wild riding. All the new trails will

link directly into the area’s vast natural bridleway
network with a 12km blue-graded ‘Fort Trail’
close to completion and an ambitious 28km redgraded ‘Paradise’ route under construction and
scheduled for June 2014.
The trails are formed from a mixture of existing
bridleway routes (drained and surfaced where
needed) and brand new purpose-made sections.
The emphasis is put on sheer distance and
absorbing the scenery rather than the BMX-style
berms, jumps and drops of other modern trail
centres. With Adrian Carter (founder of the Pace
brand and Dalby Forest front man) behind the
scenes we’re expecting good things.

Sutton Bank: swamped
in singletrack

L O N G FAC E F O R L E I T H H I L L

New Surrey trail tied up in red tape
Where’s our new trail?! It’s a
question on many a London rider’s
lips, as the top section of Leith
Hill’s new Summer Lightning trail in
Surrey still remains closed to riders,
three months after being built.
In April the CTC invited us to
preview the new extension to
Summer Lightning, a triumph of
goodwill between user groups and
landowners that added 2.5km of
smooth trail from Leith Hill tower.
Sadly though, that goodwill has
proved short-lived, with the British
Horse Society (BHS) now claiming
the trail is illegal and potentially
dangerous for horse riders.

24 mbr JULY 2014

“You’re not allowed to build on
the common,” Penny Tyson-Davies,
BHS Bridleways Officer for Mole
Valley told mbr. “They’ve broken
the law.”
We think it’s a real shame the
new trail is still out of commission
— partly because it looks fun to
ride and partly because the only
alternative route is down the heavily
congested bridleway, mixing with
walkers and horses.
Surrey Hills AONB built the trail
with money from Surrey County
Council, but the BHS’s bone of
contention is that the trail was built
without consultation and without

proper legal consent, something
disputed by trail builder Ian Warby.
“It’s just the hooliganism that
comes from some of the mountain
bikers,” Tyson-Davies said. “You
can’t have mountain bikes leaping
out right by horses’ heads.”
The top section of trail will stay
closed (officially, anyway), waiting
for the BHS to decide whether
to press their complaint with the
council, and for a more robust legal
agreement between the landowner,
Wootton Estate, and the CTC. Meanwhile, Ian has put in a dead hedge to
screen off the new trail and prevent
riders spooking horses.   

  "  !  
         
       "
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     "     " 
         
    

  "    !      

 

   

FA S T & F I T

S P E C I A L S TAG E
SPEED

Riding an enduro this year? Listen to the world’s
fastest rider before you race — world champion
Jérôme Clémentz is here to give us his top three tips

N O PA I N ,
NO GAIN

■ It’s a race, so you have to give
it your best. Make sure you know the
elevation, distance and approximate time for
each stage and transfer; this means you can save
energy on a long stage, or ride wide open on a short
one. When you cross the finish line you shouldn’t
have any energy left (except to drink a good beer).
A race is a good reason to improve and push your
limits, so even if it hurts in the stage try to stand
up on the pedals in a technical section, or sprint
to the finish line. The feeling afterwards and
the satisfaction of having given your best
is amazing. No matter what the final
rankings are, the fact you did your
best is reward in itself.

A N T I C I PAT I O N

■ If practice is allowed find the
key points of the race, the bits where
you have to do something special. A line
choice, noticing a sharp corner, a place you
have to shift, the length of the uphill, anything.
Before you race, go through all the points you’ve
noticed, and in the right order.
■ If you’re not allowed practice time, learn to
read the way the trail is taped or the marks on
the ground. Skid marks mean something will
happen soon, so shift, brake and be ready for
action. Look forward to anticipate what’s
coming up, keep the flow and give
yourself time to find
your rhythm.

26 mbr JULY 2014

S L OW E R
I S FA S T E R

■ Don’t think about descending
as fast as possible. You don’t have to
think about the goal, but about
what you have to do to ride fast.
Think about breathing, pedalling
efficiency, where to put your eyes, pacing
yourself, and how to be smooth. Focus on
what you’re doing, not on spotting your mate
cheering for you on the side of the track.
You’re less likely to do stupid things as
you near the end, and it also makes
you feel better and enjoy your
ride more.

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FA S T & F I T

G O O D F O O D T H AT ’ S
B A D F O R YO U

Challenge some common misconceptions and rethink the way you eat
TRAIL MIX
It’s amazing how many
people happily snack
away on a bag of trail mix
thinking it’s a healthy
treat. While there’s no
denying that unsalted
nuts can be a healthy
pick-me-up to satisfy
hunger pangs, many
mixes throw in salts and
sugars too. One small
handful will be fine, but
after the second or third
mouthful, the calories will
soon add up. According
to nutritional content
guides, a 150g serving of
regular trail mix contains
a surprising 693 calories
and 44.1g of fat

WE
ASKED
Have your say on...

facebook.com/MBRmagazine
@mbrmagazine

FAT- F R E E
YO G U R T

PURE ORANGE
JUICE

PRE-MADE
SALADS

Just because something
is fat-free doesn’t make it
healthy. A study conducted
by Action on Sugar looked
at the sugar content within
certain foods and there
was one that caught their
attention. A 150g serving
of Yeo Valley’s fat-free
vanilla yoghurt contained
a whopping five teaspoons
of sugar.

This breakfast favourite is
made from fresh oranges,
crammed with vitamin C…
but it’s still bad for you.
There’s a huge amount of
sugar in there: a 250ml
bottle typically contains
25g (six teaspoons) of sugar.
It may be naturally occuring
sugar but it’ll still give you a
sugar spike then an energy
crash that will affect you
later in your ride.

A grilled chicken Caesar
salad on mixed greens may
seem healthy, but once
you chuck in the croutons,
dollop on the dressing and
grate the cheese it’s not so
good for you after all. It’s
bad riding food — you’ll be
consuming more than 400
calories and over 20g of fat,
which is bad for cholesterol.
Swap the Caesar dressing
for vinaigrette.

W H E R E ’ S T H E T O U G H E S T P L AC E YO U ’ V E E V E R R I D D E N A B I K E ?
Just back
from the
Holyland MTB
Challenge...
the route was
tough every
day we rode
from mountains
to desert
Paul Errington

Mr Toads Wild Ride,
Lake Tahoe, USA;
Poison Spider Mesa
Trail, Moab, USA

With two colleagues, just
completed the South Downs Way —
there and back, 200 tough miles in
three days. Wind and rain fun too!
John Rodway

Michael Feldman

Anywhere I am following my
boyfriend after his: “This is not too
crazy, you can totally ride here.”
Raivita Kramzaka

28 mbr JULY 2014

D R I E D F RU I T
It may look like fruit, but
that’s about as far as the
similarities go. While
dried fruit contains fibre
— which helps prevent
heart disease, diabetes,
weight gain and even
some cancers — it also
has a shed load of added
sugar and sulphur to
preserve it.
Dried fruit is also
extremely calorific; one
cup of fresh apricot halves
has roughly 74 calories.
The same amount of dried
apricot halves comes in
at over 300 calories. If
you’re really craving a
fruity snack… eat fruit.

#MTB
Ethiopia
this Oct
Secret Compass

Shoreditch to Covent
Garden commute via Old
Street roundabout. Bad
Nik Thompson

I N S P I R AT I O N

“ T H E Y ’ R E RU BBI SH ,
BUT THEY’RE

ICONIC!”

Retro enthusiast Steffen Dobke explains how an
adolescent dream has turned into an adult obsession

A

s a teenager I’d dribble over early
90s Yetis and Fat Chances in MBA
(Mountain Bike Action) magazine.
They were the superbikes of the
day. I knew a guy at the time that had a Yo
Eddy in the blue to green colour. That was
the bike I really used to love, and now I’ve
got one of my own.
I’ve been into Yeti from the time I bought
my first one in 1995. As well as the FRO
Tomac replica, I’ve got an ARC and an
Ultimate. The Ultimate was a collaboration
between Yeti, Ringle and Zapata ‘Zap’
Espinoza, the editor of Mountain Bike
magazine, to build the ultimate bike. It’s got
elevated chainstays to solve mud clearance
and make it stiffer, but it’s just plain gauge
cromoly tubing. It’s really solid — there may
be a hole in there somewhere! I haven’t even
ridden it yet, but I know they’re rubbish —
they’re way too short and they ended up
being really heavy, but they’re iconic!
I’d love a Yeti C26 with the carbon tubes.
I doubt I’ll ever get one unless I prise it out
of someone’s cold, dead hands. They’re like
unicorns — if I see one, I’m having it.
Specialized is the other brand I’ve got a
real thing for. My first proper mountain bike

Rare retro rubber
doesn’t come cheap

was a Rockhopper, and at the time I really
wanted an S-Works bike. Now I have got
every S-Works M2, from ‘93 to ‘98.
The other side of it is that I like tracking
down old parts. Tyres are really hard to
get hold of, because we’re talking about
20-year-old rubber. Saddles wear out. Grips
are impossible. Specialized Umma Gumma
tyres are like hen’s teeth — which is why
they’re so expensive. Last year I was in a
bidding war with someone over a brand
new pair, but they were perfect for one of
my builds so I had to have them. I’ve got
a Ned Overend replica at home and that’s

Yo Eddy: a vintage
classic to drive you
green with envy

30 mbr JULY 2014

I ’ D L OV E A Y E T I
C26. THEY’RE AS RARE
AS UNICORNS — IF I
S E E O N E I ’ M H AV I N G I T
taken three years so far. I’m just waiting for
a grey saddle now. I could put a black one
on it, but it wouldn’t be right.
Most of the bits come from eBay. Some
stuff I find on RetroBike.co.uk, but most of
the guys there know what they’ve got and
they want big money for it. There’s a 1995
XTR M950 groupset on there now, and it’s
$3,000. But, what do you do? If you want it
on your build you’ve got to have it.
My fleet is currently running at 16 bikes,
and that’s after having a big clear-out
recently. I have ridden them all, but it’s silly
to spend money on new-old stock, then go
out and hammer it. So it’s light trails and
towpaths only.
It’s not so much about the riding, anyway,
because the way you ride has changed so
much. Technology has moved on and the
trails have evolved as a result. So now, it
makes me happier to see them in my shed
or to look at them on the wall.

Steffan’s stable of old
school beauties is more
for admiring than riding

M OV I E M A K E R

Help test Garmin’s new helmet camera
Garmin wants to give 50 riders one
of its new Virb Elite helmet cameras,
to record their riding movies and
share them on social media. Want to
take part? All they need in return
is one posted movie a month
and some social media,
until December 2014.
■ trygarminvirb.co.uk

GARMIN
V I R B S TAT S

■ Records in HD
at 1080p
■ 3hr recording
at full HD
■ Waterproof for
30min at a depth
of 1 metre
■ 1.4in hi-res
colour screen
■ Internal
accelerometer,
altimeter and
GPS sensors

G E T S TA R T E D

S I X T Y- M I N U T E
S E RV I C E
Summer’s for riding, so do your
basic maintenance before this year’s
heatwave/hot day/warm-ish rain

TOOLS FOR
THE JOB

Allen keys / Pedal
spanner / Cassette
lockring tool / Grease
/ Rotor truing tool /
Degreaser / Clean rags
/ Loctite / Anti-seize /
Silicon spray or fork oil

5 -7 M I N U T E S

5 -7 M I N U T E S

Take out your seatpost and clean
the shaft. Clean down the inside
of the seat tube with a large bottle
brush or a rag on the end of a stick.
Or if you have a dropper post polish
the stanchion with silicon spray and
check the action is still smooth.

Pop the saddle off the
seatpost and clean the
clamps. Clean up the bolts
and apply fresh grease.

4 MINUTES
10 MINUTES

Remove the
wheel boltthroughs, wipe
off the crud,
regrease.

Take the stem off,
clean the bolts and
the threads and
regrease them.
Inspect both the
bar and steerer
interface for
damage or fatigue.

15 MINUTES
1 MINUTE

3 MINUTES

Clean any gunk off the
fork seals. Spray it with
silicon spray or gloop
fork oil down inside the
seals so your suspension
is stiction-free.

Check your tyres for wear,
rips, bulges, thorns or glass
embedded in the surface.
Glass and thorns can usually
be picked out, rips or heavy
wear mean a new tyre.
Check the pressures too.

Take the headset apart
(take a quick photo so you
can put it together again)
and clean it up. Apply
grease to all the contact
areas — rub it into the gaps
between the seals.

2 MINUTES
Tighten up the bolts on
your derailleur hanger, rear
derailleur and cassette
lockring, otherwise shifting
could suffer.

4 MINUTES

5-8 MINUTES
Take off the pedals, get
rid of the gunk and give
the axles a spin to check
the bearings are OK. Refit
using fresh anti-seize.
Check the tightness of the
pins on flats, or that the
spring still moves on SPDs.

32 mbr JULY 2014

Clean both the disc brake
rotor and the pads with a
dedicated disc brake cleaner or
methylated spirits. Make sure
the pad bolt is still there too!

2-5 MINUTES
Check all the rotor
bolts are tight (don’t
overtighten). Use some
blue Loctite on the
threads. If the rotor looks
kinked straighten it out
with a truing tool or
adjustable spanner 

 
       

  "  
 !  #      

        
      
        

         


     

     

     

    

  

NEW BIKES

TREK REMEDY
9.8 27.5
£4,300

/ 650b / trekbikes.com

NEED TO
KNOW
ODo-it-all trail bike
with 140mm travel
O650b version of
the popular Remedy
platform
OOCLV carbon
frame reduces
weight and
trail buzz
OAvailable in six
models and two
wheel sizes
starting at £2,200
for alloy Remedy
7 27.5

34 mbr JULY 2014

Trek’s latest 140mm-travel trail bike boasts
a carbon frame and 650b wheels. Can it better
29in performance regardless of the terrain?
rek has always been at the cutting
edge of wheel size development. It
was the first mainstream brand to
get behind the 29er movement and
it has also been quick to make the
transition from 26in wheels to 650b.
So whereas Giant and Specialized have
each picked sides in the war of wheels,
Trek has a more neutral approach, allowing
intended use to dictate wheel size for
all bikes in development. The new fullsuspension bikes with less than 140mm of
travel have 29in wheels, and everything
over 140mm has, or is in the process of
shifting to, 650b. The crossover point is at
140mm travel, where trail riders have the
option of the Remedy 29 or Remedy 650b.
Who knows whether or not it will always be
that way, but for now Trek’s approach looks
sensible in our view.

T

The Remedy 9.8 is the flagship 650b bike
with a reinforced OCLV Mountain Carbon
frame that saves weight and offers better
vibration-damping than aluminium. I opted
for the extra length of the 19.5in frame
size, the second-largest of five available
(I’m 5ft 11in), but I hadn’t factored in the
proportionally longer 90mm stem that
came with it.
Fitting a 60mm stem and slamming the
saddle all the way forward on the head of
the Reverb dropper post gave me the reach
that I craved. This also improved the steering
characteristics, and saddle position relative
to the BB. Fortunately, standover clearance
is very generous even on the larger Remedy
frames, so all that was left to do was swap
out the 720mm bar for a 750mm.
My first impression was that this bike
is fast. It pumps and tracks the terrain

amazingly well, rewarding acceleration and
pressing ahead. In fact, the rear suspension
is so sensitive that you really need to use
the trail setting on the dual air-chamber
DRCV rear shock to tame pedal-induced
bob when sprinting along smooth flat trails
or rocketing up climbs.

FOX ON FORM
Up front, the Performance level Fox 34
Float was one of the best I’ve ridden this
year. It wasn’t anything like as harsh as
some and the rebound never felt erratic.
Maybe the recent issues we’ve experienced
with Fox forks had more to do with quality
control and inconsistency than with
fundamental design flaws. After all, for
most of the last decade, Fox made the best
trail forks on the market.
On the trails around the Surrey Hills,
the Remedy 9.8 was every bit as agile as it
was quick. I was able to pick any line that I
fancied and stick to it — or, at the very last
minute, dart to the opposite side of the
trail to set up wide for a flat turn or avoid

The Remedy
responds positively
to spirited riding

SPECIFICATION
Frame OCLV Mountain
Carbon, alloy chainstay
140mm travel
Shock Fox Performance
Series Float w/DRCV
Fork Fox Performance
Series 34 Float 140mm
travel
Wheels Bontrager
Rhythm Comp, XR3
Team Issue Tubeless
Ready 27.5x2.35in tyres
Brakes Shimano XT
Drivetrain Shimano
XT 2x10
Components Bontrager
Evoke 3 saddle,
RockShox Reverb
Stealth, Race X-Lite
Carbon bar, Rhythm
Pro stem
Sizes 15.5, 17.5, 18.5,
19.5, 21.5in
Weight 12.69kg
(27.97lb)

GEOMETRY
Size Ridden: 19.5in
Head angle: 67.6°
Seat angle: 67.8°
BB height: 338mm
Chainstay: 434mm
Front centre: 735mm
Wheelbase: 1,169mm
Down tube: 692mm
Top tube: 620mm
Reach: 439mm

Adjustable
geometry is a boon
for versatility

DRCV rear shock
is super-sensitive

a puddle. It’s a really fun bike to ride and it
always encourages you to get creative with
the terrain.
It helps that it rails corners too. The BB
is just low enough to make you think about
timing your pedal strokes, but it’s not so
low that you’re constantly smashing into the
ground. I was happy with the compromise
— I glanced the ground with a pedal once
or twice per ride, but this was outweighed
by the in-the-bike sensation you get from a
low BB. Also, if you find that you need more
pedal clearance, then flipping the Mino-Link
to the high/steep geometry setting will
raise the BB a touch.
So it’s a fun, fast bike, but is it better
than the Remedy 29? That’s a tough one to
answer. It doesn’t feel as solid as the 29er,
but then there’s no carbon Remedy 29 to
compare it to. Also, it’s not just the wheel
size that’s different; the 650b Remedy has a
much lower BB and that’s a trait I adore in a
bike. As ever (and particularly where 29ers
are involved), personal preference will
probably override the objective differences
between two high-quality bikes.
Alan Muldoon

1ST IMPRESSION

LOVE 
WE
Trek has cranked the fun dial on the
Remedy 650b up to 11. Being able to adjust
the geometry is a massive bonus too.

Shimano XT
brakes are a
reassuring choice

HATE 
WE
The handlebar and stem don’t
match the attitude and geometry of the
bike. Also, the Reverb remote and Shimano
shifters aren’t the best bedfellows.

SPECIFICATION

NEW BIKES

Frame 6013
aluminium, Tuned
Ride Link suspension,
120mm travel
Shock Fox Float
Evolution CTD
Fork X-Fusion Velvet
RL2, 120mm travel
Wheels Shimano
hubs, Jalco rims
Maxxis Ardent
2.25in tyres
Drivetrain Shimano
Deore crankset,
shifters and
derailleurs
Brakes
Shimano M505
180/160mm rotors
Components KORE
740mm bar, Saracen
60mm stem, Kore
Frazer EX saddle
Sizes S, M, L, XL
Weight 14.37kg
(31.7lb)

GEOMETRY

SARACEN KILI
FLYER 121

Size ridden L
Head angle 67°
Seat angle 66°
BB height 327mm
Chainstay 428mm
Front centre 714mm
Wheelbase 1,142mm
Down tube 690mm
Reach 443mm

£ 1 ,9 9 9.9 9 / 6 5 0 b / s a r a c e n . c o .u k

Saracen sets out to prove that all-mountain bikes
don’t need oodles of travel and single chainrings

NEED TO
KNOW
O120mm allmountain machine
OX-Fusion Velvet
fork well matched to
Fox Float shock
OLow-spec
drivetrain
from Deore
OSorted bar and
stem for control

36 mbr JULY 2014

ritish brand Saracen is thriving,
backing a successful downhill
team and building a solid spread
of mountain bikes to hit all the
disciplines that count, from dirt
jump to DH. The Kili Flyer is new for 2014,
with 120mm of travel and classed by
Saracen as an all-mountain bike thanks to
its gravity-inspired geometry.
‘All-mountain’ in our book means that a
bike’s first duty is to climb well enough to
get you to the fun stuff. The Flyer is more
of a crawler here though, and I spent most
of the first ride going uphill in the granny
ring. It’s not the suspension design’s fault,
but too slack a seat tube angle that pushes
your weight back over the rear wheel.
Really I wanted my saddle just behind
the BB. Couple that with its weight and
the Flyer name doesn’t seem particularly
apt — it’s just too damn heavy next to
the competition. The Specialized Camber,
Whyte T129s and Cube Stereo are all around
a kilo lighter.
It’s a solid bike on descents and I felt
confident on it straight away. There’s a good
width bar and short stem for increased
control. The shock looks a bit goofy slung
underneath the top tube, but that doesn’t
bother me because the suspension works
well. The swingarm rotates on big 30mm
cartridge bearings and 15mm Norglide
linkage bushings improve stiffness. The
shock tune feels right too, the back end
smooth and sensitive over trail chatter
and little hits. The linkage is too obtrusive
though, and I caught my knee a couple of

B

There’s the rub: protruding
shock linkage can catch
knees when pedalling

X-Fusion Velvet fork:
plush performer

times — besides being painful it indicates a
lack of refinement to the overall design.
With a Fox shock on the back and an
X-Fusion Velvet fork on the front I was
expecting a suspension mismatch, as the
Velvet has underperformed in the past and
proved too reluctant to break away. Nothing
could be further from the truth! It was plush
and never felt sticky. Neither does it dive
away on steep trails, but keeps you propped
up nicely and your weight back, gripping
the trail. The Velvet was originally designed
for the 26in wheel, but X-Fusion has
adjusted it with an internal spacer to take
650b. They’ve changed more significant
parts too though, introducing new wiper
seals that glide up and down the stanchions
and produce a plush, opulent feel.
This bike feels like it was designed for

downhill, without quite enough thought (or
money) for uphill. The drivetrain and wheels
are OK but low-spec, while the geometry
and suspension shine through. To make it
in the all-mountain sector the Kili Flyer 121
needs to shed some weight, ditch the QR
back end and sort out its seat tube angle, or
all the descending prowess will go to waste.
Jamie Darlow

1ST IMPRESSION

WE LOVE 
Dialled
suspension and DH geometry. 

WE HATE
Lugging nearly 32lb of bike up
the climbs.

SPECIFICATION

NEW BIKES

Frame Ti3AL/2.5V
Titanium
Fork Compatible with
100-130mm travel
Components DMR
seat clamp, DT Swiss
142x12mm axle,
forged Pivot Cycles
hanger (Direct Mount
link £24.99)
Sizes S, M, L

GEOMETRY
Size ridden M
Head angle 70°
Seat angle 72.8°
BB height 318mm
Chainstay 440mm
Front centre 662mm
Wheelbase 1,102mm
Down tube 670mm

KINESIS MAXLIGHT SYNC TI
£ 1 ,4 9 9 ( f r a m e o n l y) / 2 9 i n o r 6 5 0 b / k i n e s i s b i ke s .c o.u k

Kinesis has switched to titanium for a
feature-rich hardtail that covers two
wheel standards in three sizes

NEED TO
KNOW
OSleek titanium
trail hardtail
OWheel size
dependent on
frame size — small
650b, medium and
large 29in
OCompatible with
100-130mm-travel
suspension forks
OBolt-thru 142mm
rear-end, PF30
bottom bracket
and direct-mount
derailleur hanger

38 mbr JULY 2014

Direct-mount rear mech
hanger boosts stiffness for
surer shifting

K

inesis is well known for its keenly
priced aluminium hardtails, but
the UK firm has recently launched
a new high-end frame made from
titanium. The finish is first-rate;
it’s packed with innovation and, most
interestingly, the new Sync uses sizespecific wheels: 29in on the medium and
large, and 650b on the size small.
Kinesis already has a 29er hardtail in its
range, so it’s no surprise to see the Sync
get big wheels on the medium and large
frames. The reason for the downsize on
the size small is about packaging — Kinesis
says it wanted the small bike to benefit
from the increased rollover of bigger
wheels while still feeling manoeuvrable
and responsive. It also didn’t want to
compromise on the stand-over clearance,
or, to a lesser extent, the look of the bike,
because small 29er frames can sometimes
look out of proportion.
When designing the Sync, Kinesis was
keen to incorporate modern trail bike
geometry, which meant making it longer,
lower and slacker and working the reach
around a short stem and wide handlebar.
The head angle on our medium test bike
wasn’t that progressive — we tested

some £600 hardtails last month that were
slacker than this — but the frame didn’t
feel cramped and at 5ft 11in I was able to
ride a medium (rather than a large) quite
comfortably thanks to the extra length in
the top tube.
The material’s inherent resilience means
that titanium bikes are generally pretty
comfortable and, while the Sync is more
forgiving than the firm’s aluminium FF29,
it’s still pretty stiff compared to most
titanium bikes. For Kinesis, the Sync is more
about propulsion than comfort, as you
can see from the oversized PF30 bottom
bracket shell and bolt-thru back end. That
said, Kinesis fitted a carbon seatpost to our
test bike to help dampen trail chatter.
The intricate investment-cast dropouts
feature a post disc mount and a direct

mount rear mech hanger. The latter is a
Shimano-inspired design and is basically
a machined arm that replaces the B2 link
on the Shadow Plus rear derailleur. Fitting
the link adds stiffness to improve shifting
performance, and saves 17g in weight.
The Sync is a clean-looking, understated
hardtail and the ride is equally unfussy. It’s
agile, responsive and felt right at home on
tight singletrack and fast, flowing trails.
You have to work a bit on rougher trails by
feeding the bike in and out of the holes or
hopping over them, but the directness does
make the Sync a rapid climber.
At £1,500, the Sync frame is relatively
affordable for titanium, with a level of detail
and innovation you usually only see on
frames costing twice as much. The small
650b option will definitely be of interest to
shorter riders.
Paul Burwell

1ST IMPRESSION

LOVE 
WE
Direct power transfer and solidity
— this is not a flexy titanium hardtail.
Dropper-post guides are a bonus.

HATE 
WE
The ‘modern’ geometry is still
pretty traditional, with a relatively steep
head angle.

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SPECIFICATION

NEW BIKES

Frame Aluminium,
140mm travel
Shock Fox
Performance
Series Float
Fork Fox 32 Talas
Performance series,
150mm travel
Wheels SunRingle
Charger Expert,
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
2.35in tyres
Brakes Shimano XT
Drivetrain Shimano
XT 3x10
Components
Prologo Scratch
saddle, RockShox
Reverb Stealth
100mm dropper
seatpost, FSA After
Burner bar and stem
Sizes 17, 19in
Weight 13.85kg
(30.5lb)

MERIDA ONE-FORTY 1-B
£ 3 ,0 0 0 / 6 5 0 b / m e r i d a- b i ke s .c o m

Merida strikes out from its XC
roots with an all-mountain model

GEOMETRY
Size ridden 19in
Head angle 67°
Seat angle 74°
BB height 337mm
Chainstay 450mm
Front centre 747mm
Wheelbase 1,197mm
Down tube 705mm

NEED TO
KNOW
OAll-mountain
platform with
two models to
choose from
O150mm-travel
fork married to
140mm rear for
a hard-hitting
trail attitude
OLong, low and
slack geometry is
a major shift from
Merida’s XC roots
ONew frame
design built around
650b wheels

40 mbr JULY 2014

M

erida has a solid following on
the XC and marathon race
circuits of Europe, but it’s still
rare to see one of its bikes on
the trails here in the UK. With
its new One-Forty range targeted squarely
at all-mountain riding, the company is
primed to change its racing-snake image
once and for all.
With the model name spelling out
suspension travel and hinting at the 650b
wheel size, Merida hasn’t left much to
the imagination. What the name doesn’t
tell you, however, is that the One-Forty
1-B has a thoroughly modern profile with
a slack head angle, rangy front-end and
low BB. This contemporary geometry is
complemented by a suitably stubby 60mm
FSA stem and fairly wide 730mm handlebar.
The Shimano XT groupset is all topquality kit too. But, given the progressive
geometry and attitude, this bike needs the
full 125mm drop Reverb seatpost, not the
shorter 100mm, and a beefier Fox 34 fork
would improve steering precision and boost
confidence over the spindly Fox 32 Talas
fitted. Also, we weren’t won over by the
prickly profile of the Prologo Scratch saddle.
Merida’s twin-link ‘Virtual Pivot
Kinematics’ suspension is not dissimilar
to the old 26in BMC Trailfox. Setting up
the suspension wasn’t anything like as
straightforward, however, and I spent a lot
of time on the first ride tweaking the shock
pressure and fiddling with the dials on the

Fox Float CTD shock to iron out some of
the wallow and pedal feedback from the
rear suspension. It’s definitely one of those
linkage designs where you have to find the
suspension sweetspot, rather than simply
pump it up and go shred. Then, just as I
was starting to find my mojo, I sent the
Merida off a drop with an almighty clang on
landing. The unmistakable sound of metal
on metal was caused by the seatstay bridge
smashing into the back of the seat tube on
full compression of the suspension. So, as
it turns out, the Merida shares more than
just a similar profile with the old BMC — that
bike also had clearance issues.
What’s causing the problem? Not a
super-short rear-end — plenty of 650b
bikes (and even some 29ers) have shorter
chainstays than 450mm. Perhaps we
just got unlucky and received a bike with
a shock that’s at the shorter end of the
tolerance range, but it instantly put an end
to an otherwise enjoyable first ride.
Alan Muldoon

Seatstay bridge made
contact with seat tube
on heavy landings

1ST IMPRESSION

LOVE 
WE
Progressive geometry and topnotch Shimano XT finishing kit.
Stubby, 60mm FSA
stem and wide bars
are on-trend

HATE 
WE
The seatstay bridge hitting the seat
tube on full travel.
.

 
 

 
 
 


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NEW BIKES

MONDRAKER FOXY CARBON RR
£ 4 ,9 9 9 / 6 5 0 b / s i lve r f i s h - u k .c o m

NEED TO
KNOW
ONew carbon
version of
Mondraker’s
650b trail bike
OSaves 400g over
aluminium frame
OMore refined
ride-feel
ORetains familiar
Mondraker Zero
suspension and
Forward Geometry

42 mbr JULY 2014

Mondraker’s first carbon full-susser outfoxes
its aluminium stablemate on any terrain
he 140mm-travel Foxy is
Mondraker’s best-selling fullsuspension bike. It also happens to
be celebrating its 10th anniversary
this year. Hardly surprising then,
that this versatile platform was chosen as
the first carbon full-suspension project ever
undertaken by the Spanish brand.
Few manufacturers make reference to
such immeasurable qualities as ride-feel
when launching their new full-suspension
bikes, but the presentation of the Foxy
Carbon spent more time discussing ‘new
sensations’ and a ‘new riding experience’
than claims of stiffer this and lighter that.

T

That’s not to say that there haven’t been
improvements in both: 400g has been shed
from the frame alone and it’s laterally stiffer
by around 10 per cent at the front and 15 per
cent at the rear.
But back to the ride-feel — the
obvious question is: does it actually feel
any different to the aluminium bike?
Emphatically the answer is yes. For one
thing acceleration is much snappier — the
result of that weight loss and stiffness
gain. And there are subtler improvements
too; it’s quieter, softer and generally less
hectic. It’s as though someone has turned
the volume down a few notches to reduce

the high-frequency trail buzz, along with
the cacophony of rattles and twangs that
always seems to be amplified on boxy
aluminium frames.
Getting this right has taken time and
expertise; the Foxy Carbon has been
three years in development. More than 10
different carbon lay-ups were tested en
route to the finished article, and without
access to advanced carbon manufacturing,
achieving that ‘special’ feeling would never
have been possible.

CARBON COPY
Like its aluminium sibling, the Foxy Carbon
uses Mondraker’s own Zero suspension
system and innovative Forward Geometry
concept (see page 18 for more on that).
Even the flat-faced ‘Stealth Technology’

SPECIFICATION
Frame Stealth Carbon,
140mm rear travel
Shock Fox Float
CTD Factory
Fork Fox 34 Float
Factory, 140mm travel
Wheels CrankBrothers
Cobalt 3, Maxxis Ardent
2.25in tyres
Drivetrain SRAM X1
chainset, X01 rear mech
and shifter
Brakes Formula CR3
Components OnOff
Stoic 30mm stem,
OnOff Stoic Carbon
740mm bar, RockShox
Reverb Stealth seatpost
Weight 11.99kg
(26.43lb)
Sizes S, M, L, XL

GEOMETRY
Size ridden L
Head angle 67.5°
Seat angle 75°
Bottom bracket
(drop) -7mm
Chainstay 430mm
Front centre 790mm
Wheelbase 1,220m

tubing profiles have been replicated within
the moulding process. Elaborate surface
profiles are everywhere, as are dramatic
design details such as the ‘hanging’
bottom bracket and braced head tube.
But Mondraker has sensibly toned down its
signature hunchback top tube to give the
Foxy Carbon a more appealing side profile.

PREMIUM PERFORMER
In comparison with previous Foxys we’ve
ridden, there’s a much more active feel to
the Zero Suspension system. It has always
been a design that felt biased towards
pedalling efficiency rather than bump
absorption, but careful shock tuning has
given it a new lease of life. The new bike is
supple and responsive, tracks the ground
well and has a playful pop that encourages
you to go fast and generally act half your
age. We happen to think this is a good
thing. And with Fox’s CTD system, there’s
always the opportunity to firm things up for
big, smooth climbs.
Specced to the eyeballs with shiny
Kashima-coated Fox forks and exotic
Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels, the Foxy
Carbon RR is aimed firmly at the premium
end of the market. For £600 less you can
have the Foxy R, which loses the posh
wheels and golden-syrup suspension, but
thankfully doesn’t skimp on the damping.
Should you have an extra grand to play
with, however, there’s also the Foxy
Carbon XR, which comes with a longertravel (160mm) 34 Talas fork to give it both
extra alpine grunt and the option to lower
the front-end on climbs.
Danny Milner

1ST IMPRESSION

LOVE 
WE
Lighter and stiffer with a smoother,
quieter ride than the aluminium bike. New,
streamlined aesthetic. Forward Geometry
is the future.

HATE 
WE
Zero suspension uses multiple
bearings and requires regular inspection.
Complex and unnecessary remote
suspension control.

SP OTLIGHT ON...

Zero suspension
Mondraker’s own Zero suspension system uses a
twin-link arrangement that compresses the shock
at both ends. The upper rocker is responsible for
about 65 per cent of the movement and the lower
link about 35 per cent. It’s a design that works better
running slightly higher sag levels; around 30 per
cent on the Foxy. This gives a more horizontal lower
link angle, which results in greater sensitivity. One
downside to this configuration is that the shock and
lower linkage get pelted with spray from the rear
wheel. A small plastic mudguard will keep the worst
off, but it’s a system that needs regular TLC to keep
it running smoothly.

Zero suspension: the
design that compresses
from both ends

COLUMN

REAL
WORLD
RIDING
Dan Trent
just wants
to ride — but
life keeps
getting in
the way

44 mbr JULY 2014

From thrifty to shifty
On the slippery slope from earnest saver to sly spender
t all started so well. I saved
up for my first mountain
bike, a ‘91 Kona Lava Dome,
at a rate of £1.65 per hour
in the kitchen of The Bay
Horse, each step on the path
to ownership carefully ticked
off on a chart kept in a folder with
the brochure I still have to this
day. Junior T is blissfully unaware
of this story thus far, but I don’t
doubt he’ll regret the day he first
hears it, immediately after he says
to me: “Dad, I want a new bike!”
Acting all morally superior is a
parental prerogative I await with
some glee. Were that my own
approach to bikes and finances
was so high-minded in the years
that followed…
The Orange Clockwork that
replaced the Kona was similarly
saved and paid for in the correct
fashion. The RockShox Quadra
21Rs that appeared on the front
of it shortly after cashing in my
first student loan was the start of
a slippery slope of credit and debt
that continues to this day. Indeed,
I’ve probably only just finished
paying for those bloody forks and
they were useless from the off.
The combined perils of
credit cards, a taste for instant
gratification and an all-too-easily
skewed financial compass once
over the threshold of a bike shop
have come close to ruining me on
occasion. And once that reality
became a virtual one and I didn’t
even have to look another human
in the eye as I handed over my
card it got worse. Morbid curiosity
has me wondering if I should tot
it all up one day, but it’s probably
best if I don’t.
Hand on heart I’ve behaved
myself since becoming a dad,
so far avoiding the rush among
my riding pals to upscale to bigger
wheels, go tubeless or follow other
fashions. I’d almost go as far as calling it
a mature approach to parental financial
responsibility and sacrifice. OK, there
was a little lapse when I bought that
Genesis Alpitude frame, but that’s
since evolved into the dad bike and is
therefore domestically acceptable. I
must have ridden him up to nursery on it
at least, oh, twice now. Money well-spent
and entirely justifiable.
Recently, though, I had a bit of a
relapse. I don’t know how it happened.

I

Well, OK, I do. Bike Park Wales beckoned
and the underused Five was dug out of
the shed. A seized wheel bearing would
be cheap and easy to fix, off to the shop.
Five minutes later I was speccing up a
full rebuild of new Halo Vapour rims and
spokes for both wheels. While they were
being built a tyre ripped on the tarmac,
meaning that when I went to collect my
freshly built wheels I had to add two new
road bike tyres to the tally. Gulp.
Now usually in these circumstances,
when that parcel arrives or you cross
the threshold with shiny new bits and
the interrogation starts, you can play on

domestic ignorance of bike component
prices and knock a decent percentage
off for the sake of an easy life. Indeed,
work that denial hard enough and you
can even start believing your own lies.
Guilty as charged. And this would have
worked in this instance.
Were the person behind the counter
taking the payment at the bike shop
and staring into my guilt-ridden face
not my wife.
Busted.
This will cost me, in more ways than
one. I wonder if The Bay Horse will have
me back?
Illustration by Chris Watson 

 

 

  

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COLUMN

TRAIL
FINDER
GENERAL
Benji
Haworth has
a map and
a compass,
and he’s not
afraid to
use them

46 mbr JULY 2014

The descent to rock bottom
A true story of generosity found in the most unlikely of places
’ve just finished writing
a cheque and I am very
happy with this. For those
under thirty years of age, a
‘cheque’ was an olde worlde
means of payment whereby
you write a promise of
future payment on a piece of
paper and hand it over to a
vendor. And they happily believe
your promise. It now feels as
ancient a practice as jousting.
Anyway, my particular story
begins a couple of days ago. I
had a rainy Tuesday to kill. There
was no one else to play out with
so I decided on a solo bike ride,
and pretty soon after setting off
I decided to make it a big one.
The weather was a bit grim and
the ground conditions weren’t
that great, so the least I could
do was to turn this outing into a
bit of proper exercise and fitness
building. Get something out of it.
We all know of those occasions
where you really push things
for long enough when it’s really
horrible and you end up having a
strangely enjoyable ordeal.
I was about two thirds of
the way around my intended
route and I became aware that
I hadn’t really eaten very much.
I wasn’t yet bonking but it was
definitely on the way. One piece
of marmalade on toast isn’t really
enough for a 50km hilly drizzleepic. I decided to stop at the
next village. It was the last one
I’d encounter on the route. There
was a good pub there where they
don’t mind filthy bikers turning
up and mucking things up so
long as they eat a big pile of
food. And that’s just what I was
going to do.
Upon pulling up to the pub I leant
my bike up against a bench outside
and spied an ominous A4 print-out
taped to the door. Due to unforeseen
circumstances they would not be able to
take payment by cards today. Cash only.
Apart from my debit card, which I’d kind
of banked on being able to use during
this impromptu epic ride, I had 70p. Oh
bugger. This wasn’t going to end well.
I had serious doubts as to whether I
could get home, even via the shortest
way possible. I had visions of phoning
up neighbours to come and pick my
shivering empty-shell self from the side
of the road and take me home.

I

I remembered seeing a dinky tea
room a little bit back up the road. I
didn’t really expect them to have a card
machine but I had to enquire. I nervously
entered the doily-tastic establishment
all too aware of how mud-covered I was.
An elderly couple dining with their even
more elderly parents stopped to gawk
at me. Suddenly the tearoom owner
appeared. “You don’t take cards, do
you?” I asked in an already-resigned
tone. “No love, sorry. We don’t.” I knew
it. Oh god. She continued: “But we’re
more than happy for you to send us a
cheque when you get back home.”
I’m not sure how long I stood there
stock-still, mute and slightly openmouthed, thinking about what the owner

had just said. But it was just a little bit
too long to be a normal human response
time. “Do you want to do that then,
love?” the owner helpfully prompted me,
like a fellow actor helping out someone
who had forgot their lines.
Needless to say, once I remembered
where my cheque book was, I agreed to
this most noble of deals. Pie, peas, pot
of tea. And a cake. Plus a scone. Food
never tastes better than when you’re
starving on a mountain bike ride.
So from truly miserable conditions
came about one of my favourite ever
riding memories, nay one of my favourite
ever memories of anything. Bikes and
humans are ace. The former helps you
remember the latter.
Illustration by Chris Watson  

     
   

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YOU R L E T T E R S
IPC Media Ltd, Leon House,
233 High Street, Croydon CR9 1HZ
Tel: 020 8726 8453 / Fax: 020 8726 8499
www.mbr.co.uk

EDITORIAL
Editor: Simon Collis
Deputy editor: Danny Milner
Technical editor: Paul Burwell
Bike test editor: Alan Muldoon
Front section editor: Jamie Darlow
Contributors: Dave Arthur, Chris Ball, Jeremy Bernard,
Janet Coulson, Roo Fowler, Paula Harrison, Benji
Haworth, Rob Hicks, Mick Kirkman, Andy McCandlish,
Sam Needham, Dan Trent, Al Vines
Routes: Tom Hutton and Steph Duits

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Designers: Hannah Holden, Callum Tomsett
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24,495

AU DITED CI RCU L ATIO N FIG U R E FRO M JAN - DEC 2013

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CONTACT US:
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+ S TA R L E T T E R +

WINS
a Madison Flux
shorts and jersey

COLOUR ME BLUE

WORTH
£94.98

I have been an avid reader for
years. I’ve enjoyed reading about
your adventures and I’d never have
visited half the places I have been to
without reading about them in your
fine magazine.
Wednesday night while out
on my hardtail (my Cannondale
Jekyll is getting some TLC), I
came across one of those things
that never fails to remind me why
mountain biking is so fun, and not
about how fast you can do a stage.
Here is a photo of my Chinese
carbon 29er sat in a sea of
bluebells along a natural trail
in the woods, around Danbury
Common, Chelmsford.
Matt Leech
Ed —I thought of this email (and
photo) when I was riding in the
Lakes the other week (see page
74 for more on that one). The
bluebells were everywhere, the
little lambs were bleating and it

When riding can look
this good, what more
do you need?

was all flipping beautiful. It was
a bit different four hours later
though, when I thought my heart
was going to explode through

OUR MAN IN BOLIVIA
I am currently travelling in South America
and have been away for six months now.
I say ‘travelling’, but that’s not technically
true — I met a Bolivian girl five months ago
and have been stuck in Sucre, Bolivia, ever
since. I am missing my bike and have taken
to downloading the digital version of your
superb mag to keep me sane during these
dark days.
Sucre is surrounded by mountains and
huge hills, so I asked my girlfriend to take
me out into the countryside. Sadly, the
15-year-old bikes we hired were not really
up to scratch. The brakes hardly worked,
the forks were abysmal and the weight was
similar to that of a small car.
My girlfriend had warned me that the first
30 minutes were a tough uphill slog, and at
over 9,000ft above sea level, it pretty much
killed me. But then she happily announced
that the next three hours would be mainly
downhill. I zoomed down the narrow gravel
tracks, getting air off the natural bumps in
the road. Then I hit a sharp left-hander and
my more-or-less non-existent brakes nearly
sent me off a 200ft drop. A lucky escape.
All in all it was an excellent afternoon

my eyes and the sun felt like a
blowtorch being directly applied
to my lungs, but that is another
story altogether.

and a much-needed ride after all those
dark months. If you have been deprived
long enough of a ride and you are
desperate enough, no matter what piece of
junk you are riding you will have the most
amazing time.
Paul in Sucre, Bolivia
Ed — It’s emails like this that help us
through the late nights in the offi ce,
Paul. Your dark days shacked up with a
Bolivian girl during a six-month holiday
do sound awful, and if all you have to get
you through the long days and nights
is a digital subscription to mbr and the
occasional three-hour descent through
the hinterland of Sucre, we’re just happy
to help.

WHO’S THE DADDY?
After reading Dan Trent’s column in April’s
mbr (‘Teaching an old dog new tricks’), I
thought I’d add my own experiences.
I’ve done quite a bit of biking in my life:
touring in my 20s; traffic-jamming (on early
80s mountain bikes for visibility) in my 30s;
but then a hiatus in middle-age.
In my 56th year I first went off-road

JULY 2014

mbr 51

OLD
BLOKES
WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER

YOU R L E T T E R S
on the ‘new’ generation of mountain bike:
go-up-and-down anything geometry;
suspension; light but rigid materials;
hydraulic disc brakes, if you please. And, of
course, I’ve become obsessive.
In just three short years, I’ve gathered
experiences you can only get from the
saddle of a mountain bike. Australia, New
Zealand, Bali, Bhutan, Utah, northern
California, Yorkshire. Now, I’m plotting,
hopefully, two decades of retirement to add
to that list, and if I don’t ride at least twice
on weekends and one weekday night ride, I
get tetchy.
Sure, there is the plate in the left hand
and the scars on the elbows, knees and
shins. My home trails in Hong Kong are a
tad uncompromising, but they’re superb
for teaching technique. And even on an
old-model body, injuries recover.
The point is, it’s NEVER too late to get
into mountain biking. I won’t be a downhill
racer, but just riding is physical and mental
satisfaction enough at any age. Tell your
dad that.
Malcolm Sullivan

GOOD DAY, BAD DAY
It’s an April morning, the van is full of bikes
and off we go to Llandegla full of the joys
of spring.
The wife is happy to ride the red and
blue, so off we go. But 10 minutes later I get
a puncture. Knowing I’ve got tubes with the
green stuff in, I can just pump it up, right?
That didn’t work so I strip the tyre down to
find about six holes in the tube.
The wife offers to ride back to the van, as
I had forgotten to put the spare tube in my
back pack. (Sorry to everyone coming up
the hill while she was flying down the wrong
way!) While she was away, I used up all my
self-adhesive patches and some electrical
tape and it worked, so by the time she got
back I was ready to go. We hit the red run,
the wife is of out in front having fun, we
get to a rocky bit and BOOM, my back tyre
blows out.
Then I realise that the wife still has the
spare tubes in her backpack. It was a long
walk to catch up with her, but the rest of the
day was a good one — I finished the red and
the blue, then off for some food.
I would like to thank the 25 or more riders

Riding whoop-di-doos
at Llandegla

52 mbr JULY 2014

Send your digital injury pictures to
mbroldblokes@ipcmedia.com

NAME Paul Gallagher WHERE Local woods,
Nottingham WHEN April 2014 HOW
Went OTB at over 20mph, landed hard.
Interesting bruise on arm and extremely
sore ribs!

Wheel sizes: complex
and tough to compare

who offered help when I was sorting out the
puncture, a BIG thanks to my wife for going
back to the van for the tubes, and to a fella I
had never met offering me a tube to get me
down to the shop.
Yan Mills

QUICK
LINES

DEBATE OVER?

I am in the process
of buying a new
hardtail and I’m
interested in the
Vitus Sentier
275VR, which you
awarded ‘Hardtail
of the Year’ in
your June issue.
Can you help
me with sizing?
I’m 5ft 4in with
28/30in inside
leg and I’ve
been looking at
the small (15in)
frame. As you ran
the large frame,
would you say the
sizing guide is
spot on?
Scott Kimber

With the wheel size debate still raging on,
it’s now time for mbr to put it to bed once
and for all.
No small task, you say? Well until recently
I would agree, but now it can be done very
easily and decisively.
Many magazines have tried to put wheels
sizes head-to-head, but on different bikes,
with different travel and suspension types,
all of which added too many variables to the
test with no clear results.
However, Specialized now produces the
Stumpjumper in all three wheel sizes, all
with FSR suspension and all running the
same rubber. In other words, identical bikes
bar the wheel size.
I want to see the bikes put through their
paces on XC, enduro and DH courses in a
fully comprehensive and scientific test.
I expect the results in next month’s
excellent mag!
Eric Dowding
Ed — Oh Eric. If only it was so easy. Alas,
few bikes are ever truly ‘identical’, and
the Stumpys are no exception. The 29er
has different travel (140mm front, 135mm
rear compared to 150mm front and back),
the chainstay lengths are different, the
bottom bracket heights… it’s just not
going to work. And then there’d be
complaints that the courses we’d choose
are too smooth, rough, nadgery or
whatever. Maybe the riders are too fat/
thin/big/small. There’s no right or wrong
to this one, Eric, no best and no worst,
and we all just need to deal with it.

SIZING UP

Ed — Sounds like
you should be on
the money with a
small, Scott. The
Sentier sizing is
generally on the
small side, but
looking at your
measurements,
you shouldn’t
have any
problems with
it. Enjoy the bike
— it’s a cracker!

NAME Symon Smithard WHERE Doncaster
WHEN March 2014 HOW Asked my 15yo son
Thomas if we should take the easy route or
the steep one. Halfway down I flew off the
bike. Unable to walk for a week.

NAME Paul Jones WHERE Glentress WHEN
February 2014 HOW Went OTB on drop-off
I’ve done 100 times. Picture is following
surgery to reconstruct AC joint. Can’t wait
to get back to that drop-off.

NAME Andrew Smith WHERE Temple
Newsam Woods, Leeds WHEN January
2014 HOW Overshot jump and hit tree.
Broken kneecap; quad tendon reattached
with hooks/wires. 

 
   

   

 

 
 

       

 

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YOU R P H O T O S

THE

BIG
QUESTION

Every day, mbr ’s forum is awash with
advice, stories and gossip. Here’s what
you’ve been talking about this month.

Where would you most
like to ride?
My new trail. I’ve been building all
winter, every chance I’ve had. It’s
still not finished, so I guess I’ll just
have to wait.
Kevolution
Downieville trail, California. Saw it
on TV last year and there was just
something about it.
Ibbo
Someone a while back showed
me pictures of their week-long
adventure in the Atlas Mountains.
Have wanted to do similar ever since.
But I’ll always settle for decent riding
anywhere with good company!
DaMilkyBarKid
Because it’s only a few days away
rather the other side of the globe,
I would like to ride in the Alps. I’m
always working on the wife for a
pass out, but she always wants
something in return.
Glynn six o
I really fancy doing Land’s End to
John o’ Groats on an mtb with as
much of it off-road as possible. Might
be doable in chunks, I suppose.
Bananaman16
I quite fancy the Austrian/Swiss
Alps. I’ve ridden the French Alps
and loved it but have skied in
the Austrian ones and they look
amazing for riding.
Monte
Back in the mid-Nineties I went to
Eilat on the Red Sea with my folks
and managed a few days’ riding in
the desert. The trails and scenery
were amazing so I wouldn’t mind
going somewhere similar again.
Ferrals
I would love to ride Thailand top
to bottom, Chang Rai to Hua Hin,
finishing with sand and salt water in
the spokes. Just need a sponsor.
Trevron73
At the moment I would settle for
anywhere. My colleagues have gone
riding in Shropshire for the week
and I’m stuck in the office.
Snake Plissken

NEXT MONTH

HOW WELL DO YOU MAINTAIN
YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE?
Join the debate at
po.st/mbrjuly14

54 mbr JULY 2014

YOUR
PHOTOS
02

WINS
A CamelBak
Mule NV pack
(SRP £99.99)

This one’ll get you in the

01 mood for Back o’Skiddaw,
as Andy Smith takes in the Lake
District views.
Photo: Lee Corbett
Hitting the heights with John

02 Fidler overlooking Torridon.
Photo: Lottie Chapman

First ever race run for Jamie

03 Pollock. Where did he finish?
No idea!
Photo: Louis Arnold
Time for some bike love

04 before catching the ferry
across Windermere.
Photo: Robin Woodburn
Sunny spring day at Llandegla…

05 so put that phone away!
Photo: Andy Jordan

S E N D U S YOU R P I C S

01
03

BIKE L VE

05

To enter, send your inspiring
digital photos — 3MB max file
size — to mbrreaderphotos@
ipcmedia.com, marking ‘Reader
Photo’ clearly in the subject
box. Also, add a short caption to
explain what the picture shows.

04

F E AT U R E

56 mbr JULY 2014

CUT GATE
DARK PEAK

If it’s dry and you’re on your game,
Cut Gate offers a myriad of delights
that puts it at the pinnacle of
Peak District singletrack
Words & photos: Benji Haworth

JULY 2014

mbr 57

F E AT U R E

or such a large
and popular
riding area,
it proved
surprisingly difficult to find
a challenger for Britain’s Best
Singletrack in the Peak District.
There is plenty of good riding
there, but the singletrack often
lacks the
consistency
and duration
to tick our
boxes. We’re
a demanding bunch and we have
standards to maintain. Not any old
dinky bit of skinny dirt can make
the grade.
We ummed and ahhed and
argued the toss for an unhealthy
amount of time before coming to
our final decision. The resulting
trail of choice was still met with
resistance from some riders, but
we’re happy to say that on the return trip there
were no more grumbles. Just grins.
Cut Gate is the best trail in the Peak District.
It has a bit of everything (apart from trees):
dirt, rocks, dips, jumps, bends, carves, flow,
Get the conditions right
and Cut Gate is an
isolated, untouched haven

58 mbr JULY 2014

awkwardness, speed, trials, views, remoteness,
atmosphere — it’s all here. But you have to do Cut
Gate in the correct way, at the correct time, and
in the correct conditions. You need to wait until
the planets align and a perfect storm has brewed.
Well, not literally, but you get the idea.
Cut Gate is a tricky prospect, which is why too
many people have had too many bad experiences.
Get your timing wrong and it can be a soggy and
slow waste of time. And if your timing is off in
a bike-handling sense, it can be a frustrating,
disjointed wrestling match.
All this meant that once we’d (finally) decided
on Cut Gate, we then had to wait just as long for
the right conditions. It’s a spring or summer trail.
It needs to have been dry and preferably warm for
at least a week beforehand. Ideally it’s better to do
it when there’s a minimal number of other trail
users on it too — but that pales into insignificance
compared to the importance of the ground
conditions. On the plus side, the location means
a whole lot of people can do Cut Gate as a day trip
without too much planning, which means you can
put it on your ‘to do’ list and make it happen when
the conditions look likely to align.
Eventually the elements came good and we
arranged to meet up for a late-afternoon raid on
Cut Gate. My co-riders were Simon and Matt from
18 Bikes bike shop and John and Tom from

We’re making it our mission to reveal Britain’s
finest singletrack. We want to celebrate all the
wonderful natural riding hidden across the land,
the trails that formed by evolution rather than
design, with no little wooden posts and colourcoded signs to guide you round. Real, honest
singletrack. Believe it or not, there are trails out
there that ride like they are purpose-built for
mountain bikes, yet in fact they are completely
uncontrived; the haphazard products of chance.
Discovering these miracles of nature brings the
kind of wholesome reward that trail centres can
never replicate.
Our list of ultimate singletrack stretches from
north to south, east to west. It crosses both
Scottish and Welsh borders and touches on many
of the UK’s National Parks. Among our selection
are pocket-sized rides around intense networks
of trail, and sprawling epics that will take all day
to complete. In every case they represent many of
the most memorable rides we have experienced in
our riding lives so far.
This is not, however, a definitive roll call. Like
the trails themselves, we want to see this list
evolve. With your input it can be honed and
refined. So, if you know of any singletrack that is
good enough to rank alongside national treasures
such as Bowderdale in the Howgills, the Doethie
Valley in Mid Wales and Minton Batch on the Long
Mynd, we’d love to hear about it. Get in touch via
mbr@ipcmedia.com or tweet @mbrmagazine
#britainsbestsingletrack.

You have to do Cut
Gate in the correct
way. You need to wait
until the planets align
JULY 2014

mbr 59

F E AT U R E

Beckoned on by
boundless horizons
and a barren wilderness

The textbook definition of singletrack is a trail
no more than 18 inches wide, the stuff that arcs
gracefully through a Swiss Alpine meadow or
a redwood forest thick with loam. To restrict
Britain’s best singletrack to such anorexic
dimensions, however, is to ostracise some frankly
brilliant riding. As a consequence, for the purposes
of this series, we’re defining ‘singletrack’ as any
trail wide enough for only one bike to pass along
at a time.
Preserving these national treasures is
everyone’s responsibility. In order to keep Britain’s
singletrack single, stay on the trail as much as
possible — which means riding through puddles
and boggy sections, rather than around them. And
if it’s really been hammering down for days on
end, maybe avoid riding these delicate ribbons of
perfection altogether.

Vertebrate Publishing guidebooks. Truth be told,
I’m not sure how much excitement there was
among the group. There was no outright moaning,
but putting together an instalment of Britain’s
Best Singletrack usually creates an atmosphere
of anticipation that was noticeably absent this
time around. Thankfully the weather was being
kind. It was a beautiful afternoon in the Peak and
as we headed away from the car park and away
from civilisation in general, spirits improved
quickly. There had been a small but hopefully
insignificant shower of rain earlier in the day and
we were keenly — obsessively — on the lookout for
puddles and boggy bits. A feeling of apprehension
persisted, though. We were dreading a bad Cut
Gate experience.

TERRA FIRMER
As we left the opening section of farm roads and
wide tracks and began to head on to the moorland
proper, the sense of relief was palpable. Even on
this notoriously soaky section of uphill the track
was firm and supportive. Phew.
The route we were following is the one you’ll
find in the pullout on page 114 of this issue. The
perennial debate about ‘which way is best’ to Cut
Gate has never been one I’ve been drawn into. The
best way to do Cut Gate is to do some of it BOTH
ways. End of.
The gradual ascent up from the ruined
farmstead called North America was in really
good nick. There was wild talk of deviating from
the prescribed route on the return leg and coming
down this way instead. It’s tempting and it’d be
pretty darned good too, so it is worth considering.
We finished the climb as totally different riders
to those who had met in the car park half an hour

60 mbr JULY 2014

Lunar park: an other
worldly obstacle course
is a test of ground control

earlier. We now had a spring in our steps. We were
up for it, and it was just as well, because the first
kilometre after joining Mickleden Edge is one of
those gradually inclining singletrack trails that’s
hard work if you’re trudging along sat down in the
saddle. But if you have a bit of zip and vigour then
it’s an up-on-your-pedals, middle-ring stomp-along
that is strangely rewarding. There were occasional
patches of puddle but even they became things to
bunnyhop over or manual through. The ground
underneath the water was ironing-board hard.
I was doing my best to pretend that I wasn’t
doing my best. I was desperately trying to keep
on Tom’s rear tyre, but after one too many nearcrashes (from me) I decided it was best to forgo
that duel and let him disappear off ahead of me.

Gritstone and turf
gulleys are great
for tearing it up 

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F E AT U R E
A true Peak District local, he seemed to be able to
use the gritstone and turf ledges to increase his
velocity, so that obstacles for me were more like
springboards for Tom.
We all regrouped as the terrain changed
character for the next section. We were on Cut
Gate proper now. This middle top section is
neither uphill, nor downhill, nor flat. It’s sort of
corrugated. It’s wide but it’s full of line choices
with more bad options than good ones. You need to
be local or lucky — preferably both — to get across
this expanse without coming to some sort of deadend or stub-out. It’s like riding trials on the moon.
Once again the local riders left me for dead. This
time Matt joined in with the schooling.
A cairn signifies the end of this section, and we
regrouped before plummeting down the much
steeper flank off Howden Edge. The resurfacing
slabs were visible below us but first we had to
negotiate a thrilling hotch-potch of dirt, rocks
and turf-lip jumps. It was really difficult not to
just let fly and zoom down, but there were enough
surprises popping out at us to remind us not to
overdo it.
The slab ‘pavement’ came as a nice freewheeling
breather before the gradient returned, the slabs
stopped and the rut terrors began. Gradually I got
my eye in and my bravery increased. All the local
riders had screamed away so I figured I’d give
them a run for their money. It helped that I was on
a long-travel 29er. I found myself going at speeds
I’m not used to on trails this narrow and natural.
It was eye-wateringly fast… literally.

A hotch-potch of
dirt, rocks and turflip jumps, it was
difficult not to let fly
and zoom down
Rock-studded descents
are a chance to let
gravity take over

SIMON BOWNS, 18 BIKES

Blending into the
background of the
Peak’s wild landscape

62 mbr JULY 2014

The last time I rode Cut Gate it
was an energy-sapping waste
of time due to the top section
being an unridable mess. It’s
one of those classic routes that
many have heard of, but the bad
memory of that ride had stuck
in my head, so I’d not made the
effort to bother heading over
again. It’s a long spin or drive
round the reservoir from the
Hope Valley, and I’d convinced
myself it wasn’t worth the effort.
After this ride I’m back in
love with Cut Gate. Given the
slight rain we’d had immediately

before the ride, I’d expected
more bog hopping, but in
general I was really chuffed with
the trail conditions.
The maintenance work that’s
been undertaken by Moors for
the Future [who preserve the
area] has bedded in well to
give weatherproof surfacing in
sympathetic materials rather
than re-hashed tarmac. There’s
something here for everyone
— grunty climbs, singletrack,
rutted grassy moorland —
not to mention some truly
stunning views.

As we
started the
return trip
we noticed
how old and untouched the
landscape looks, with only a
couple of masts to show that
mankind has been anywhere
near. I think this is the point of
Cut Gate. In the right conditions
it’s an obvious path so it’s
difficult to get lost, but it’s a
great way to lose yourself in the
beauty of the Peaks. Just wait
until it’s relatively dry, or
frozen solid!   

 
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F E AT U R E

Find a map and
directions for this
route on page
114, or download
a GPS file by
visiting
po.st/g6FT25

A stream crossing offers
the chance for a quick
wheel clean

I pulled a manual to celebrate. I can’t
manual but somehow I could. It was a
moment to remember, thanks to Cut Gate
Reaching shallower terrain came as a massive
relief. I was filled with a huge wave of adrenaline
and glee after competing the last descent, and
the sublime singletrack of Sandy Lee was the
icing on the superb cake. I even pulled a manual
to celebrate. I can’t manual but somehow I now
could. It was a moment to remember, and it was all
thanks to Cut Gate.

BACK TO THE START
The fun wasn’t over quite yet. The final curly,
bermy drop into Cranberry Clough is one of the
Peak District’s deserved iconic sections. It gets
photographed to death and this would be no
exception. No one objected to riding it again and
again for the camera; it is such a fab combination of
tight-but-quick turns.
This drop marks the end of the outward leg.
We cruised out of the valley to have a proper
rest and refuel at a bridge over the river. I’ll not
pretend that the start of the return leg — back up
Cranberry Clough and Howden Edge — wasn’t
hard work. It was really, really hard work. But it

64 mbr JULY 2014

wasn’t miserable. The initial push was actually
a pleasant, social shove, as a happy group of
mountain bikers headed back up for more great
riding. To my surprise I found myself climbing up
from Sandy Lee to the cairn, which I wouldn’t have
thought was possible, nor that I’d be up for it, but it
was a goer. I was up for everything.
The ‘moon trials’ section was as challenging and
unfamiliar as it had been coming the other way.
Then, just as I was beginning to get a teensy bit
jaded, we reached Mickleden Edge. It looks like a
simple straight-line heather-edged singletrack, but
in reality it has unforeseen nuances and character.
There are lines within the line. Once again I
allowed myself to be schooled by the locals as they
pushed bigger gears without seemingly touching
the brakes at any point. I didn’t care, though.
I’d given up chasing and was in my own world of
trail-ripping nirvana.
Cut Gate had proved its case. It is the best trail
in the Peak District and a deserving contender in
our Britain’s Best Singletrack line-up. Take your
time going as fast as you can.

If you’re looking for singletrack in the Peak District
then there are two other rides that are worth a
looking at.
Those who like a scare and a technical challenge
should try Doctor’s Gate above Glossop. Like Cut
Gate, it’s not very nice if it’s wet (the last section in
particular ends up being a shin-soaking mud bath).
It’s also not much fun if you don’t like rocks and
buzzing your arse on the rear tyre. Steep in places,
you might say.
Then there’s Middle Moor (aka The Shooting
Cabins) above Little Hayfield, which is a classic
example of Dark Peak moorland singletrack.
Heather-edged. Sparkling gritstone dirt. It isn’t
steep and you’ll need to be a fittish, pedalling
rider to get the most out of it, yet it seems to last
a while compared to the relative ease with which
you can get to the top of it.
Pick your line,
then let gravity
do its thing 

 

F E AT U R E

DOUBLE
AND

ASH
The chance to shadow pro rider Fabien Barel on
a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Guatemala in Central
America was too good to turn down — but would
it prove too hot for handle for an amateur?
Photos: Jeremy Bernard

66 mbr JULY 2014

JULY 2014

mbr 67

F E AT U R E

Ashes to crashes: say
your prayers and get
ready to pumice surf

hey say the best way to
improve your technique
is to spend time with
riders who are better than you.
Attitude, line choice and all-out
speed can rub off on lesser
riders, but the downside is that
you need to be prepared to slay
yourself just to keep up, to hit
trails and lines you’d normally
wuss out of, and to test yourself
to the limit for the entirety of
your ride.
Now imagine that the rider
you were trying to keep up with
was three-time DH world champion and enduro
hotshot Fabien Barel. And the trails? Not so much
your local stamping ground as the towering, knifeedge volcanoes of Guatemala. Either you’d come
back as a much better rider… or in pieces.
That was the challenge — and amazing
opportunity — presented to 30-year-old architect
and amateur rider Rodolphe Pascuito when he
won a competition organised by Julbo eyewear to
live the life of a pro on a 10-day mtb expedition
with Fabien.
The adventure began with uploading a oneminute edit to the Julbo website, and then came
a phone call from Fabien inviting Rodolphe
and nine other finallists to meet him at the Roc
d’Azur cycling festival. After a day of riding and
spending time together, the decision was made:
Rodolphe had won. Naturally, he’d entered the
contest without really thinking it would lead
anywhere. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “It was
such an enormous thing for me, to meet Fabien
and to be travelling to ride with him, producing
video and photos. But I couldn’t think about it too
much. I tried to take it as it came, just like I was
going riding with a mate. Why stress? It’s only
riding, right?”

FEELING THE FLOW
After a 20-hour journey from Geneva to
Guatemala, however, it quickly became clear that
this wouldn’t be anything like anywhere Rodolphe
had been before. “Everything was different,” he
says. “The colours, the people, everything. I really
appreciated how friendly and welcoming the locals

68 mbr JULY 2014

“Anyone got any 650b
inner tubes?”

Hanging out with a
local BMX bandito

were, but once we’d got ourselves settled, I had to
focus. I told myself to be ready and not hurt myself
— the trails were technical and Fabien is a very,
very good rider!”
The riders and production team were based in
Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1,000m
above sea level, a maze of cobbled streets and
brightly coloured houses, all overlooked by three
volcanos: Agua (3,766m), Fuego (3,763m) and
Acatenango (3,976m). Most visitors are content to
stare up at them; Fabien and Rodolphe were going
to ride them.
On the first day they attacked the trails of
Agua, just a few kilometers from Antigua,
surrounded by the incredible scent of the coffee
trees. Up next was Pacaya (2,552m), but the lava
from its last eruption in May 2010 made riding
conditions seriously difficult. The descent was an
unforgettable experience of bombing down

Children of the corn:
playing hard on a
maize of tracks

JULY 2014

mbr 69 

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Going up: a tough
trek to the roof
of the world

THE VOLCANO
BELCHED LAVA WHILE
LIGHTNING FLASHED
JUST OVERHEAD
dunes of black sand formed by pebbles of eroded
lava. “It felt just like surfing,” explains Fabien.
“Normally you feel the ground underneath you,
whereas there you had to be constantly steering
into the skids, making it really feel like you were
floating. It was fantastic!”
The next day, around the coffee plantation estate
of Finca Filadelfia, they crossed from one valley
to another taking their bikes over 400 and 500m
rope bridges. It was an amazing way to find new
trails (Ed — doesn’t sound a patch on the A25 to
Gomshall). Once there, they ripped down tracks in
the middle of coffee and maize fields, ending up in
a favela where the children welcomed them with
big smiles.

3AM INFERNAL
If that was fun, then things were about to get
serious with the ascent of Acatenango, one of the
highest summits (3,976m) in a little country with
more than 30 mountainous peaks. Dropped off at
2,000m in a 4x4, Fabien and Rodolphe took the
remainder of the ascent step by step. They stopped
halfway up to sleep at a base camp at 3,000m, but
Rodolphe says the climb didn’t bother him. “I like

Now that’s what I
call a lava lamp...

this type of challenge, even carrying my bike up to
such a high altitude. You have to push your limits
if you want to ride on the roof of the world!”
The ascent began the following morning at 3am.
But the short night was memorable in itself — the
volcano opposite, El Fuego, belched eruptions
of lava while lightning flashed just a few metres
overhead. The aim was to reach the summit before
sunrise, so in the early hours, Rodolphe and
Fabien climbed for almost two hours with their
bikes on their backs. And what a sunrise! “It was
a long way to get up there, but the view at the top
was magical. It was unforgettable,” says Rodolphe.
“It was a sight that will stay with me for ever. The
colours were so beautiful and the landscape just
took my breath away. I don’t have the words to
describe it.”

GET WELL
SOON, FABIEN!
Here at mbr we love seeing Fabien do
what he does best — so we’re gutted that
we might not be seeing him in action for a
while. He broke his eighth dorsal vertebra
in an accident at the opening round of the
Enduro World Series in Chile (still completed
the day’s racing though, natch!). You can
get the latest updates on his recovery on his
Facebook page.
Get well soon, Monsieur.

JULY 2014

mbr 71

F E AT U R E

It would be rude not to
eat like a champion...

There was time to enjoy the view, but there
was also a 3,000m descent to take on. The upper
slopes consist mainly of black sand where it’s
difficult to ride, with faint tracks that tested
technique to the limit. The emphasis was on
anticipation and good weight distribution over
the bike, or in a split-second they’d be on the deck
— and they often were. Lower down, they ripped
down narrow paths in the jungle to get to fields
and back to Antigua.

TRANSFORMATIVE TRIP
They finished their journey at Lake Aticlan, a vast
expanse of water in the middle of a crater, offering
runs with incredible views of the surrounding
volcanoes. But for Rodolphe there was one
highlight that couldn’t be rivalled. “It was fantastic
to spend time with everyone, but especially Fabien.
He’s a great guy, uncomplicated, passionate and
committed to what he does. He’s an inspiration for
achieving your dreams and getting to where you
want to be.” Luckily, the man-crush was mutual.
“There was an immediate connection between
us,” says Fabien. “Rodolphe is a guy who loves

ABOUT JULBO
Established in 1888, Julbo is a benchmark
for sports eyewear at world level. Based in
the Jura, the company has always drawn
inspiration from the mountains.
A pioneer in the production of glacier
sunglasses, today the brand is recognised
worldwide as a leading player in sun
protection in high-risk environments for all
outdoor sports. The company complements
this expertise by adapting the technical
lenses of its sunglasses to prescription
versions for each discipline.
The Julbo Sessions is a series of
competitions allowing enthusiasts to live
the life of professional sportspeople,
from mountain biking and trail running to
kitesurfing and skiing. Find out more at:
bit.ly/julbosessions

72 mbr JULY 2014

Golden volcanoes and
smokin’ trails are a match
made in heaven

FAINT TRACKS IN THE BLACK SAND TESTED
TECHNIQUE TO THE LIMIT. WITHOUT GOOD
ANTICIPATION THEY’D BE ON THE DECK
nature and was 100 per cent up for the adventure.
He amazed me with his professionalism in the
shoots. He’s also a really great rider who’s good
at anticipating his lines — even if his enthusiasm
caused a few falls along the way!”
Any ambitious trip isn’t just about magical
sunrises and pyrotechnic volcanoes. There was
the missing luggage when they got to Guatemala,
a technical problem with the car which meant
looking for a welder in the middle of nowhere...
in other words, a mash-up of all the ingredients
that make a trip what it is: a break from ordinary
life. But for Rodolphe it was something more, and
something genuinely life-changing.
“The trip helped open my eyes to my own life
and what I really want to do with it,” he explains.
“I’ve been riding a bike since I was small, and I’ve
gone down the same classical route as lots of other
people: studies, work, a normal life. But I pass my
days looking out of the window and wanting to
be in a forest with my bike. I’ve come back from
the Julbo session with my eyes open, knowing it’s
possible to live life at the maximum while making
a living too. This is what I really want to do. At the
end of the month I’m quitting my job as a designer
to start up a new project in bikes, video and travel.
My new life is only just beginning.” Told you it’s a
risky business riding with the pros…!

I’ll go first Fabien, it
gets a bit technical here

NEED TO KNOW
GUATEMALA

■ Capital: Guatemala City
■ Language: Spanish
■ Entry requirements: EU nationals need a passport valid for more
than six months from date of departure from Guatemala.
■ Money: Expect to pay 40 quetzals (£3) for a dish in a traditional
restaurant, up to 70Q (£5.50) for an upmarket meal in a city.
Accommodation costs from 80Q to 150Q (£6-£11.50) depending on
the standard required.
■ Getting around: If you’re on a budget then ‘chicken buses’
(so-called because of the number of feathered creatures on board,
not the bravery required to travel by them) cost around 10Q (75p) per
hour. Car hire costs around 550Q (£42) per day.
■ When to go: Dry season runs from November to March.

WHAT TO TAKE
Summer clothing during the dry season, but warmer gear if you’re
heading to high-altitude peaks such as Acatenango. Be aware that
volcanic lava is highly corrosive for bikes, shoes and other gear.
Looking for new eyewear? Julbo Stunt & Pipeline sunglasses with
Zebra Light photochromic lenses (cat. 1 to 3) would be ideal for
this trip.

ORGANISED TOURS
Julbo used a specialist biking company to look after logistics. It cost
$150 per day for the group with mini-van/driver + cook/assistant.
A house for 10 people cost $200 per day in Antigua. For details,
speak to Mayan Bike and ask for Luisa or Joel, 00 502 5708 7408,
info@mayanbike.com.

A WORD OF WARNING
The trails are typically unnamed, unmapped and have no website,
so you’ll need to get the information you need from locals.

F E AT U R E

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

ME VERSUS
THE PEOPLE
mbr’s editor tries out a mile-munching Lakeland epic with 300 other riders for
company. Too much of a good thing or taking fun to a new level? It’s time to find out…
Words: Simon Collis Photos: Benji Haworth, Chris Catchpole

74 mbr JULY 2014

JULY 2014

mbr 75

F E AT U R E

all me antisocial, but I
loving riding on my
own. I’m not in this
for the chatter. I don’t
want to struggle up a
hill while everyone
waits for me at the top, and
I don’t want to stand around
getting cold while someone fiddles
around endlessly with a
multi-tool and a shock
pump. I go to the pub
to talk, and I go to the
trails to ride. The fewer
distractions, the better.
It’s probably no surprise, then, that I’ve never
tried a big organised ride. Hundreds of people
riding the same route? Sounds like a good time
to hit the trails elsewhere. I’m aware that lots of
people — thousands of them every weekend, in
fact — would disagree. Sportives on the road keep
on growing, so is there something to be gained
from solidarity? From camaraderie? Once I’ve
stopped shuddering from even typing those two
words, I’ll put the theory to the test.
The event I’ve chosen is the Grizedale Grizzly,
part of the Adventure X series that’s a kind of
on- and off-road sportive designed primarily for
cross bikes and hardtails. And it’s not the number
of fellow riders that’s likely to cause the biggest
problem — more the length of the route, which
at 75km is the biggest ride I’ve ever tackled. And
that’s the so-called ‘Mini Massif’. The full-blown
‘Massif’ is over 100km with more than 2,500m
of ascent. There’s a fair portion on tarmac on
both routes (that’s where the cross bikes come in),
but it’s still likely to be a shock compared to the
shorter, sharper rides I’m used to.
I seek advice from the mbr team before I set off.
Bike test editor Muldoon, never short of wisdom,
gives me a three-point plan that he says will
ensure I “at least make it to the finish”. Eat before
you’re hungry. Drink before you’re thirsty. And go
at your own pace. I do all these things on a normal
day in the office, so it shouldn’t be a problem to do
them on the trail. I feel a surge of confidence.
As the big day approaches, my bullishness
subsides. If I’m going to collapse into a quivering
mess at a Lake District roadside, I’d rather not
do it in front of a procession of 200 strangers. I
know it’d be memorable for everyone to have a
good laugh at the mbr editor’s expense — a bit
like reversing into a caravan and then realising it
belongs to Jeremy Clarkson — but it’s not the kind
of amusement I’m looking to stimulate. Matters
aren’t helped when I meet up with some mbr and
Cycling Weekly staff for a last orders pint the night
before the event. Our art editor, Ben, points at my
pint and sniggers darkly, “Are you sure you should
be drinking that?” He doesn’t need to know that I
already had two with my dinner in a pub around
the corner. Drink before you’re thirsty, that’s what
Muldoon told me.

PREP TALK
The morning can’t come too soon, and the bright
sunshine brings with it a new sense of optimism.
The car park at Cartmel Racecourse is filling
up and riders are milling around, pointlessly

76 mbr JULY 2014

W I T HIN 10 0 M OF L E AV ING
THE RACECOURSE WE’RE ON
PICTURESQUE COUNTRY LANES
cycling forks, glancing at each other’s bikes and
occasionally stripping off. There’s more Lycra
than I’m used to, but so far, so trail centre. I’m in
my element.
I line up alongside six strangers for a preride briefing that’s straight to the point. “The
Adventure X isn’t a race,” says Cheryl from
organiser Rather Be Cycling. Cue sniggers from
our group, who have clearly been talking about
who’s going to be fastest.
And then we’re off. Within 100m of leaving the
racecourse we’re on picturesque, gently winding
country lanes. I’m no roadie, but I might be if it

was more like this and less like high-speed car
dodging for suicidal sociopaths. I’ve borrowed a
rather beautiful Canyon carbon hardtail for the
weekend (did someone say ‘all the gear, no idea?’)
and it feels amazing. Straight away we’re riding
at our own paces — a couple of guys have already
streaked into the distance, another group are
sticking together at a quick but sociable speed
up ahead, and myself and a chap in an orange
jacket are hanging back at the rear. No matter how
slowly I go, he’s staying behind me, so I figure he’s
identified me as a sensible pace-setter to guarantee
reaching the finish. This is definitely not a

ABOUT THIS
SERIES
Ever taken a leap into the unknown? Ever
seen something you fancy trying… or that
you’d do anything to avoid?
This series is about leaving your comfort
zone and trying something for the first time.
mbr writers take the plunge into something
they’d love to do, have been putting off or
never saw the point of — and the result is a
unique perspective on the many different
possibilities of mountain biking.

Who needs a map
when there are pink
pointers to follow

Sheep and solitude can
drive a man baa-rmy

Adventure X: a
taste of the Lakes’
rocky trails

The climb continues
with a rocky road

WHAT IS ADVENTURE X?
Organised by Rather Be Cycling on behalf of mbr and Cycling Weekly, Adventure X is a series of
group rides that incorporate road and off-road sections. It is designed for hardtails and cross bikes and
typically offers a shorter route of around 45 miles (72km) and a longer version of 60 miles (95km).

FORTHCOMING EVENTS
■ Sunday July 13 Rhinog Raptor, Coed-y-Brenin, Wales
■ Sunday September 21 Galloway Gallop, Dumfries, Scotland
■ Sunday October 12 Lakeland Monster Miles, Keswick, England
Book your place at bookmyride.co.uk

JULY 2014

mbr 77

Gorse play: picking up
speed through a
corridor of yellow

F E AT U R E

“Always eat before
you’re hungry.”
Well, if you insist...

race, but we have set off at the same time and he
is clearly a similar level of fitness to me. He’s my
benchmark, and I resolve to streak away from him
in the last few kilometres or die trying.
The road is surprisingly pleasant but it’s not
why I’m here, and soon we reach the first off-road
section, the so-called ‘A taste of things to come’.
Sure enough, the pattern is set, not just for the
terrain we’ll encounter — amazing views, mainly
dry, picturesque bridleways and some slightly
loose, rocky climbs — but the way we’ll ride them.
A few of us overtake each other regularly as we
stop to faff with clothing or mess up a climb and
push to the top, and we gradually get to know each
other as we go. I’m now on nodding terms with
‘Mr Benchmark’ in the orange jacket, who I will
slay before the day is out. There’s a running joke
with another group about how many pints we’ve
sweated out from the night before — seems some
people are here for an enjoyable weekend without
bringing along a sarcastic art editor to spoil all the
fun. (Oi, I’m reading this too — Ben)
I’m starting to get into this. I drink before I’m
thirsty, eat before I’m hungry. Off-road sections
give way to tarmac just as they’re starting to get
tiring; road gives way to off-road before I get too
bored. There’s a real flow to the ride because we
never have to stop to check a map — plentiful route
arrows along the way take care of that. I don’t need
to think about pacing because I’m surrounded by
people who seem like similar riders to me. Though
they aren’t especially technical, the climbs call on
a combination of the granny ring and gritted teeth,
but I’m pleased to see that some of my rivals — on
both cross bikes and hardtails — are pushing up
where I’m inching past on my pedals. Maybe I’m
better at mile-munching than I’d thought.

BLEAT SURRENDER
One thing I learn is that I can no longer blame
faffing on my riding buddies. I am capable,
it seems, of the solo faff. Energy bars sink to
the bottom of my pack and require endless
rummaging to locate. At one point I convince
myself I’ve acquired a puncture and have to stop
to prod my front tyre (it’s fine). I spend 10 minutes
searching for more sachets of energy drink; guess
I’ve left them in the car where they’re utterly
useless. Mr Benchmark disappears over the crest
of a hill in front, but I know I’ll see him again
before the finish.
By the time we reach the halfway feed
station, I’m convinced I’m in my element. Simple
mathematics dictates that if I’m feeling 95 per cent
fit at halfway then I’ll still be at 90 per cent when I
get to the end. I top up on energy drink, cram a few
Jaffa cakes in my gob and push on. At the back of

78 mbr JULY 2014

my mind, despite everything I told myself before
the ride, I decide that just making it to the finish
might not be enough — perhaps I should be aiming
for a time I’ll be proud of, too.
The climbs seem steeper as we leave the feed
station, and they’re mainly on tarmac. I know I’m
pushing too hard, trying to keep in touch with
riders up ahead rather than sticking to my own
pace. But gradually we stretch out, and for the
first time I feel totally alone. Sheep bleat at me
on the way past; I bleat back. Why the hell not?
Loneliness and dehydration do strange things to
a man.
The climbs take us into Grizedale Forest Park
and the trees close in around us. This feels more
like the riding I’m used to, but surprisingly — a
little bit disappointingly, to be honest — we don’t
cash in our hard-won altitude by blasting down
some rooty, rocky, foresty singletrack. Instead, we
career down the fire road, though I’d be lying if I
said it wasn’t fun. It’s eye-wateringly fast, on loose
gravel that’s just begging you to overcook the
War of the roadies: the
battle of the blacktop
recommences

Proof that even
decades-old hardtails
beat cross bikes

5'(5 %< 30
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!2'4 $2' - 
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It’s sweet relief to get
the finisher’s pack
and medal

F E AT U R E

TOP TIPS FOR
ADVENTURE X
We asked Gav from Rather Be Cycling
for some tips on nailing a long-distance,
off-road/on-road group ride.

corners. I accept the invitation while chasing some
flash Harry on a cross bike and skid straight on as
the trail bends away to the left. Luckily no one’s
behind me and no one needs to know (except
20-odd thousand readers… damn).

FEELING THE BURN
Into the final third, what really strikes me is the
solitude. I expected this group ride to be sociable
and a bit crowded, but instead we’re strung out
along the whole route, each rider barely visible
to the next. Occasionally a serious-looking,
surprisingly un-sweaty man streaks past me in
a blur of Lycra and hollers ‘’ow do?’, but for most
of the last portion of the ride it’s me on my own.
My eyes barely move beyond my front wheel as
tarmac and rocks roll unnervingly slowly beneath
my knobbly tyre. At some point in the last hour,
all thoughts of who I can ‘beat’ have drained away,
replaced by a build-up of lactic acid in my thighs
and an ache in my backside that feels potentially
life-threatening.
Then out of nowhere, a sign tells me there’s 5km
left. I’m going to make it. I’m overtaken by a chap
on a hardtail, and it’s gratifying that when we
try to exchange jokes it isn’t just me panting and
slurring like a drunkard running for the night bus.
We’re each in our own little worlds, but we’re also
sharing an experience. If this wasn’t a group ride
I might have stopped by now, but deep down I’m
glad I haven’t. We’re sweating and suffering, but
there will be smiles at the finish line. What we’re
aiming for is a sense of achievement, that warm
glow you can only get from knowing you’ve dug
deep to complete something that could have been
beyond you. It’s not a question of ‘if’ now — it’s just

WE’RE ALL
SWE ATING AND
SUFFERING, BUT
THERE WILL BE
SMILES AT THE
FINISH LINE
about when we get to the finish, and I know it’s so
close I can almost taste it.
It seems the organisers won’t let us off the hook
quite so easily, however. The last off-road section,
‘Final Fandago’, is only 1.6km long but ends in a
steep climb that’s the very definition of a sting in
the tail. The views are amazing but I’m focused
on what I’m told is the final kilometre. Yet the
finish line keeps itself surprisingly hidden, only
appearing when I’m virtually on top of it for a
final right-hander and — at last — the chance to
dismount. I snatch a medal and collapse onto the
grass, staring up at the sky and waiting for my
thighs to stop burning.
There’s a good buzz about the place at the finish
line, and I imagine we all feel much the same:
we’ve pushed ourselves and had a really good day
on the bike. Then I spot Mr Benchmark sitting
next to the food van chatting with friends. He’s
drunk most of a cup of tea. He’s obviously been
here for ages. I feel like I’ve been had.

■ It pays for mtb riders to think about their
bike, and especially their tyres. A hardtail
will be more efficient than a full-susser. The
best tyre will take a fairly high pressure and
roll well on- and off-road, but we wouldn’t
recommend slicks.
■ Pay special attention to your fuelling on the
day — eat little and often and stay hydrated.
Supplement your own food with what’s on
offer at the feed stations and eat a mix of
‘real’ as well as sports-specific nutrition.
■ The Mini Massif (shorter) option gives a
great ride, so try that first. The experience
you gain, along with some endurance
training, will serve you well when you step up
to the full-on Massif routes.
■ Look after your points of contact.
Adventure X is really a secret roadie plot
to convert mtb riders — make your butt
comfortable by using good quality Lycra and
chamois cream. Keep your feet and hands
comfortable and protected using quality kit
that fits.
■ If you do one event this year make it
the Lakeland Monster Miles (Keswick,
October 12). This is the Daddy of Adventure
X events, and the long, steep climbs and
technical nature of the route make it an
equally tough challenge for mtb’ers and
cross riders.
■ Consider building up a Monster Crosser — a
29er with drop bars, rigid forks and 40-45c
tyres. That really would be the perfect
Adventure X bike.
■ You can organise an Adventure X
coaching session with Rather Be Cycling —
visit ratherbecycling.co.uk or email
info@ratherbecycling.co.uk.

SIMON’S VERDICT
The big group ride wasn’t entirely what I’d expected. It was more solitary than
I thought it’d be, though the direction arrows and feed stations mean you get the
peace of a solo ride without the risks inherent in setting off into the unknown.
And the fact that you know you’re in a group, even if you can’t always see them
around you, means you inevitably make your stops shorter, your climbs and
descents faster, and you can’t countenance not completing the route. It was
a brilliant challenge, and I felt real pride at the finish. I’m definitely up for
another go — and next time I’ll do it faster.

80 mbr JULY 2014

Strike a pose: pain
gives way to pride  

   


  

    

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NEW PRODUCTS

Tested
CRANK BROTHERS MALLET DH PEDALS
£ 1 1 9.9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 470g • Contact: extrauk.co.uk

I

love the solid platform and confidence that
you get with flat pedals, and I also love the
pedalling efficiency and security of going
clipless. What I’m really looking for, then, is
a hybrid of the two. The closest I’ve come to
that Holy Grail is Shimano’s DX SPDs, but Crank
Brothers Mallet DH pedals move the game on for
trail riders and downhillers alike.
Almost every top downhiller in the world uses
these pedals — including Shimano-sponsored
riders like Gee Atherton — and the reason for
their popularity is simple: the platform boasts
acres of real estate. It’s a proper concave design
too, so the ball of your foot is cupped and the
eight pins per side actually dig into the sole of
your shoe. In addition, the Crank Brothers binding
lets you clip in on the upstroke and downstroke,
which isn’t an option on Shimano pedals.
As a serial Shimano SPD user, there were
elements of the Mallets that took a little
time to get used to. Positioning the cleats
correctly, I quickly learned, is critical to proper
performance. For one thing, the mechanism
is further outboard than on Shimano pedals,
so you need to mount the cleats to the outside
edge of the recess to bring your foot back
towards the crank. It’s also worth installing a
spacer (supplied) under each cleat if you run
the pins fully exposed. The Mallets allow plenty
of float (15 or 20° depending on which way you
run the cleats) so it’s vital to toe-in the cleats,
otherwise your shoe can hit the cranks and
prevent disengagement — at which point you
will probably find yourself toppling over.
Previous Mallet pedals haven’t had the best
reputation for durability but I’ve been running
these for six months, including the worst of a
very wet winter, and they’re still going strong.
The only attention they’ve needed has been
some fresh grease injected into the body and a
bit of oil on the springs.

Although £120 is almost twice the price
of Shimano’s DX pedals, the performance is
outstanding. Now that my feet have memorised
the new cleat positions, and I’ve got used to
the more ambiguous, less mechanical action
of the Mallet binding, I wouldn’t go back. The
downhillers are right — the Mallet DHs give more
support, better leverage when cornering and
greater traction when unclipped.
Danny Milner

YOUR
TESTERS

86 mbr JULY 2014

PAUL BURWELL

JAMIE DARLOW

ANDY MCCANDLISH

DANNY MILNER

BEN SMITH

Recovered from back
injury. Looking forward
to summer of sun, fun and
getting out of the group.

Just back from a weekend
in the Lake District on a
totally inappropriate bike.
Looking forward to
the wedding.

Still ripping on the 29er
wheels. Looking forward
to a Mars Bar deep-fried
in batter.

Testing yet another flash
car for a car mag. Looking
forward to poncing
around at European
media launches.

Planning a trip to the
Passporte Du Soleil.
Looking forward to finding
love (again) with another
longtermer.

STRAITLINE AMP STEM
£100
SPECIFICATION Weight: 155g • Colours: black, grey, orange, red, blue, green, blue, purple • Length: 90, 70 and 50mm • Contact: hotlines-uk.com

Straitline claims its Amp is lightweight,
yet rugged enough for the most demanding
freeride applications, which is a bold claim
to make. If we compare the Amp
to its peers, it’s a similar weight
to an Easton Haven alloy stem
(143g) or a Hope FR (132g) but
both are £20 cheaper. In terms
of stiffness, the Amp is pretty
similar to the Easton, and has a
similar faceplate too. The Amp’s
Moto design means you tighten the
top two fixing bolts fully and then
nip up the bottom two, which
reduces uneven clamping on the
faceplate and also eliminates the
ugly gap between it and the body
of the stem.
The Amp gets a nice gloss finish,
all the bolts screw into the stem straight but

could do with some Loctite. Straitline even
chamfers all the edges of the stem where
it touches the handlebar, again

reducing stress in a high-risk area.
Hope offers its FR stem down to 35mm and
Easton has more options for the
Haven too. All of which leaves the
Amp as a sorted design with a
quality finish that’s available
in a good range of
colours, but there are
limited lengths and it’s a
tad pricey compared to
the competition.
Paul Burwell

CONTROLTECH VENOM CB20
CARBON DH HANDLEBAR
£ 1 3 9.9 9
SPECIFICATION Width: 750mm • Rise: 20mm • Weight: 225g • Contact: hotlines-uk.com

At 750mm, the Venom is wide enough for trail riding, but I doubt many
downhillers would want to go this narrow. It’s light, though — 10g lighter than
Easton’s Havoc 750mm carbon bar, and stiff without being harsh — just as a
carbon bar should be to deaden some of the buzz from the trail.
It’s the shape that lets this bar down, though, because there isn’t
enough rise on the back-sweep, so you end up rolling the bar
too far forward to compensate and this doesn’t bring it
high enough.
Jamie Darlow

SCORES ON THE DOORS

What mbr
ratings mean
Our grading
system explained

1-4

Something’s wrong. It’s rare, but sometimes
a product will have a design flaw or some
other weakness that means we can’t
recommend it. Steer clear.

5-6

OK — one or two
faults but it has
potential.

Good —
Very
worth
good
considering. — for the
money,
we’d buy it.

7

8

Excellent
— a slight
mod or two
and it might
be perfect.

9

Simply
the best
— we couldn’t
fault it.

10

JULY 2014

mbr 87

NEW PRODUCTS

AMERICAN CLASSIC
WIDE LIGHTNING WHEELS
£ 5 9 9.9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 1,599g (743g front, 856g rear) • Rim width: 29.3mm (internal) •
Contact: moorelarge.co.uk

Call a wheelset Wide Lightning and you
expect it to have a pretty expansive
rim. American Classic doesn’t
disappoint, with a whopping 29.3mm
internal width that lets your tyre form
a better, curved shape to make a
bigger footprint on the trail. It’s a big
improvement over a narrower rim and
seems to add about a quarter of an inch
to any tyre, which means you can go
down a tyre size, save weight and get
the same grip. The flip side is that my
current tyres would no longer squeeze
between the chainstays, which is a
serious issue given that these rims are
intended for XC use.
I was also able to run my tyres at
super-low pressures without burping
or rolling, and without losing the
handling qualities inherent in the
shape of a tyre. I think this is probably
the result of the wide rim again.
The overall weight (1,599g) is

Rear hub wasn’t
without its issues

lightweight for aluminium
wheels, especially ones
with rims this wide. They are
comparable with Specialized’s
Roval Carbon 29s, although the
Rovals are designed for slightly
heavier-duty riding.
I’ve treated the Wide
Lightnings as trail bike wheels
though, and they’re still perfectly
true and without a ding, although
the splines on the aluminium
cassette body have been badly cut
up by the cassette, despite special
metal protector plates.
The pick-up is good once the pawls
are engaged, but there’s a perceptible
feeling of softness, almost a dead zone
before power gets transmitted from the
cassette body to the wheel. The hub
works using six pawls, which are only
engaged when you put the power down
— secondary ratchets push those six
pawls into position through a cam plate.
It’s only a small movement but it’s one
that delivers a lag when you’re riding.
They’re decently stiff for a wheel of this
weight and use, they’re
light for the money
and impressively
wide, but they don’t
inject enough zip
into your ride.
Jamie Darlow

ION FRAME
SAVER SAS-TEC

FIZIK THAR KIUM SADDLE

£ 1 8 .9 5

£ 1 0 9.9 9

SPECIFICATION 1.7mm
thick protection sticker •
Contact: ion-products.com

SPECIFICATION Weight: 224g • Colours: black, black/red • Manganese rail version £84.99 • Contact: extrauk.co.uk

Seeing the extent to which people get tetchy when
the issue of wheel size is raised, mentioning a
saddle specifically designed for 29ers might just be
enough to incite civil unrest. But that’s exactly what
Fi’zi:k — the Italian accessory brand and sanctuary
for orphaned punctuation marks — has created.
The theory is that 29ers often have slacker seat
tubes to accommodate the larger wheels, while
keeping chainstay length in check (which
is true), so riders can end up sitting
too far back for ideal traction
on steep climbs (also true). By
adding 25mm to the rails at
the rear of the saddle, the
Thar lets you slide the saddle
further forward and helps
redress the balance.
So does it work? In a word,
yes. The wider range of fore-aft
adjustment makes it easier to

88 mbr JULY 2014

achieve a more efficient seated position. Being
narrow also means that it doesn’t catch on your
shorts when sliding back off the saddle, although,
ironically, the minimal padding makes it somewhat
brutal in an upright riding position.

Danny Milner

When that big rock that
your mate has just flicked
up into the air smashes
into your precious carbon
down tube, you’ll wish
you’d applied some
protection. One rock
in the wrong place can
punch a hole in any frame
— we’ve seen it happen.
ION’s cushioned SAS-TEC
Frame Saver kit sticks
fast, absorbs impacts,
deadens chain slap and
may just save your frame.
There’s enough in the kit
to cover an entire down
tube as well as
a chainstay.
Danny Milner

NEW PRODUCTS

FIZIK CYRANO R1
CARBON SEATPOST

SPANK OOZY TRAIL
295 WHEELSET
£ 4 4 9.9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 1,696g • Sizes: 26in, 650b (tested), 29in • External width: 29.5mm, internal width: 24.5mm •
Colours: black only • Contact: hotlines-uk.com

£ 1 3 9.9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 215g • Diameter: 27.2, 30.9 or 31.9mm • Length: 270mm (only
in 27.2mm), 330mm, 400mm • Contact: extrauk.co.uk

At 215g the Cyrano R1 isn’t the lightest carbon post on the
market, but I don’t want to start this review with a kick in
the pants because the detail is where this post shines. The
Cyrano R1 has a top-notch clamp mechanism that made
fitting and levelling saddles a zippy affair — and I ran it
through a saddle test with all the associated swapping so
I should know! Level it with the thumbscrew at the front,
clamp down with the Allen bolt at the back… once you get
the technique right it’s simple and secure.
Fizik has shaped the carbon inside to allow a bit more
front-to-back flex. To put it to the test I’ve been running this
post on my 29er hardtail and it really takes the
sting out of the trail. After five months I’ve
yet to have a creak, groan or saddle slip.
It is pretty dang expensive, but I love the
look and the handy little rubber doughnut
that marks your post insertion if removed
from the bike.
Andy McCandlish

Spank recently launched an update to its
top-scoring Oozy EVO wheelset, using
wider 29.5mm rims with a unique internal
design feature called Bead Bite technology.
The very hard aluminium material and
wavy (think corrugated iron) rim profile that
gave the original Spank’s wheels such lateral
stiffness remains, but inside the new Trail
295 rim are several 0.2mm ridges where
the tyre bead rests. These work like a set
of teeth to keep the tyre hooked in place,
making it more resistant to burping air
when running tubeless, and more resistant
to shifting or squirming too. According
to Spank the combination of a wider rim
and the ridges means riders can now run
pressures under 20psi with zero burps or
tyre rollover.
The Bead Bite technology makes the tyre
a lot harder to seat — it took over 80psi
to get the bead of a Maxxis High Roller II
to pop into the rim well. This isn’t too big
a deal though, and the loud bang when it
does engage sounds reassuring.
Tyre pressures under 20psi feel spongy
and vague to me, but riders looking for
ultimate grip at slower speeds might find it
useful. The wider rims lay down a broader
tyre footprint that’s noticeably more stable
than the older Oozy wheels’, and with

equivalent rim weights, the wheels still have
very good zip and turnover.
Spank Oozy wheels are rock-solid, fast
rolling and reliable performers with really
tough rims, but I’d prefer it if they came
set up for tubeless with the tubeless tape
installed as standard. That’s
severe nit-picking though,
because for the money
you won’t find a better
set of wheels for trail/
all-mountain use.
Mick Kirkman

Tiny ridges keep
the tyre seated

Ideal for
tubeless tyres

Top marks for
quality wheels

GROUP
TEST

RIDING GLASSES
Ben Smith takes a closer look at, and through, a trio of trail gazers

NORTHWAVE PREDATOR
£ 4 9.9 9

TIFOSI LORE FOTOTEC LIGHT NIGHT
£ 6 9.9 9

UVEX SPORTSTYLE 104
£ 8 9.9 9

SPECIFICATION Weight: 22g • Colours: black • Contact: i-ride.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 29g • Colours: black, white, gunmetal
Contact: zyro.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 30g • Colours: white, black, red, white/
red, white/blue, white/green • Contact: raleigh.co.uk

Straight out of Heston Blumental’s wardrobe,
the Predators from Northwave feature a full
frame with two fixed lenses. They look quite
spindly but actually feel really solid. The lenses
are polarised and feature a very light tint, which
is fine on all but the brightest days, although
for the same money you can buy a more
versatile photocromic Predator. Optical quality
is good but the full frame is constantly in your
eyeline when riding and obviously they’re not
as versatile as eyewear with interchangeable
lenses. The biggest issue with the Predators
though is their size; I have a small head and yet
these were still too small for me. They sit very
close and touched my brow. Though this means
very small faces and potentially women are well
catered for, that close fit meant the Predators
misted up at the slightest hint
of exertion and the lack of
ventilation in the lens ensured
they stayed that way.

Although the most casually styled pair of glasses
here, the chunky frame still says mountain biker.
They feature a photochromic lens, one that adapts
to changing light conditions, so you never have to
bother carrying a spare lens with you. This worked
well on the trail, changing quickly so that I never
felt I was wearing the wrong glasses. Optical
quality is top notch and the half-frame design
keeps the edges of your vision clear. The casual
styling means the lens doesn’t follow the face as
closely as, say, the Uvex, so more muck does find
its way inside but it also helps with de-misting.
They do feel a little heavier compared to the other
two pairs here and did occasionally slip down my
nose a little when really sweaty, but they proved to
be the eyewear I kept coming back to.

The 104s have quite an old-school cycling
glasses shape with a large full-width lens
that contours around the face. The lens is
interchangeable and comes in three different
tints — clear, orange tint for cloudier conditions,
and iridium for use in full sun. Optical quality
with all three is very good, crystal clear with no
distortion, although the orange lens brightened
things up so much I almost felt queasy.
Changing the lens is a fiddly process,
especially if you don’t have long fingernails,
although a light-sensitive photochromic version
is available for £119.99.
In use I found the chunky frame interfered
a bit with some all-mountain type helmets so
be advised to check whether your helmet sits
high enough from your ears before you buy.
Adaptable nose and earpieces mean the 104s
are very comfortable. Hardly any mud got past
the lens and fogging up was never really an
issue as small vents at the top of the lens help
with de-misting.

LONG
TERMERS
Countless hours on
the trails make this
the ultimate test
of performance as
well as reliability

INTRODUCING

ROO’S ORBEA RALLON X30
£2,289 (with upgrades) / 650b / orbea.com

WHY IT’S HERE
ne look at the numbers on the
Rallon X30 and it’s obvious that
this is a serious enduro bike:
slack 65° head angle, ultra-low
338mm bottom bracket height
and 160mm travel from a new 650b chassis.
The numbers on the price tag are equally
impressive: £2,199 for this very luminous
X30 base model is nothing short of a steal.
There are three other models in the range
all the way up to the Enduro World Series
race-ready X-LTD at £5,499. On each model
there are various upgrade options, so you
can change individual components to suit
your riding needs and budget. Keep an eye
on the costs, though, as it’s an extra £324
to upgrade from the stock Race Face Ride
seatpost to a RockShox Reverb, so you’d be
better off buying one separately — you can
pick them up for less than £250 if you shop
around. Still, it’s great to be able to pick and
choose, and when ordering my X30 I opted
for Shimano SLX brakes over the standard
Formula C1s, as I’ve heard they are more
reliable. Hence the £90 increase in price.
Six weeks later the Rallon arrived.
Unboxing the bike a few things became
immediately apparent that weren’t obvious

O
THE RIDER
ROO FOWLER
Position Photographer
Mostly rides Surrey Hills
Height 6ft 4in
Weight 88kg

THE BIKE
■ 650b enduro race
bike that won’t break
the bank
■ 160mm-travel Fox
CTD suspension and
adjustable frame
geometry
■ Direct sales
from Spain with
customisable spec
■ 2x10 drivetrain
with bashguard

92 mbr JULY 2014

An enduro
from the Orbea website.
and 2.25in on the back to
bike with great
Firstly, the brakes were the
reduce rolling resistance, it
wrong way round; front brake
looks like Orbea has given it
geometry and a
on the left. Because the
some thought.
killer price, but is
Shimano levers aren’t flipable,
Fully built up, this bike
there a catch?
I carefully swapped the brake
looks amazing with a strong
hoses to avoiding bleeding both
colour scheme and eye-catching
brakes. Fingers crossed, it works out!
graphics. It certainly doesn’t look
Secondly, there’s been some cost cutting
like the cheapest model in the range.
that’s most obvious at the rear-end, with a
While bouncing around the car park
basic Shimano hub that felt and sounded
setting up the suspension I noticed that the
ropey straight out of the box. Also,
rear-end felt particularly supple with good
even though the frame is designed for a
progression in the linkage to prevent the
142x12mm axle, the entry-level X30 uses
shock bottoming too easily. Straddling the
dropout adapters for a regular QR.
bike, the chunky Rallon frame is reassuring,
Beyond these things the bike looks
but the combination of the Fox 34 fork and
good. There is Stealth cable routing ripe for
relatively spindly looking stem leads to a
upgrading to a dropper post and the frame
slightly less solid-looking front-end.
design is neat and tidy, with rubber frame
My first ride confirmed the quality of
protectors in critical areas like the down
the rear suspension and dispensed with
tube and stays. At 750mm, the Race Face
any concerns about steering precision,
bar is a good width, but the 70mm stem is
but it also revealed that the size large is
slightly longer than ideal on a bike with such
a little short for my 6ft 4in frame. With
an aggressive attitude.
no XL in the range I’ll see how I get on,
The only unknown quantity (for me,
but it will probably rule out the option of
anyway) are the Geax tyres. The rubber
running a shorter stem and could be the
compound feels relatively soft and with the
only shortcoming of an otherwise great
mix of sizes, a 2.4in up front for extra grip
package. Time will tell.

IN THE
SHED

650b
Commençal Meta AM Girly £3,099.99

Geax Goma tyres
are specced in
two widths

650b
Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 2 £2,699

SPECIFICATION

Race Face 70mm
stem may be as
short as Roo can get

Giving the boxfresh ride a
good airing

Frame Hydroformed
triple-butted alloy,
160mm travel with
adjustable geometry
Shock Fox Float CTD
Boost Valve
Fork Fox 34 Float
CTD Evolution,
160mm travel
Wheels Shimano Deore
hubs, Mavic XM319
Disc rims, Geax Goma
2.4/2.25in tyres
Drivetrain Race Face
Ride 24x36t w/Bashguard, Shimano SLX
shifters and r-mech,
Deore f-mech
Brakes Shimano SLX
M675 Hydraulic Disc
Components
Race Face Evolve
750mm Riser bar, Race
Face Ride 70mm stem
and Ride seatpost
Sizes S, M, L
Weight 14.97kg (33lb)
Contact orbea.com

29in
KTM Ultra Race 29 £1,199.99

650b
Mondraker Dune XR £4,499

650b
Orange Five RS £4,199.99

GEOMETRY
(IN LOWEST SETTING)
Size L (19.5in)
Head angle 65.2°
Seat angle 70°
BB height 338mm
Chainstay 420mm
Front centre 785mm
Wheelbase 1,205mm
Down tube 725mm

650b
Orbea Rallon X30 £2,289

...orSpecialized
could it be theStumpjumper FSR
hammered
Comp hub
Evoon
£2,500
the front wheel?

29in

29in
Whyte T129 £1,699

JULY 2014 mbr

93

WHY IT’S HERE

LONGTERMERS

Progressive
geometry and
aggressive pricing
take 29ers to a
whole new level

JAMIE’S WHYTE T129
£ 1,699 / 2 9in / whytebikes.com

THE RIDER
JAMIE DARLOW
Position Staff writer
Mostly rides
Surrey Hills
Height 6ft 1in
Weight 75kg

THE BIKE
■ Short-travel 29er trail
bike with aggressive
riding attitude
■ Great value at £1,700
■ RockShox Monarch
shock and Reba fork
with 120mm travel
■ Sorted set-up:
nothing needs
upgrading

I

’m climbing up to the top of Nan Bield
pass in the Lake District, and for a
change the bike is sitting on me. I’ve
got the down tube buried into the top
of my pack but with every step of the
hike-a-bike up, the bike sags lower and
lower. Just as he said I would, I curse Benji
Haworth, the man who covered this route
for us in the March 2014 issue. But at the
top and with a fabulous-looking piece of
singletrack dropping steeply out of view
I give thanks to him for inspiring us to
come here… just as he said we would.
Why’s my bike so heavy though?
Later I discover it’s 13.8kg, or 30.5lb,
which isn’t bad for a 120mm 29er with a
dropper seatpost and big fat tyres. PB
has one and the whole bike weighs just
13.15kg (29lb). It’s not the wheels, as I’ve
swapped them for lightweight American

JASON’S STUMPY EVO
£2,500 / 29in /
specialized.com
As Liam once sang, it’s good to be
back. Having broken my collarbone
earlier in the year, I managed to
wrestle ‘my’ Stumpjumper back from
Roo after he’d ‘looked after it’ for me.
Apart from the frame dent, different
rear wheel and mangled Maxle, the
bike feels great. And, according
to Strava, I seem to be back up to
speed. Some summer tyres and some
summer weather beckon.

Classics. The drivetrain is my best guess,
bog standard SRAM 1000 crankset and
X7 gears. Or it could be that carrying
a bike up a rocky slope for 45 minutes
makes every bike feel heavy.
The descent of Nan Bield is a lot more
fun. The Whyte is long enough and just
about slack enough to deal with technical
descents like this, but I know I could go
faster on a more aggressive machine or
one with more suspension. Yet as the
trail mellows the Whyte reveals its best
side, popping over rocks and finding the
smoothest line, through flakes, pebbles,
grains and boulders of rock. I’m also
shown the worst side, a harsh sensation
through my hands coming from… the
frame? Well it’s got to be the frame,
or the shock tune, as I’ve changed just
about everything else.

JANET’S COMMENCAL META AM GIRLY
£3 , 0 9 9 . 9 9 / 6 5 0 b / c o m m e n c a l - s t o r e . c o . u k

THE RIDER
JANET COULSON
Position Writer
Mostly rides
Tweed Valley
Height 5ft 4in
Weight 54kg

THE BIKE
■ Women-specific
150mm-travel allmountain, tackleanything bike
■ 650b wheels walk
the line between 26
and 29in
■ Girly details,
including slim grips
and a women’s saddle
■ KS 125mm-travel
dropper post
as standard

94 mbr JULY 2014

The days are getting longer, the trails are
drying out and my riding time is on the up. In
fact, I am doing a lot of going up. As my rides
get longer I’m spending more time climbing,
and although the Girly is no bad climber, it’s
hardly a lightweight, either. It’s more than a
quarter of my body weight so I just stick the
rear shock in Climb mode and plug away.
On the plus side, however, my fitness
levels are also on the rise, and with the drier
weather making all the fun stuff rideable
again, the Commençal is finally coming into
its own. I’ve recently ridden a couple of
bikes with shorter reach so I am planning to
tweak the cockpit a little by fitting an even
shorter stem. I’m also going to fly in the
face of fashion and cut the handlebar down
just a touch, which will suit the tight, twisty,
tree-lined trails I’m
mostly riding. It’s
something I have
WHY IT’S HERE
been thinking
It’s the only
about for a while,
but now intend
dedicated allto do in earnest
mountain bike
— but mainly I am
for girls
looking forward to
a summer of fun!

LONGTERMERS

DANNY’S MONDRAKER
DUNE XR
£ 4 ,4 9 9 / 6 5 0 b / s i lve r f i s h- u k .c o m

WHY IT’S HERE

T

THE RIDER
DANNY MILNER
Position Deputy editor
Mostly rides Surrey Hills
Height 5ft 11in
Weight 68kg

THE BIKE
■ 160mm-travel 650b
enduro bike
■ Long wheelbase
for stability
■ Short stem (10mm)
for agility
■ Zero suspension
actuates shock at
both ends

96 mbr JULY 2014

he Fox 34 fork has been
taking a lot of flak recently.
Criticism has centred on a
lack of mid-stroke support,
leaving riders over-inflating
their forks and sacrificing grip and
comfort as a consequence. In a way
I’m lucky because the Mondraker’s
Forward Geometry (see page 18)
shuffles your weight rearward, so
it’s less of an issue on my Dune XR.
Even so, I’m running more air than I
should, so full travel remains elusive
and I’ve suffered sore hands on
faster, rougher trails.
A conversation with Chris Porter
— fellow Dune XR owner and MD
of Fox distributor Mojo — led to an
invitation to explore the various
options available to improve the
performance of the stock 34. At
the end of April, I took him up on
his offer.
Chris checked the back-end first.
Removing the shock revealed the
first problem: all four lower link
bearings had seized. Worse still, one
of the pivot bolts had rounded off.
So out came the drill, at which point
I was advised to look away.
With a new bolt and fresh
bearings fitted, Chris moved onto
the Float X shock. Getting full
travel out of the Zero Suspension
system is not a problem, so he
added the largest volume reducer
to the positive air chamber. It’s
a simple job that you can do at
home. Excess lubrication fluid was

You may feel a
little pain...

Getting a firm grip
on the problem

It pushes the
boundaries of
geometry
and sizing

SPECIFICATION

The Fox fork gets
an overhaul

First the retune,
then the reward

also wiped away, which increases
the volume and effectiveness of
the negative spring.
Up front, Chris showed me what
happens when you don’t lubricate
the fork seals. As it transitions
from compression to rebound, the
seals are momentarily stationary,
which creates a sticking point. This
happens many times a minute,
increasing friction, so it’s vital you
make a habit of cleaning and lubing
your seals between every ride.
Step two costs £40 on top of a
regular fork service (£119 for a Fox
34). For this, my FIT damper was
upgraded to 2015 valving, with the
choice of five different tunes, each

with a distinct level of support. I
opted for the middle option. If you
run a 26in or 650b Float, you can
also install the deeper top-cap
(spring side) from the 29er version,
which reduces the spring volume
to add progression to the end of
the stroke. In other words, there
are many ways to tune your 2013
or 2014 Fox 34, all of which cost
significantly less than a new fork.
Later that day, my freshly
massaged Dune XR felt brilliant on
a quick blast down the trails behind
Mojo’s workshop. The back end in
particular benefitted from a big
boost in grip and sensitivity. Now
it’s time to hit the rough stuff.

Frame Stealth Evo alloy,
160mm travel
Shock Fox Float X CTD
Factory Kashima
Fork Fox 34 Float CTD
FIT Factory Kashima,
160mm travel
Wheels E13 TRS+AL
hubs and rims, Onza
Ibex FRC TLR,
2.4in tyres
Brakes Formula The
One, 203mm/180mm
Drivetrain SRAM XO1
chainset, SRAM XO1
rear mech and shifter
Components Onoff
Stoic 10mm stem, Onoff
760mm bar, RockShox
Reverb seatpost
Weight 13.87kg
(30.6lb)
Sizes S, M, L, XL

GEOMETRY
Size tested L
Head angle 66.6°
Seat angle 69.3°
BB height 345mm
Chainstay 435mm
Front centre 785mm
Wheelbase 1,220mm
Down tube 730mm 

                 

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WHY IT’S HERE

LONGTERMERS

Big wheels, more
travel and slacker
geometry make
an all-new
Trance

ANDY’S KTM
ULTRA RACE
29ER
£ 1 , 1 9 9.9 9 / 2 9 i n / f l i d i s t r i b u t i o n . c o .u k

DAVE’S GIANT TRANCE
ADVANCED 27.5 2
£2 ,699 / 650b / giant-bicycles.com
un. That’s the word that best sums up the new Trance.
It’s a close-run thing, though. Words like fast, capable,
engaging, lively and flickable are equally adept at
describing just how good Giant’s revamped 140mm
trail bike is, and how much it has impressed me.
Every ride leaves me grinning from ear to ear. It’s just so
much damn fun to ride that I’ve been hitting the trails loads
recently, and using it on everything from cross-country
all-day rides to sessioning the downhill tracks at FoD. In fact,
when you can always muster the energy to do just one more
lap of the trail before heading home, even though your legs
are falling off, you know the bike is doing something right.
Something else that has impressed me (so far) is the
zero maintenance the Trance has needed. Despite spending
most of the time caked in mud with only occasional oil for
the chain, everything has proved mechanically sound. The
dropper post still works smoothly, the 2x10 transmission
provides enough ratios for even the steepest climbs, and the
chain hasn’t even dropped once. Occasionally when shifting
from the little chainring to the big one it will skip off the
MRP lower roller,
though so far it
2x10 MRP:
under
hasn’t resulted
investigation
in the chain
coming off. It’s
something I need
to investigate,
but other
than that, the
Trance has been
blinding.

F
THE RIDER
DAVE ARTHUR
Position writer/tester
Mostly rides FoD/Wales
Height 5ft 11in
Weight 66kg

THE BIKE
■ 140mm trail bike
with carbon front end
■ Complete redesign
with 650b wheels
and new attitude
■ 2x10 drivetrain with
an MRP chainguide
and Type 2 rear mech
■ Internally routed
Giant dropper post

98 mbr JULY 2014

As we pull through some of the wettest
trail conditions I have seen in Scotland
for years, the rejuvenated terrain has
definitely highlighted the strengths of
the KTM. This bike really comes alive
when its direct acceleration and stable
speed can be capitalised on, and I have
been whooping it up around the local
flowy singletrack with a real springTHE RIDER
has-sprung grin on my face.
ANDY McCANDLISH
I’ve shelved the idea of wider bars in
Position snapper/tester favour of just getting out there to enjoy
Mostly rides
this turn of speed and planted steering
Scotland
with the longer stem back in place. And
Height 5ft 11in
to be honest, the 700mm bar is fine for
Weight 80kg
most of the riding that I’ve been doing.
THE BIKE
All this speed puts everything else
under stress of course, but every
■ Hardtail 29er with
6061 aluminium frame component on the KTM has shone over
■ Steep head and
the past few months. I am loving the
seat angles lend
reliable performance of the Shimano
more to XC riding
Deore one-finger brakes, with their
■ 3x10 Shimano
quiet but industrious performance that
SLX drivetrain
■ Top bike in the KTM offers modulation and power in equal
alloy hardtail range
measure. And while I’ve been itching
to replace the Rocket Ron tyres for
something a little more chunky —
at least up front — I stuck it out
WHY IT’S HERE
to see how they went. As it
turns out, they are perfect for
Big wheels,
the spring loam, so they are
decent weight
going to be staying on for a
and a keen price
little longer.

suggest lots
to love

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LONGTERMERS

THE
FINAL
VERDICT

BEN’S ORANGE FIVE RS
£ 4 , 1 9 9.9 9 / 6 5 0 b / o r a n g e b i k e s . c o .u k

THE RIDER
BEN SMITH
Position Art editor
Mostly rides Surrey Hills
Height 5ft 9in
Weight 76kg

THE BIKE
■ Latest incarnation of
the classic Five
■ 650b wheels up
from 26in
■ RockShox Pike fork
and Monarch shock
give 150/140mm travel
■ Reverb Stealth and
SRAM X01 groupset
complete ‘enduro’
makeover

100 mbr JULY 2014

What attracted you to the Orange Five RS?
It was more like an arranged marriage.
A size medium Five RS arrived for tech ed
PB to test, but he rejected it for being too
small. Being 5ft 8in, it fitted me perfectly,
so PB fixed me up and next thing I know the
Orange and I are jetting off to France on our
honeymoon. It all happened so fast!
I couldn’t quite believe my luck.
Did you change anything straight away?
The 730mm Thomson bar was marginally
too narrow, the 70mm stem too long and
the bog-standard Schwalbe Nobby Nics too
sketchy grip-wise, so they all got swapped
out immediately.
Was the bike easy to set up?
Yes. The Pike fork had guide pressures
printed on it so it was dead easy to get
that right. Setting up the rear suspension
was also straightforward, as the simple
single-pivot suspension design isn’t sag
sensitive. Basically, you can set it up soft
or firm depending on the terrain and it still
pedals really well.

How did it ride?
It was brilliant! For the first two weeks in
France I couldn’t have asked for a better
bike. The Pike fork was a revelation; so
plush, supportive and confidence-inspiring.
Coupled with the 650b wheels, Five’s
new ‘enduro’ attitude — longer, lower and
slacker — made the steep techy trails fun
and allowed me to keep up with riders on
bigger-travel bikes. Back home it was just as
good. OK, it’s carrying a little extra timber
compared to some £4,200 trail bikes so it
isn’t the sprightliest up the climbs. Point it
downhill, however, and it feels fantastic, just
as Orange Fives always have.
Did anything break or wear out?
I put a serious amount of miles in on the
Five over the nine-month test period, most
of them during the wettest winter on record.
So it’s hardly surprising that a few things
wore out. I got through two shock bushings,
countless sets of brake pads, the stickers
wore out (shock horror!), I burnt through
four pairs of tyres and, just as I write this,
play has developed in the main pivot

bearings. Also, I managed to wear out the
SRAM X01 chainring, chain and cassette so
it’s potentially an expensive month ahead.
If you could change one thing about your
longtermer, what would it be?
Orange has a habit of fitting narrow bars,
long stems and dodgy tyres, so if I could
change anything I guess it would be the
cockpit — a 750mm wide bar and a 50mm
stem as standard please!
Would you buy this bike and why?
There is no doubt that the Five RS has
amazing ride quality — every ride is
guaranteed to be a good one. If, however,
I were spending my own money, would I
buy it over the much cheaper, lighter and
better specced YT Capra or the highly
regarded Kona Process 153 DL, both of
which we tested in May’s issue of mbr?
The YT delivers an amazing ride as well as
unparalleled value for money. On the other
hand, the Kona offers a broadly similar
package and weight to the Five RS for a
couple of hundred pounds less.

WHY IT’S HERE
It’s the biggest
change to the
classic Five
in years

High Five: getting in
some Alpine action

SPECIFICATION

The Orange is an
enduro ace

HIGHS

■ Two weeks of riding amazing
trails in the Alps was the perfect way to get
to know the RS.
■ Had a great day racing the Enduro-1 event
at the Forest of Dean. Did OK too!
■ My last weekend before writing this was
spent riding amazing trails in the Lakes and
the Five was in its element.

LOWS

■ Non-lacquered stickers meant the
Five was looking very second-hand by the
time I arrived home from the Alps. Still, it
makes a refresh super easy!
■ Hike-a-bikes in the Alps and the Lakes
highlighted the extra weight the Five RS
carries over its rivals.
■ No space for a water bottle.
■ All good things come to an end…

Frame 6061-T6
aluminium,
140mm travel
Shock RockShox
Monarch RCT3
Fork RockShox Pike
RCT3, 150mm travel
Wheels Hope Pro 2
hubs, Mavic XM319
650b rims, Schwalbe
Nobby Nic 2.35in tyres
Brakes SRAM X9 Trail
Shifters SRAM X01
11-speed
Rear mech SRAM X01
Chainset SRAM
X01, 32t
Handlebar Thomson
AM carbon, 730mm
Stem Thomson X4,
70mm
Seatpost RockShox
Reverb Stealth
Saddle SDG Falcon
Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight 13.6kg (30.lb)

GEOMETRY
Size tested M
Head angle 65.2°
Seat angle 74.4°
BB height 342mm
Chainstay 433mm
Front centre 737mm
Wheelbase 1,170mm
Down tube 680mm

Stickers were soon
worse for wear
Pike fork lived up
to the hype

It’s a tough call, but in the Five’s favour it
has that ‘Built in Britain’ kudos, and simple,
trustworthy suspension that offers no odd
quirks and is customisable in many key
areas. So, would I buy it?
The short answer is yes.
It may not be the best
specced bike for the
money but I’ve really
fallen for the Five.
I love it!

GROUP TEST

Trail packs
A good trail pack is a mixed bag; it should offer a generous
cargo capacity and an ample reservoir while remaining
compact and comfortable. Here we strap into 10 of the best...
Words: Andy McCandlish Photos: Andy McCandlish, Roo Fowler

A

n hydration pack is basically a rucksack
with an internal reservoir that holds your
drink. It allows you to carry everything you
need for a full day in the saddle, including
enough water to stay fully hydrated.
Hydration packs are available in different cargo
capacities and reservoir volumes, but after years of
testing we’ve come to the conclusion that around
seven litres of storage and a three-litre reservoir
are the perfect combination for trail riding. This can
swallow a basic toolkit, inner tube and other small
spares like brake pads, a compact waterproof jacket,
energy bars and about three hours’ worth of fluid.
With a pack this small, comfort is unlikely to be an
issue, but stability is vitally important because you

102 mbr JULY 2014

don’t want the pack swinging around or bashing
you on the back of the helmet when descending.
A good pack should fit snugly and have waist
and chest harnesses to keep it in place. It should
also have plenty of pockets and good internal
organisation, so you don’t have to empty the pack
all over the trail when trying to find a tool. The pack
should be wrapped in a tough and durable material,
ready to take the knocks and scrapes. The reservoir
needs to integrate into the pack seamlessly but be
easily removable for refilling and cleaning — a clip-off
hose is essential.
For this test we sourced 10 of the best seven-litre
packs on the market, strapped them to our backs and
headed for the hills.

USED AND ABUSED

How we test
Different people prioritise some features
over others, be that size, stability, comfort
or internal organisation. With this in mind
we involved five seasoned riders in this
month’s test procedure, including regular
trail riders, but also outdoor instructors
who use trail packs day in, day out. Each of
the testers loaded their gear into one of the
packs and lived with it before swapping it
out to the next. Notes were taken on how
easy it was to organise kit, access it once
loaded and refill the reservoir before each
ride. Comfort and stability on the bike were
also observed over a variety of regular
routes, before a final brainstorming session
rated the packs according to each of these
criteria and price.

JARGON BUSTER

Know your trail pack
PHONE/MP3
POCKET
Fleece-lined pocket for
safe storage of your
fragile electronics.
Note that they are
rarely waterproof.

RESERVOIR
AKA the bladder. Available in two or three-litre capacity, your choice will be
influenced by how long you ride and how much fluid you consume. Reservoirs
can come with several features to make life a little easier: a removable hose
makes refilling more straightforward — no need to unthread
the hose from the pack or drag a complete dirty
pack over to the kitchen sink — as does a
rigid stiffener which makes the reservoir
easier to handle and push down into the
pack once filled. Not all of the packs
come with reservoirs, which means you’ll
need to add roughly £20-30 to the price.

CHEST AND
WAIST STRAPS
TOOL ORGANISER

To keep the pack well
positioned and stable
you want both a waist
and chest/sternum
strap. The latter should
be height-adjustable
for comfort.

This should have slots for each
item, allowing easy access to
tools when on the trail. Single
large compartments generally
require spilling the contents
of the pack onto the wet and
muddy ground in search of
that elusive Torx key.

BITE VALVE
This is a self-closing
valve that you bite
to allow fluid to flow.
Some come with a
lockable function to
stop the bite valve
leaking accidentally,
as can easily happen
when gear is piled on
top of the valve in the
boot of the car.

HELMET
ATTACHMENT
Rarely used, but most packs
come with a system that
allows a helmet to be fixed to
the outside of your pack.

EXTERNAL POCKET
This might be mesh or just a
pocket of material secured
by compression straps.
Either way, it is handy for
an overflow of kit or just to
secure a wet and muddy jacket
you don’t want to put back
into the pack and contaminate
the rest of your gear.

COMPRESSION
STRAPS
If you aren’t using the full
capacity of your pack,
compression straps pull
the excess fabric in and
stabilise the load. They can
also provide overflow storage
for wet jackets or kneepads.

JULY 2014

mbr 103

GROUP TEST

BEST
VALUE!

CAMELBAK LOBO
£ 6 9.9 9 ( i n c l u d e s 3 L C a m e l b a k r e s e r v o i r )

DAKINE SESSION
£ 4 9.9 9 ( i n c l u d e s 2 L H y d r a p a k r e s e r v o i r )

SPECIFICATION Weight: 418g without reservoir • Colours: black, green, orange, blue • Capacity: 6.28L inc 3L
reservoir • Contact: zyro.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 486g without reservoir • Colours: black, camo, higgins, hood, threedee •
Capacity: 8L inc 2L reservoir • Contact: dakine.com

The Lobo is one of the cornerstones
of the Camelbak range, steadily
evolving and improving as time
goes on. Although only a litre off
our favoured capacity it felt a lot
smaller as a result of having the
cargo space split into
several frustratingly
small compartments.
Even an ultra-light
waterproof jacket
was tricky to fit in,
requiring either a
lot of stuffing, or
just shoving into the
external stretchy pocket
on the back, which put it
directly in the mud firing
line. On the upside, the
small compartments are
littered
with
organising
pockets and slots,

With its short back length the
Session is the dinkiest pack on test,
which makes it perfect for shorter
riders who sometimes struggle to
find a good, compact pack. Quality
is excellent and the hardwearing
Cordura-type nylon on the
outside will continue
looking good for years,
as our existing Dakine
packs testify. That
all makes the £50
price (which includes
a two-litre reservoir)
look pretty darn good.
Organisation for such a
small pack
is firstclass, with
plenty
of
pockets
and
compartments to

104 mbr JULY 2014

so keeping track of our tools and
spares was a piece of cake.
The quality Camelbak Antidote
reservoir was easily accessible in
its insulated compartment and
refillable in situ, saving time if the
pack wasn’t too dirty to
present at the sink. The
Lobo would be perfect
for use in marathon
races as it’s light but
carries a good amount
of water, and equally if
you’re nipping out on an
evening ride where it’s
unlikely you’ll need
a waterproof.

separate tools and spares. Deep
opening zips, as with the EVOC,
meant that access was excellent too.
The main compartment was shared
with the Hydrapak reservoir, which
wasn’t ideal, but understandable on
such a slick package to
reduce bulk. Armour
straps on the outside
could double up
to take soaking
waterproofs at a
pinch, but also hint
at this pack’s target
audience — hard
and fast riders out
for a few hours.

DEUTER COMPACT EXP 12 ERGON BX1
£70 (no reservoir)

£ 6 9.9 9 ( n o r e s e r v o i r )

SPECIFICATION Weight: 960g without reservoir • Colours: black/white, bay/papaya • Capacity: 12L
(expanding to 14L) inc 3L reservoir • Contact: i-ride.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 558g without reservoir • Colours: black, grey • Capacity: 7L inc 3L reservoir •
Contact: extrauk.co.uk

More than one tester handed this
back with a puzzled face, bemused
and beset by a sinking feeling. It
was the pack weight that caused the
confusion — more than double some
of the others in the
test at nigh on a
kilogram. To be fair
this is down to the
huge number of
useful features and a
high capacity.
Well laid-out
compartments are
perfect for organising
kit and offered enough
room to stuff
jackets and food
for longer days out
while opening the
enormous zip round
the circumference
expands it by another
two litres — very handy

Ergon is fiercely proud of the fit and
ergonomics of its packs, and those
qualities were immediately noticeable
on the BX1. The pack has instructions
on how to adjust the straps to get the
chest and waist harnesses balanced
and the aluminium band bent to
suit your body shape.
If these adjustments
don’t do it, the pack
also comes in
two sizes.
The fabrics
used on the main
body are lightweight
ripstop which reduces
weight and also meant
the whole pack was
very flexible and
light to handle.
Organisation
isn’t
amazing,
with only a

on occasion. Malleable aluminium
bars in the back can be bent to suit
so there were no problems with
comfort after a little work, although
the bag never felt like it was part of
your body.
Compression straps
keep it in check, and a
pull-out helmet/jacket
net is there if needed. A
fluoro rain cover and hip
belt pockets complete
the line-up, but we still
feel it was too heavy
and that an equally
good job was done by
lighter, cheaper packs.

cramped mesh hanging pocket and
pump slot sharing the large main
compartment with the reservoir
sleeve, and a small waist-belt
pocket. An outside zipped pocket
is big enough for a waterproof, but
if we needed more there
was a clip-on bungee
spider. With so few
compartments it was
easy to imagine our
testers wouldn’t get
along with the Ergon,
so it was a testament
to the quality and fit of
the pack that so many
came back with positive
reports.

JULY 2014

mbr 105

GROUP TEST

EVOC CC 10L

FOX OASIS

£6 4 .9 5 ( n o r e s e r vo i r )

£65 (includes 3L Hydrapak reservoir)

SPECIFICATION Weight: 612g without reservoir • Colours: black, green, orange, stone • Capacity: 10L inc 3L
reservoir • Contact: silverfish-uk.com

SPECIFICATION Weight: 682g without reservoir • Colours: black, camo, grey • Capacity: 10L (approx) inc 3L
reservoir • Contact: foxhead.com

If any of you product designers out
there want a lesson in how to lay out
a backpack for easy gear access,
then have a look at the EVOC CC.
With deep zips surrounding the
compartments leaving only
one small edge to hinge
open by, the gear was
not only easy to get at,
the open pack made for
a handy workbench to
lay bits on when working
at the trailside. Mesh
pockets kept everything
in place inside and the
main compartment
was easily big enough
to fit a jacket. The
reservoir doesn’t
have its own
compartment,
but is sleeved
inside the main area
— not ideal as it could

At £65 with a quality Hydrapak
reservoir, the Oasis turned out to
be one of the real value stars of the
test. It has everything you could
possibly want in a pack — dedicated
reservoir compartment, large
main compartment
with plenty of mesh
organising pockets,
external open pocket
with compression straps
and armour straps on
the bottom. All this is
presented in a tough
nylon fabric with a bright
red lining to
contrast
with
the black
exterior which
made finding gear
easier. Another big
thumbs-up for the
zips — long enough

106 mbr JULY 2014

get gear wet, but not a significant
problem either. A smart elasticated
helmet device rolls out of a hidden
pocket at the bottom and clips up
either side by hooks, and can also
be used to retain a wet jacket
if need be. Hardwearing
fabrics, including a
sturdy Cordura base,
mean this pack will last
the duration, and the
comfortable, stiffened
back with good hip fins
transfers weight off the
shoulder straps and
provided comfort
and stability.

around the compartments to open
the bag super-wide and rapidly
present all your gear. For quick
access, the small zipped pocket on
the waist-fin is also just big enough
for a multi-tool, and closed securely
enough to be trusted
with such an expensive
bit of kit. It was a bit
sweaty but not so
much more than others
on test. It claims to
have a detachable
drinking tube, but
ours came with the
more basic nondetachable model.  

 

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GROUP TEST

TEST
WINNER!

OSPREY VIPER 9L
£65 (includes 3L Osprey reservoir)

SCOTT AIRSTRIKE HYDRO 4
£ 7 9.9 9 ( i n c l u d e s 2 L H y d r a p a k r e s e r v o i r )

SPECIFICATION Weight: 418g without reservoir • Colours: black, green, orange, blue • Capacity: 6.28L inc 3L
reservoir • Contact: ospreyeurope.com

SPECIFICATION Weight: 342g without reservoir • Colours: black/yellow, black/lime green • Capacity: 4L inc
2L reservoir • Contact: scott-sports.com

The Osprey managed to cover all our
requirements in an ideal trail pack,
plus a few neat details we didn’t
realise we would miss until we had
them. The nine-litre capacity means
there’s easily enough room
for essentials, but with an
open stretch pocket on
the back for unexpected
additions
or soaking
waterproofs.
There are just enough
organising pockets to
keep everything neat
and in its place and each
compartment is closed
by quality zips complete
with very
glovefriendly
pullers. All
this is held close
by two compression

As one of the dearest packs on test
we were expecting a lot from the
Hydro 4, but most of the testers
came back disappointed. Straight
away the lack of stiffener in the back
meant it was a pain to pack as it
flopped around. The two-litre
Scott/Hydrapak reservoir
has a stiffener built in, but
it was only secured by a
loop at the top of the main
compartment. A lack of
reservoir sleeve didn’t help
in stabilising matters, and
didn’t separate it from the
gear stowed so it was tricky
to slide in when filled.
On the upside the main
compartment has a long
zip,
which
allowed
full opening
and easy access,

108 mbr JULY 2014

straps. Osprey supplies its own
three-litre reservoir with an excellent
magnet retaining the business-end
of the hose — just wave it at the
sternum strap without looking and
the strong magnet snaps
it into place — and a
stiff protective back.
The stiff reservoir
was easy to push
down into the pack
when half-full, and
a superb zip built
down the right-hand
shoulder strap made
it easy to route the
hose. Superb in every
detail.

and sports a handy bungee for
fixing jackets on the outside. The
tool compartment on the front was
well sized for a few tools and spare
tube, but not a lot else, and the
mesh pocket on the back of it
was usually caked in mud
and rendered useless.
As long as it isn’t
overloaded the Hydro
moulds well to your
body and feels stable.
This is a lightweight
pack that proved
great for racing,
but unsuitable for
everyday use.

SHIMANO UNZEN U6
£ 6 9.9 9 ( i n c l u d e s 2 L H y d r a p a k r e s e r v o i r )

VAUDE PATH 9
£70 (no reservoir)

SPECIFICATION Weight: 560g without reservoir • Colours: black/blue, black/green, black/red, blue, orange,
red • Capacity: 6L inc 2L reservoir • Contact: madison.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 726g without reservoir • Colours: black, green, teal blue, red •Capacity: 9L inc 3L
reservoir • Contact: vaude.co.uk

You have to take your hat off to
Shimano for its fresh approach to
hydration pack design. From the
single-clip four-way X-harness to
the vertical access zips and shiny
stretch fabric on the body, the Unzen
ploughs its
own furrow.
The harness
and curved
back panel kept
everything firmly
in check and in
most circumstances
the body-hugging
design worked well.
However, we’ve found
in the past that the
pack slips forward on
steep terrain, so may
not be suitable for
aggressive riders.
The vertical zips
restricted access and

A traditional looking pack, especially
when compared to the likes of the
space-age Shimano, the Vaude is
nonetheless a very well put-together
bit of kit. Durable fabric and a padded
lining between compartments gave
a high quality feel but this,
combined with the
heavily padded back
and harness, meant it
was pretty heavy. The
main compartment
was big, and as a
result could do with
more organising
pockets — you only
get two small
pockets halfway up
the compartment.
Two waist-belt
pockets helped
to keep more
urgent items close
to hand,

required a lot of rummaging to get to
anything inside. The basic two-litre
Hydrapak reservoir doesn’t have a
removable hose, which would have
helped with the fiddly access too.
Hip-belt pockets provided storage
for on-the-hoof
access, and a small
organiser pocket
at the front will fit
a multi-tool. The
best thing about
the U6 is that the
shiny material seems
to repel mud and so
seems tailor-made for
our unreliable climate.

and four compression straps did their
best to keep the cargo from moving
around too much, but they weren’t
hugely effective unless the pack was
really loaded up. As a result a lot
of gear just sloshed around in the
bottom if the pack wasn’t filled.
On the bike the Vaude was
comfortable and stable,
a tribute to the heavy
harness system, and the
bright red rain cover
not only provided
weather-proofing and
high visibility but
also kept mud
off effectively.

JULY 2014

mbr 109

GROUP TEST

Verdict

TEST
WINNER!

If you ride fast and want to get aero you’ll want to opt
for something like the Shimano or Dakine, both of which
are small and unobtrusive. All-day riders hitting the hills
might prefer something like the Fox thanks to its high
capacity and ability to hold even more when the external
compression straps are employed. The Ergon, with its
lightweight construction and attention to fit and comfort
is also a cracking option, if a little lacking when it comes
to compartment dividers.
If carrying the maximum amount of clobber is your
over-riding concern then the expanding capacity of the
Deuter comes in handy, but we found it to be somewhat
over-engineered and heavy for what was necessary —
a set of compression straps could easily do the
same job, if not quite so neatly.
The Camelbak and Scott both have much
to offer XC or marathon racers — the former
for sheer water capacity without going overboard
on cargo storage, the latter for its light weight and
simplicity of design.
As is so often the case, our favourite packs were
the ones that did everything very well — after all,
you don’t want to have a different pack for every
ride. Great kit organisation and access, adequate
cargo capacity, stability, all-day comfort and
reasonable price — the EVOC and Osprey ticked all
those boxes. The EVOC’s sensibly distributed 10-litre
capacity and wide-opening pockets made it very
easy to live with, but it was fairly pricey considering
the £65 tag didn’t include a reservoir. So it was the
Osprey that really caught our eye, with touches like the
hard-backed reservoir and handy magnetic valve storage
propelling it beyond the rest as a terrific all-rounder. At
£65 with a top quality reservoir, it’s a bargain to boot.

As is so often the case, our
favourite packs were the
ones that did everything well
Price

Weight

Pack Capacity

Reservoir

Contact

Camelbak Lobo

£69.99

418g

6.28L

3L

zyro.co.uk

Dakine Session

£49.99

486g

8L

2L

dakine.com

£70

960g

12/14L

(not included)

i-ride.co.uk

Ergon BX1

£69.99

558g

7L

(not included)

extrauk.co.uk

Evoc CC 10L

£64.95

612g

10L

(not included)

silverfish-uk.com

Fox Oasis

£65

682g

10L

3L

foxhead.com

Osprey Viper 9L

£65

418g

6.28L

3L

ospreyeurope.com

Scott Airstrike Hydro 4

£79.99

342g

4L

2L

scott-sports.com

Shimano Unzen U6

£69.99

560g

6L

2L

madison.co.uk

£70

726g

9L

3L

vaude.co.uk

Deuter Compact EXP 12

Vaude Path 9

110 mbr JULY 2014

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GROUP TEST

Lock-on grips
ERGON GE1
£ 2 9.9 9

GRAVITY GL THIN
£ 1 9.9 9

SPECIFICATION Weight: 121g (pair) • Colours: black, grey, red, blue •
Contact: extrauk.co.uk

SPECIFICATION Weight: 89g (pair) • Colours: black, red, blue, green,
yellow • Contact: windwave.co.uk

This is the only grip on test that is left and righthand specific, and it also has a particular rotational
orientation — there are angle marks on the clamps
so you know which way up it goes.
It’s a dual-compound design, with soft, cushioning
rubber used for the palm area and hard rubber
underneath with textured zones for grip. The
internal core is also machined away to increase flex
and reduce pressure on the base of the hand. The
end of the grip is closed off and cut at an angle,
which adds a little width to the handlebar.
The GE1 is pricey but it’s the most sophisticated
product here in terms of shape. It feels really
natural, especially the oval cross-section
where your forefinger and thumb
grips. Overall comfort is great
but for better ergonomics we’d
like to see a smaller diameter,
because as it stands, it’s on
the fat side for medium to
small hands.

Most grips are one constant diameter but the GL
Thin has a double taper — it’s narrow in the centre
but thickens towards the ends. Your hand naturally
falls to the centre of the grip but it still feels
comfortable, even when riding with your hands
further out. This is probably due to the narrow
clamps, which are the thinnest on test.
The grip has a ribbed surface so feels supertacky if you ride with bare hands. It gets even
better if there’s a little bit of moisture present, and
those tiny indents also compress under pressure to
improve cushioning.
A set of plug-in end-caps are included,
and while they are a tight fit in the
narrower internal diameter of
carbon bars, they’re worth
fitting because they create
a smooth transition at the
end of the bar and stop
the clamps digging into
your palms.

112 mbr JULY 2014

Buying a good set of
lock-on grips is a costeffective way to improve
your bike’s feel and
performance on the trail

ODI SENSUS
DISISDABOSS
£ 2 1 .9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 104g (pair) • Colours: green, red, black •
Contact: ison-distribution.com

The Sensus Disisdaboss is pro racer Andreu
Lacondeguy’s signature grip, hence the name. It
comes in a 143mm length and features a mushroomstyle ribbed pattern. This offers incredible grip
but also very good cushioning due to the level of
compression. The Sensus feels great with or without
gloves and is one of the few grips where the rubber
extends over the locking collars, which is handy if
you ride with your hands on the end of the handlebar.
ODI uses a patented interface for its Lock Jaw
collars, which means they can be fiddly to install and
play can develop between the collars and the centre
section (cartridge), but this is the only
grip on test where you can replace
this bit once it wears out.
Plush and roomy, we’d
recommend the Sensus for
riders with big hands who
don’t wear gloves.

PIVOT LOCK
£ 16.9 9
SPECIFICATION Weight: 91g (pair) • Colours: black, red, blue •
Contact: upgradebikes.co.uk

There are two reasons we included the Pivot Lock
for this test — it’s unusual because of its closed end,
and the grip pattern looks perfect for wet rides. We
weren’t disappointed either, as the soft grip material
provides good traction in slippery conditions and
also added a bit of extra give when riding without
gloves. Also, dirt doesn’t work its way under the grip
or plug the end of the bar.
To save weight the Pivot uses a single locking
collar, which is plenty strong enough to keep the grip
in place, and the rigid centre core is relieved in the
palm area to create a window of extra cushioning.
It’s slightly fatter than the Race Face and Specialized
grips at 29.5mm, which means it offers a more
forgiving ride; the price you pay is a
crucial loss of precision.
It’s plain looking, but the Pivot
is good value and a good grip for
winter use, and definitely worth
considering if comfort is your
primary concern.

RACE FACE
HALF NELSON
£ 1 9.9 5
SPECIFICATION Weight: 87g (pair) • Colours: black, white, red, blue,
grey, yellow, turquoise, orange, green • Contact: silverfish-uk.com

The idea behind Race Face’s Half Nelson is that it’s
supposed to imitate a half-worn grip to provide an
already bedded-in feel. It’s a thin 28mm diameter so
offers very precise control, and the super-smooth
surface feels truly amazing riding gloveless. The
rubber in this area also feels slightly thicker, to
provide excellent cushioning and comfort.
The grip is held in place by a single locking clamp
which is usually enough to hold most grips in place,
but we’ve found on some carbon bars the Half
Nelson can move under really hard efforts.
In terms of feel, it’s a superb performer, and it
really can transform your bike’s
behaviour. To make it better we’d
like to see a closed end so that
we could ditch the cheap plastic
caps, which would also stop dirt
working its way under the grip —
but really, we’re just being picky.

SPECIALIZED SIP
£16
SPECIFICATION Weight: 62g (pair) • Colours: blue, green, black, moto
green, raw • Contact: specialized.com

The SIP 16 is from Specialized’s in-house component
range and has a single locking collar, a Ruffian-style
surface with a waffle base pattern for added traction.
It’s been tweaked this year and now uses an aramid
infused compound — basically a material similar to
Kevlar mixed with the rubber to improve wear.
The grip is not as soft as the original, so it does
feels a bit wooden, but after a month of riding we
haven’t seen any wear. The original also used to
deteriorate at the end pretty quickly, but on the
new SIP the internal plastic core now extends to
add extra reinforcement in this area.
At 28mm in diameter the SIP offers
minimal cushioning but it is available
in a larger XL diameter if you feel the
medium is a little thin.
Although not as tacky as
the original, it’s still lightweight
and great value, and it’s
the only grip on test to come
with a small Allen key for fitting.

TEST
WINNER!

JULY 2014

mbr 113

LOCATOR

RIDE GUIDE

This month’s routes

04
01

WHERE TO RIDE AND EXPLORE
01 MEDIUM ROUTE

CUT GATE,
PEAK DISTRICT

02

03

19.5km (12 miles)
his is the best way to do the best trail in the
Peak District. Cut Gate typically poses a real
conundrum to a lot of mountain bikers. It’s hard to
decide how to fit it into a loop, so it often gets left
out and riders head over to the other Peak classics
like Jacob’s Ladder or The Beast, both of which are much
easier to work into a loop.
This is a good thing. The lack of traffic on Cut Gate —
both from wheels and from walkers — has meant that the
trails have retained their narrowness and shape. There is
a wider section in the middle of this iconic moorland trail
but it’s not wide and dull. It’s wide and wild. Littered with
gritstone rocks of all sizes from pebbledash through to
suitcase boulders, it’s all about lightning-fast decisionmaking and commitment. And luck.
There are riders who will tell you that south-to-north
is the way to do Cut Gate. There are just as many other
riders who will protest that north-to-south is best. They
are both wrong... and right. It’s great in either direction.
The southern-end descent has the majestic zigzag
combo of Cranberry Clough, not to mention the eyewatering, bum-puckering speed-trap section just after
the slab paving. The northern end has the “pedal-pedalwheeee-pedal-pedal” ripper-dipper proper singletrack of
Mickleden Edge.
The route detailed here involves both of these sections,
and the scattershot techno middle section, too. Yes, it
involves doing a lot of the same bits in both directions,
but it’s worth it. It works. Any other way of doing Cut Gate
involves loads of road/cinderpath slogging and removes
one or more glories of this exceptional trail.

T

02 EASY ROUTE

READ
THE
FEATURE!

GET MORE!
Download this
route from
mbr.co.uk by
scanning this
code or visiting
po.st/g6FT25

p56

Cut Gate: a ripper
of a route from
either end

03 MEDIUM ROUTE

04 HARD ROUTE

MOEL Y CI & THE
QUARRIES/SNOWDONIA

REIGATE HILL/
NORTH DOWNS

BOWDERDALE/
HOWGILL FELLS

19km (12 miles)

27km (17 miles)

40km (25 miles)

There’s a lot of road on this loop, and it’s an odd
shape too, with two excellent yet very different offroad loops linked by an out-and-back on tarmac. But
it’s actually a bit of a mini-classic, and if you’ve never
explored the Llanberis Slate Quarries, then it’s worth
it for that alone. The ups are all on tarmac, although
the biggest section is traffic free, and the descents
are belters — wild and scenic on Moel y Ci and steep
and slatey in the quarries. The trails are permissive
rather than Rights of Way, so there are some gates to
carry over. And keep that tyre pressure high.

The leafy lanes of Surrey always provide fun mtbing
and this little loop, around the hills west of Reigate,
is no exception, with everything from sweet cruisy
duplex to some quite nadgery singletrack. The
climbs are mainly steep but thankfully short, with
the exception of the monster from Mickleham onto
Box Hill, which will definitely test stamina if taken at
any speed at all. The descents are as varied as the
surfaces but will put a smile on your face. Navigation
can be tricky the first time around, but come back for
a second lap and it’ll roll very sweetly indeed.

At over 6km from start to finish, Bowderdale is
a true contender for the longest singletrack in
England, if not the UK. It’s also in the running for the
best. But entry requires something of a push onto
the Calf, the 673m high point of the Howgill Fells
(sorry!). This is the shortest and easiest way to slot
it into a loop, but it’s still a big day out with plenty
of ups and downs away from the main act. It can
be started at either end but we prefer the north,
leaving the sumptuous, snaking ribbon of red dirt
for a real grand finale.

114 mbr JULY 2014

REIGATE HILL, NORTH DOWNS
MEDIUM
ROUTE

EASY
ROUTE

27km (17 miles)
© Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 058/14

MOEL Y CI & THE QUARRIES,
SNOWDONIA 19km (12 miles)
© Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 058/14

03

04

02

05
02

03

01
01

MEDIUM
ROUTE

CUT GATE, PEAK DISTRICT

HARD
ROUTE

19.5km (12 miles)
© Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 058/14

BOWDERDALE, HOWGILL FELLS
40km (25 miles)
© Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 058/14

01
01
08
02

03

07

04

03

06

05
02

EASY
ROUTE

MOEL Y CI & THE
QUARRIES, SNOWDONIA

GETTING THERE

START (OS115/SH590610). Car park, Bus Stop Quarry, Dinorwig
Go back the way you came for 800m and turn R at a X-roads, opposite a bus
shelter. Climb to a fork and keep L then continue past L turn to climb for another 1km
to a T-junction. Turn L and continue for another 1km to R turn on a bend (Mynydd
Landegai). Take this and continue over the top and down slightly before turning sharp
L onto a rough track.

01

02 (SH592653) Track on L. Distance so far: 5.2km

Follow it around the hill and down to meet a road. Keep R, off-road again, and
continue down to a road. Turn R and follow this until its end and through the barrier
to climb on a good track to a junction by a house. Turn R and climb to a narrow track
on the R and drop back down to join the road by the barrier. Turn R again, around the
barrier, and continue to T-junction. Turn R and climb steeply back past the track you
took earlier and down to T-junction where you turn R. Continue SA now, past the road
you came in on, to the road head.

03 (SH596631) Road Head above Deiniolen. Distance so far: 14.7km

Continue through the gate (Note: access to the quarries is permissive not on
Rights of Way, and there are gates/barriers to cross). And now climb on the tarmac
access road to a turning on the R. Take this and continue to climb to a sharp LH
bend. Here, drop off the road onto a track (gate) and now follow the quarry track
down, zig-zagging through the levels in a succession of steep, slatey ramps and fun
switchbacks. You may need to search out the track in some places but it’s always
there. At the bottom, a gate leads onto a well-surfaced, level track. Turn R to return
to the car park.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 19KM (12 MILES) TOTAL ASCENT: 660M (2,165FT)

SPONSORED BY

MEDIUM NORTH DOWNS
ROUTE 27km (17 miles)

19km (12 miles)

WAY TO GO

REIGATE HILL,

SPONSORED BY

The ride starts from the Bus Stop
Quarry car parking area, south
of Deiniolen, approximately four
miles from Llanberis (OS115/
SH590610). It’s best reached
from the B4547 by taking a minor
road to Deiniolen and continuing
towards Dinorwig. Rail access
isn’t practical.

BEST TIME TO GO
Predominantly good surfaces and
apart from a little surface water,
they remain in decent nick all
year round. Snow and cold can be
a problem in mid-winter.

MAPS & GUIDEBOOKS
Memory Map V5 OS Landranger
(1:50,000) Region 3
OS Landranger (1:50,000)
115 Snowdon
OS Explorer Series (1:25,000) OL
17 Snowdon

Wales Mountain Biking by Tom
Hutton (Vertebrate Publishing)
North Wales Mountain Biking by
Peter Burnsall (Ernest Press)

REFRESHMENTS
Bring sarnies but it’s only short

FACILITIES
Best bet for a coffee is Y Caban
at Brynrefail, towards Llanberis.
In Llanberis you have Y Pantri and
Pete’s Eats.
Best pub in Llanberis is
the Heights.
B&B and bunkhouse
accommodation at Gallt y Glyn,
Llanberis (01286 870370,
gallt-y-glyn.co.uk) which also
does great pizzas.
Llanberis TIC, 01286 870765

OTHER OPTIONS
Snowdon is the obvious bundle
ride, or head across to Gwydir
Forest to the Marin Trail.

GETTING THERE

WAY TO GO

Reigate Hill parking area is right on
junction 8 of the M25. Head south
towards Reigate and it’s on your L
(OS187/TQ261522). Rail users could
start at Reigate Station.

01 START (OS187/

TQ261522) Car Park,
Reigate Hill
Keep the cafe to your R and
ride up and over the bridge.
Keep SA for 1.5km and pass a
round building before turning
R, through gates. Cross the
motorway and keep SA, on
a track then tarmac, to a
X-roads. Take a BW on the L,
immediately after X-roads.
Keep SA, crossing many
other tracks, to the road.
Keep SA to join the road on
a green. And keep SA to a
T-junction opposite a pond.

BEST TIME TO GO
The trails here get quite sticky in the
wet so this one’s best kept for dryer
weather. This is a very popular area
with walkers and hackers so avoid
during peak times and ride with
some decorum.

MAPS & GUIDEBOOKS
Memory Map V5 OS Landranger
(1:50,000) Region 1
OS Landranger Series (1:50,000) 187
Dorking & Reigate

(TQ227553) B290,
Walton on the Hill.
Distance so far: 5.7km
Turn L then R onto Sandlands
Lane. At the end turn L then
R onto the road and bear
around to the L to a track
on the L. Take this and drop
down beneath the motorway and back up the other side to the road at Headley.
Turn R, pass the church on your R and bear L into Slough Lane. At a T-junction
bear R (Surrey Cycleway). Follow this to the road and cross then turn R onto a
parallel BW. Follow this to a car park and take second L fork.

Rough Ride Guide to the South
East by Max Darkins
(roughridesguide.co.uk)

(TQ194545) Parking off B2033. Distance so far: 9.7km
Follow this to a X-roads and bear L now follow this up and down a few times,
all the time on the main track, to eventually drop steeply to the road at Mickleham.
Turn L for 500m then R, into a car park. Now keep SA to climb steeply onto Box
Hill. Stay on the main track all the way to the road and bear L. Climb for 600m and
turn L onto a drive. Follow this to an open area and bear R onto a broad BW.

FACILITIES

02

03

(TQ195522) Open area and BW Junction, Box Hill. Distance so far: 17.8km
04
Follow this to a junction and fork R. Then keep R to follow a narrow track up
to a X-roads. Turn L to cross Headley Heath to the road and turn L. Then turn R
after 300m and take the narrow, dirt BW between the two estate roads. Keep SA
and follow a good track to a road.
(TQ216531) Road crossing near Pebble Coombe. Distance so far: 21.6km
05
Keep SA then L to a T-junction where you fork R. After 500m fork L then at
a major junction after 800m, turn L to climb then R to continue climbing to a road
junction at Colley Hill. Turn L for 100m then R onto a track and now follow this out
onto Colley Hill, where you’ll soon pass the turning you took on the way out. Keep
ahead back to Reigate Hill.

OS Explorer Series (1:25,000) 145
Guildford & Farnham; 146 Dorking,
Box Hill & Reigate

South East Mountain Biking by Nick
Cotton (Vertebrate Publishing)

REFRESHMENTS
The Blue Ball at Walton on the
Hill is on the route or you could
deviate slightly to the Box Hill car
park and cafe.
Great snack shack at the start.
Reigate has everything you could
wish for.
Youth Hostel at Tanner’s Hatch,
0845 371 9542.
Dorking TIC, 01483 444333.

OTHER OPTIONS
Head over to the Leith Hill area for
loads of great riding — legal and
cheeky — or check out our Easy
from October 2013 or Medium from
June 2013.

TOTAL DISTANCE: 27KM (17 MILES) TOTAL ASCENT: 520M (1,706FT)

HARD
ROUTE

BOWDERDALE,
HOWGILL FELLS

SPONSORED BY

SPONSORED BY

MEDIUM CUT GATE, PEAK DISTRICT
ROUTE 19.5km (12 miles)

40km (25 miles)

WAY TO GO

GETTING THERE

WAY TO GO

GETTING THERE

START (OS97/SD722041) Ravenstonedale
Continue into Ravonstonedale and past the Black Swan. Continue up (signed
Sedbergh) and out of the village and then fork R (Adamthwaite). Now follow the lane
for 4km to the farm at Adamthwaite, and bear L, through a gate, onto a BW. Now
follow this around the hillside (vague in places) to farm buildings at Narthwaite. Enter
the yard and turn R to drop to a stream. Turn L to climb away, and continue, with the
River Rawthey to your L for 1km, then bear L to cross a ridge and continue following
the BW around the hillside for another 4km to a bridge over Hobdale Beck. Keep
ahead to the road, and continue to the A683.

Ravenstonedale is just off the
A685, five miles east of the M6
(J38) at Tebay. There are a few
places to park in the village but
the best one is on the bend by the
telephone box and noticeboard
at OS97/SD722041. Rail would be
possible from Kirkby Stephen.
It’s also possible to start in
Sedbergh but this means the
singletrack comes early rather
than as a grand finale.

Langsett Barn car park
(OL1/SE 210004)
Head right out of car park on A616
(busy road — take care). Turn R onto
road opposite Bank View Cafe (Strines,
Derwent Valley). Follow road as it goes
over dam head and then climbs.

From the south/east: leave the
M1 at junction 35A, then the A616
(signposted Manchester). Follow
A616 until Langsett Barn car park
appears on left. From the north/
west: leave the M60 at junction 24,
then the A57 (signposted Denton,
Sheffield M67). Continue onto the
M67 (signposted Hyde, Barnsley,
Sheffield) and the A57 (signposted
Glossop, Sheffield A616). At traffic
signals take the A628 (signposted
Sheffield, Barnsley), the A616
(signposted M1, Sheffield) and then
the A616 until Langsett Barn car park
appears on right.

01

02 (SD672923) A683. Distance so far: 14.4km

Turn R into Sedbergh and continue to the mini roundabout where you turn R
to the town centre. Continue through the main street and around to the L at the top.
Then turn R next to the Dalesman pub onto Howgill Lane. Follow this for 2km to
T-junction and turn R. Then for another 3km to a X-roads. Turn R onto BW farm drive
and follow this to buildings, where you turn L (BW). Follow this to Chapel Beck. Cross
and keep SA to climb a grassy track steeply up the hill ahead. Continue to the top and
keep R to the summit.
(SD667970) The Calf. Distance so far: 23.8km
03
Now bear L to follow a good track across the plateau to a small tarn. Keep R
here and this leads to the steep edge where the singletrack starts. Follow this for
7km, where it climbs to a wall corner. Keep the wall to the R, and drop to the road.
Turn R, then L after 1km; continue across the main road to a T-junction, and turn R to
Newbiggin-on-Lune. Cross the main road again and continue through the village and
back towards the main road again, where you see a cycle path heading R. Take this, in
two sections, back into Ravenstonedale and keep ahead on the main road to finish.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 40KM (25 MILES) TOTAL ASCENT: 1,325M (4,347FT)

BEST TIME TO GO
Definitely a better dry-weather
ride as the singletrack gets soft.
The 676m summit of the
Calf is no place to be caught in
bad weather.

MAPS & GUIDEBOOKS
OS Landranger (1:50,000) 91
Appleby-in-Westmoreland
97 Kendal & Morecambe
98 Wensleydale & Upper
WharefdaleOS Explorer
(1:25,000) OL19 Howgill Fells
Lake District Mountain Bike
Routes by Tom Hutton (Out
There Guides)

REFRESHMENTS
Loads of pubs and cafes in
Sedbergh

FACILITIES
Post-ride beer and
accommodation in either the
King’s Head (015396 23050,
kings-head.com) or the
Black Swan, 015396 23204,
blackswanhotel.com
Independent hostel in Kirkby
Stephen, 017683 71793,
kirkbystephenhostel.co.uk
Kirkby Stephen TIC, 017683 71199
Sedbergh TIC, 015396 20125

OTHER OPTIONS
Head west into the Lakes — we
brought you an excellent Hard
around Haweswater in Feb 2014
— or east into t’Dales, such as the
Medium from December 2013.

01

(SK 213995) Joseph Lane.
02
Distance so far: 0.9km
Turn R onto signposted wide BW for
500m to meet farm buildings, turn L
along narrow road for 200m then turn
R onto road, follow road round for
250m to a sharp bend.

READ

(SK 213995)
THE
Thickwoods Lane.
FEATURE!
Distance so far: 1.7km
p56
Leave road and continue SA on
barrier-ed access road. Follow this
track for 1.5km to meet gated drystone wall. Turn L in front of gate and follow
heather-edged trail uphill for 1.5km until you meet another trail side-on.

03

(SK 191985) Mickleden Edge. Distance so far: 4.7m
04
Remember this junction. You’ll be here again later. Turn L along trail. Follow
varied but obvious trail for approx 4.5km. You’re on Cut Gate proper now.
(SK 176953) Cranberry Clough. Distance so far: 9.2km
The trail suddenly steepens and there’s a marker post. Turn L at the marker
post (straight on is the tempting-but-not-as-fun footpath). Curl your way down
and out to a stream crossing. Follow obvious track out, splash through a broader
stream crossing (or take the footbridge if you like dry feet), take R option at the
subsequent signpost and head over to the bigger bridge just up ahead.

05

(SK 169951) Slippery Stones. Distance so far: 10km
Have a rest, a refuel (you packed sandwiches right?) and a chinwag. Then
get back in the saddle and head back up where you just came from. Cranberry
Clough is a push but after that it’s all rideable (if you have the stamina).

06

(SK 191985) Mickleden Edge again. Distance so far: 15.1km
07
Stop retracing your footsteps/tyre-marks now. Continue SA along Mickleden
Edge’s narrow heather-edged singletrack for the next 2km. The trail finishes with
a steep, tree-edged R-L-L ‘jink’ down to a bridge.
(SK 197006) Bridge over Little Don River.
08
Distance so far: 17.5km
Head over bridge and onto wide track for 300m, turn R and R
again on A616 (v. busy) and back to Langsett Bank car park.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 19.5KM (12 MILES)
TOTAL ASCENT: 612M (2,007FT)

BEST TIME TO GO
Go now! Cut Gate and the Dark Peak
in general are not nice places to slog
when it’s wet and cold. The essence
of this ride is its not-steep terrain,
and the trails need to be firm for them
to be truly enjoyable. It’s also good
in winter during sub-zero ‘tundra’
conditions, but that’s rare.

MAPS & GUIDEBOOKS
Memory Map V5 OS Landranger
(1:50,000) Region 4
OS Landranger Series (1:50,000) 110
Sheffield & Huddersfield
OS Outdoor Leisure Series (1:25,000)
1 The Peak District, Dark Peak Area

Peak District Mountain Biking:
Dark Peak Trails by Jon Barton
(Vertebrate Publishing)

REFRESHMENTS
Not much either at Langsett or on the
route itself so go prepared.

FACILITIES
Local bike shops include High Peak
Cycles (2 Smithy Fold, Glossop,
01457 861535, highpeakcycles.co.uk)
and 18 Bikes (8 Castleton Rd, Hope,
01433 621111, 18bikes.co.uk). There
is rudimentary bike shop/hire at the
Fairholmes Visitor Centre off the
southern tip of the route (Derwent,
Bamford S33 0AQ, 01433 651261).

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YOUR
EXPERT

HOW TO

Q&A

THIS MONTH: FORK SERVICE
TIMETABLE, DROPPER POST
CLAMPING, TUBELESS ISSUES

THE BIG QUESTION

How soon should I get my
new fork serviced?
I treated myself to a new
suspension fork last month,
when do I first need to service it?
I want to keep it at its best and I
need it to last me a while as it was
a considerable investment.
Josh Peters, email

Q

You haven’t told us what
fork you’ve bought, Josh.
But regardless of brand we’d
recommend getting it serviced

A

relatively early — we’ve seen forks
that have been delivered underlubricated from the factory. In
addition, while a new fork beds in
during the first dozen or so rides,
it’s common for small deposits from
bushes and seals to be left floating
in the oil that lubricates the fork,
which can make it feel sluggish
and dead.
An early initial service will flush
out any of these deposits, and the

service is likely to be carried out
with more care and attention than
when the fork was assembled.
This will mean that all the oil levels
will be spot-on and there won’t be
any dry or under-lubricated seals
to cause excessive stiction and
premature wear. I’m not saying all
factory-fresh forks have problems,
but this is an expensive product
we’re talking about and you need to
treat it like a princess.

FOLLOW THIS SERVICE SCHEDULE
AFTER EVERY RIDE:
SEAL CLEANING
It is really important that you
take a couple of minutes to clean,
dry and lubricate your fork seals
after every ride. When you get
home (whether you’ve washed
your bike or not), use a rag to
clean and dry around the seal
area. Make sure that all the dirt
is removed, because if this gets
encrusted onto the seals it will
create a sandpaper-like action
on your expensive stanchions.
Always re-lubricate the seal
afterwards.

AFTER SEVERAL RIDES:
BASIC SEAL MAINTENANCE
About once a month you can give
the seals an extra clean and lube
by running the end of a zip/cable
tie around the lip of the seal. Dirt
can be removed in this way, and
with the zip tie in place it allows
easy passage for your favourite
suspension lube to the inner seal
and foam rings. Suspensionspecific maintenance sprays are
convenient, but you can’t beat
the lubrication properties of fork

116 mbr JULY 2014

Cable/zip ties are a
valuable tool for monthly
cleaning and maintenace

oil or lubrication oils such as Fox
Float Fluid or RockShox Red Rum.
Pour some oil on the seal area,
cycle the fork a few times and
wipe off the excess to avoid it
dribbling onto your front brake.
Turn the bike upside down and
leave it overnight to allow the
lubrication fluid inside to bathe
the seals area.

EVERY THREE MONTHS:
LOWER LEG SERVICE
Most modern Fox and RockShox

forks use sealed dampers, which
means the oil used to control
the fork is different from the oil
(or fluid) used to lubricate it.
On most forks there’s a good
chance you can perform a lower
leg service without disturbing
the oil used for damping (check
your manual for info). Renewing
the lower leg lubrication and
cleaning the seals cuts down on
performance-robbing stiction and
helps prolong stanchion and seal
life. Follow our 20-minute step by
step (opposite) to learn how.

ONCE A YEAR:
FULL SERVICE
Most manufacturers publish their
own service guidelines, but it’s a
good idea to make sure you get
a full service about once a year.
You’ll need to book your fork
in with one of the suspension
service centres — ask at your local
shop for details and prices. If you
ride more frequently and in wet
or muddy conditions (or don’t
follow any of the maintenance
tips above), you may need to get
your fork serviced more often.

Tools of the trade:
our step by step guide
will save you forking out

AL VINES
A shop mechanic
for 13 years, Al has
been there and fixed
that. He owns 10
bikes and says his
least favourite job is
sorting out internally
routed cables.

QUICK
FIXES

20-MINUTE
SERVICE

Fiber Grip’s your friend
for increased clamping
force and friction

This quick but essential job works for
both RockShox and Fox forks. Here’s
how to do it yourself.

01 Loosen the foot nuts/bolts, but do not

remove them yet. Position a container
beneath the forks to catch the dirty oil.

DROPPER POST
DROOPING
I’ve recently fitted
a RockShox Reverb
dropper post and I can’t seem
to get it to clamp properly in
the frame. If I clamp it too tight
the action slows, but if I loosen
it off it wiggles about. What
am I doing wrong?
Ron Miller, email

Q

02 Tap the nuts/bolts with a soft-

faced mallet to free the lower legs.

I can sympathise — there’s
nothing more off-putting
than a swivelling saddle. First
of all, make sure that the seat
tube isn’t damaged. Look for
cracks, especially around the
slot that closes up to clamp the
post. You also need to make
dead certain that the post is
exactly the right size for your
frame. If it’s not spot-on then
you’ll have issues or even
worse, break something. You
may need your local shop
mechanic to investigate this
with Vernier calipers.
If all is right then invest in
some carbon assembly paste
such as Fiber Grip from Finish
Line. This adds friction between
parts (both alloy and carbon)
and reduces the clamping
force needed to hold it in place.
Apply this to your post and
torque it up until the post is
held firmly in the frame
and functions normally. If
you still have no joy then
maybe try a seat collar.

A

03 Remove the nuts/bolts and pull the

legs free.Clean inside the lower legs.
Pay close attention to the seals — remove
all dirt and re-lubricate using suspensionspecific grease. Make sure the foam rings
are also clean and saturated in fresh Float
Fluid, Red Rum or heavy-weight fork oil.

04 Partially slide the lower legs onto

the stanchions (being extra careful
not to fold over the lip of the seals) and
inject the amount of oil specified by the
manufacturer into the lowers as shown.

TUBELESS READY?
Q I’ve just bought

Got a question
about fixing your
bike? Email
mbr@ipcmedia.
com with ‘Q&A’ in
the subject line

05 Replace and tighten the foot nuts/

bolts to the recommended torque.
Cycle a few times and go ride!

a Specialized
Stumpjumper Expert
Evo 2014 and I’d
been told that
the wheels are
tubeless ready.
How ready are
they exactly?!

Do I need to buy anything to
make the change?
Chris Higgs, email
All you need are the
tubeless valves that came
with the bike and a bottle of
sealant. The rim strips that are
mounted on the wheels work
with or without tubes. Just pull
out the tubes (put at least one
of them in your pack), fit the
valves, slosh in some sealant
and pump them up. We’ve
found that they inflate easily
with a track pump and you’ll be
making the most of that newfound grip in no time.

A

SEALANT LIFE
How long does tyre
sealant last? My mate
reckons it goes all lumpy after
a while.
Jim Collins, email

Q

Your mate is right, Jim.
If you don’t replace
your sealant at least every
six months then it’ll dry out
and won’t do its job properly.
Some sealants stay liquid for
longer, but most lose their
effectiveness after a while, and
there’s not a lot of point lugging
it around if it’s not going to
seal a hole properly. Remove
part of one tyre bead, pour
the sealant out of the tyre
(or use Stan’s The Injector
to suck the sealant
out) and refill with
new. Remember to
dispose of the
old sealant in an
eco-friendly
manner.

A

JULY 2014

mbr 117

HOW TO

This picture shows two types of
Shimano pedals that use differentsized cartridge-retaining collars,
and also a TL-PD40 tool that you’ll need for
older pedals with a castellated collar.

01

Service your
Shimano
pedals
NEED TO
KNOW

A little care and attention
will guarantee your Shimano
pedals keep on spinning

L

et’s not beat around the bush — Shimano
pedal bearings are the most durable in
the business. The cartridge design has
remained virtually unchanged since the
first XT pedals hit the market about 20
years ago, and its smoothness, durability and
ease of service has helped the big S to stay at the
top of the pedal game ever since.
All this means that Shimano pedals might
continue to spin for years without any attention
at all, but a little love will help to guarantee their
function and durability. Let’s face it, you owe it to
them — you spend every ride stamping on them,
you don’t give them a second thought when you
smash them into every trail obstacle going, yet
you expect them to function flawlessly.
Older SPD pedals require a TL-PD40 tool to
loosen the castellated collar that secures the
cartridge, which costs just a couple of quid,
but for newer pedals you’ll need nothing more
complicated than an adjustable spanner.

OTIME TAKEN
10 minutes
per pedal
OSKILL LEVEL
Easy
OMONEY SAVED
Around £15
OGOT INTO
TROUBLE?
It’s doubtful. Just
make sure you
recognise which
threads are lefthanded and which
are right-handed.
When re-fi tting
the pedals do so
by hand — only the
fi nal tightening
should be done
with tools.

It’s easier if you
clamp the pedal
you’re working on
in a workmate or a vice,
although it isn’t essential.

02

GET MORE
Watch a video
tutorial by scanning
this code, or
by visiting
po.st/znJZrb

The TL-PD40 tool fits onto the
castellated retaining collar, but
this newer pedal requires just
combination or adjustable spanner for
cartridge removal. Simply undo the
collar, making sure you turn it the right
way — left pedals have a conventional
right-hand thread, while right pedals have
a left-hand thread.

03

YOUR
EXPERT
AL VINES
A shop mechanic
for 13 years, Al has
been there and fixed
that. He owns 10
bikes and says his
least favourite job is
sorting out internally
routed cables.

TOOLS FOR THE JOB
ORags/grease/combination or
adjustable spanner

118 mbr JULY 2014

04

Once the nut is fully undone,
remove the cartridge from
the pedal body.

Shimano Saint pedals have pins
that can be adjusted in height by
adding or removing a washer as
shown. Use Loctite 243 to prevent them
seizing into place or falling out. Aim to
create a concave platform by arranging
taller pins around the outer circumference
of the pedal and shorter ones in the
middle — this will aid retention and
improve feel.

10

Clean the cartridge assembly
with rags. If you choose to
use a degreaser, allow it to
dry completely before continuing.

05

Clean within the pedal
body — spray some
degreaser inside and poke a
rag right to the bottom of the body
with the help of a screwdriver or
similar. Make sure it is totally dry.

06

Any loose or missing bolts on an
SPD pedal should be secured/
replaced as applicable. Use
Loctite 243 on the threads to prevent
them coming loose in the future.

11

Fill the bottom
quarter of the pedal
body with your
favourite quality grease.

07

TOP TIP
A grease gun allows
easy, accurate
application of grease,
which minimises waste
and mess

Re-fit the
cartridge,
tightening the
nut fully into the pedal
body; the old grease
will be purged from the
cartridge. These pedals
with metal collars should
be tightened to 10Nm.

08

12

TOP TIP

If you’re working on an SPD pedal,
grease the springs and pivots of
the retention system.

Go easy when
tightening the older
plastic cartridge collars,
as over-tightening will
result in breakage

Clean the excess
grease from the
pedal and repeat
for the other pedal.

09

13

Before re-fitting the pedals, apply anti-seize to the threads to help prevent
unwanted creaks and seizure.

JULY 2014

mbr 119

TECHNIQUE

ADJUST YOUR
RIDING TO
YOUR GEAR
It’s easy to blame equipment for problems on
the trail, but think ahead and you can adapt
your technique to get the most from your kit
Words: Chris Ball Photos: Andy McCandlish

E

very month we talk about technique, skill and how
to improve as a rider. The focus is always on you, the
reader, the rider, the one in control of the bike. The
role of equipment is often to provide an excuse for not
staying on the trail, casing a jump or struggling to pass
through a technical section unscathed, when in fact it’s the
rider’s skills that are letting him or her down.
Equipment shouldn’t be used as an excuse, but it’s not
something to ignore either. Know the limitations of your bike
and tyres and you’ll ride faster, smoother and safer than ever.

RIDING A 29ER
Clumsy. Impossible to get around switchbacks.
No fun. Riders who jump on a new ‘wagon
wheeler’ and expect it to feel the same as their
current 26in-wheeled mtb often conclude that
these bikes aren’t up to snuff — but in reality it’s
because the rider hasn’t adjusted his technique to
the new bike. Is it necessary to do so? Well, you
wouldn’t ride a superbike the same as you’d ride
a Harley Davidson. Through experience, here are
a few tips I’ve found that are crucial to enjoying
the 29er experience and realising that, in reality,
you can ride pretty much anything on the bigger
wheels, even tight switchbacks.

120 mbr JULY 2014

29ER TIPS: BODY MOVEMENT

YOUR
EXPERT

Smaller wheels can
be pushed harder

With a bigger wheel lifting you higher off the
ground and reducing your bike’s inherent
twitchiness, it’s important that you become
more dynamic yourself. On a smaller wheel
you can move your bike around at a moment’s
notice, but on a bigger wheel, the bike might
not move so fast or as much. Instead of blaming
the wheels, try moving even more than normal.
Angulate at the hips and knees to compensate
for less lean of the bike and be prepared to
move further back to push your weight over the
rear wheel. Once you start getting into this new
rhythm, you’ll find that the bigger wheels are
more capable than you first thought.

CHRIS BALL
Skills maestro Chris
teaches mountain
biking at Dirtschool,
and he’s also
managing director
of the Enduro
World Series

650b/26in WHEELS
With smaller wheels you still need
to move your body weight around,
but your bike should be sufficiently
responsive that you can lean it
over more by pushing through the
inside on corners. A greater lean
angle means more riding on the
edge-tread of the tyre and also a
tighter turning radius. One theory
is that the ability to tighten corners,
react at the last minute and look

for maximum playfulness on 26in
wheels is the reason why a 29er is
often faster, because wider, longer
and more efficient lines will increase
your overall average speed. We’re
not all racers though, so if you prefer
smaller wheels then make the most of
them: get more aggressive, challenge
the bike to do more, and enjoy the
benefits of faster acceleration and a
more punchy ride.

Let your tyres
determine technique

29ers are best
suited to taking
a wide, smooth
arcing line

29ER TIPS: LINE CHOICE
If your bike is less responsive then it makes sense to look for bigger
arcs and bigger shapes, and to avoid squaring off corners. Bizarrely,
although you may feel slower, there’s a high chance you’re actually
travelling faster on the bigger wheels, and that means you need to
brake earlier. After a couple of crashes on very familiar bits of trail,
this was my first lesson from riding 29in wheels. Brake earlier, set up
earlier, feel free to roll over more of the rough stuff and let it run for
longer on corner exits.

TYRE CHOICE
There’s a lot of chat around tyres and which to choose for any given
season or location, but listen in on a conversation at a trail centre and
you’d think that every crash, slide and struggle can ultimately be blamed
on the wrong rubber. Once again though, adapting your technique is the
key to staying out of trouble.
Firstly, if you’re on low-block, fast tyres and keep blowing out turns,
try braking earlier and with less force. That alone will give you a lot more
control. Conversely, if you’re feeling confident and you know traction is
limited, why not set up early and make the tyres slide on purpose? By
thinking ahead and initiating a slide, rather than waiting for it to happen
anyway, you’ll keep an element of control and have a lot of fun at the
same time.
The amount of grip you have should also determine how fast you hit
technical sections. On sticky rubber you can roll slowly over a big pile of
roots and be confident you’ll stay upright. But, on tyres with less grip,
you may need to ride faster, sometimes uncomfortably so, to cut the time
spent on the slippy surface to a minimum.

JULY 2014

mbr 121

TECHNIQUE

FLAT PEDALS

RIDING A HARDTAIL

Mountain bike riding should be a series of
heavy and light pressures, in response to
the trail. That requires you to push in the
smooth, soft and grippy sections and then
release that energy to go light over the
rougher, slippier sections. Most SPD riders
pull OK but aren’t used to pushing.
With flat pedals, pulling on your feet is
impossible so to get the bike off the ground
at all you’ll need to push first, just like
preloading a spring.
Riders used to SPDs will need to learn to
drop their heels. This position not only gives
you a wider range of movement but also
helps keep your feet on the pedals when
you hit a bump. It’ll feel strange at first, but
use your feet, try and grip the pedals a little
and really push on those heels.

Push for more
trail punch

HIGH SEAT
The advent of the dropper seatpost has
meant that many of us wouldn’t dream of
tackling a descent without lowering the seat
first. But not everyone can drop the seat at
the flick of a switch, and that in itself has
consequences for riding technique.
Gone is the huge rearwards lunge seen in
manuals and drop-offs and instead, due to
the limitations of having a high seat, you will
find a more rigid rider, with far less range
of movement. It’s predominantly for this
reason that XC racers often look so unstable
on steep technical sections. Fingers get
pointed at poor technique, but in reality,
the restrictive nature of a high seatpost
pushes a rider’s weight upwards rather
than backwards.
A high seat limits
shifts of weight

A dropper post
lets you get down

122 mbr JULY 2014

On a recent trip, one guy was on
a hardtail. He got stuck in despite
the fact that the terrain was
pretty full-on even for 150mm
travel bikes, but he experienced
puncture after puncture until
everyone was out of tubes.
He blamed the lack of rear
suspension but, watching him
ride, it was clear that he wasn’t
making any adjustments in line
or speed.
We’ve been spoiled by
full-suspension frames and welltuned damping. On a hardtail
you can’t take any liberties and
you need the best line for your
bike rather than the ‘best’ line full
stop. Often, a few metres of extra
trail are worth the effort to avoid
a time-consuming puncture or
other mechanical mishap.
Look for smooth lines between
the rocks and keep your eyes out
for smooth dirt catch-ruts and

Hardtails need to
take smooth lines

low lines on off-cambers that
may give you extra grip. With
wheels that track the ground
less effectively than their
full-suspension equivalents,
you can still have just as much
fun as with a dual bouncer but
you might have to make a few
concessions along the way.
You should also remember that
your best suspension isn’t your

fork — it’s your arms and legs.
They have more travel than any
damper unit and are completely
controllable at all times, so make
good use of them. If you’ve been
riding a full-suspension bike,
bend your knees more and let
your elbows do a little more work
too. It might be more physically
challenging, but it’s great for
your all-round skills. 

       

  
 
  
 

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BIKE TEST

SUB £2K 650B TRAIL BIKES

RIP IT UP, TEAR
Boasting top-quality frames shared with more expensive flagship models,
these bikes deliver performance on the trail that’s surprisingly hard to beat
Words & Photos: Mick Kirkman

126 mbr JULY 2014

TESTED
THIS
MONTH

CANYON SPECTRAL AL 6.0
£ 1 ,6 9 9.9 9 ( p l u s p & p )

GT SENSOR ELITE
£ 1 , 74 9 . 9 9

NORCO FLUID 7.1
£1,800

VITUS ESCARPE 275 VRS
£ 1 ,4 7 9.9 9

IT DOWN
JULY 2014

mbr 127

The sub £2k price point
now boasts more viable
options than ever

BIKE TEST

W

e’ve got a
theory at
mbr that
the sub £2k
full-suspension
category is
where it’s at this
season. Why?
Well, unless you’ve
got cash to burn
and can stretch all way up to £3,500 (and
often more), these bikes are at a sweet
spot where ride quality isn’t far from its
peak. Spend more and you’ll gain benefits
in weight but you’re unlikely to find huge
leaps in overall performance.
The reason is simple: the frames on sub£2k bikes are often identical to the more
expensive flagship aluminium models.
Frame geometry and suspension forks
play the biggest part in differentiating
performance on anything less than highend bling machines, so if these are dialled

These bikes are at
a sweet spot where
ride quality isn’t
far from its peak

then everything else should fall into place.
Also, cheaper Shimano Deore and
SLX groupsets are now so good that the
performance is tough to distinguish from
pricier XT-level equipment. Over in SRAMland, it’s a case of splitting hairs between
X5 and X7 compared to the X9 gearing
that typically graces machines costing
hundreds of pounds more. And, with the
exception of the most ultra-competitive
direct sales brands, it’ll still take a big heap
of cash to jump up to the real cutting edge
of 1x11 drivetrains.
To put our theory to the test, we’ve
selected four brand new 650b suspension
bikes all around the £1,700 mark. We’ve got
an even split of direct sales bikes and high
street brands. Of the former, Canyon’s new
Spectral and Chain Reaction Cycles’ Vitus
Escarpe both pump out 140mm of travel
and are extremely well-specced machines.
Of the bricks-and-mortar brands, GT’s
entry-level Sensor with its new profile and
sophisticated 130mm-travel suspension
looks like it could be a great all-rounder. The
redesigned 120mm-travel Norco Fluid is a
doppelganger for the multiple test-winning
26in Norco Sight from a couple of years
back, so we hope it rides every bit as well.
If our theory holds water, you’ll be left
with plenty of change from two grand for
a helmet, knee pads or even a dropper
seat post, which means you can still hit the
ground rolling on all the latest gear.

Team mbr check for
any unturned stones
during testing

WHERE AND HOW

Tale of the test

CONTROL TYRES
To make this test as fair as
possible we fitted Maxxis
Ardent tyres to all of the bikes.
£39.99 maxxis-bicycle.co.uk

Modern full-suspension bikes are incredibly
versatile, and we wanted this test to represent
that. We mixed up a lot of trail centre and
man-made all-weather riding at Dalby and
Grenoside with some steeper natural tracks
and trails thrown in for good measure.
Stems were swapped where we felt it was
appropriate to unlock the full potential of
the bike or to simply improve the fit, and we
suggest you do the same when test-riding
any bike. In the case of the Canyon Spectral
we even delved deeper into the rear shock
tuning, using volume reducers to increase
the ramp-up in the suspension to improve
the ride.

Internally routed
RockShox Reverb
Stealth with
125mm drop

BIKE TEST

Overly tall head tube
on the size large
compromises the
riding position

Slick 142x12mm
dropouts with 6mm
Allen key fastening
bolt-thru axle

Hollow forged,
ultra-stiff Shimano
SLX cranks are
simply amazing

CANYON SPECTRAL AL 6.0
£ 1 ,6 9 9.9 9 ( p l u s £ 4 1 .0 7 p & p )

SPECIFICATION
Frame Spectral
Aluminium,
140mm travel
Shock Fox Float CTD
Performance
Fork Fox Float CTD
Evolution, 140mm
Wheels Mavic Crossride
with Continental
Mountain King II tyres
Drivetrain Shimano
SLX chainset, shifters
and f-mech. XT r-mech
Brakes Avid Elixir 5
200/180mm
Components Iridium
3-0 740mm bar,
70mm stem, RockShox
Reverb Stealth
dropper post
Sizes XS, S, M, L
Weight 13.44kg
(29.6lbs)
Contact canyon.com

GEOMETRY
Size tested L
Head angle 66.9°
Seat angle 70.2°
BB height 340mm
Chainstay 431mm
Front centre 742mm
Wheelbase 1,173mm
Down tube 700mm
Top tube 612mm
Reach 440mm

130 mbr JULY 2014

C

anyon says its new 140mm-travel
Spectral is designed to handle
everyday trail riding right through
to aggressive all-mountain
shredding. And when Canyon’s
team riders, including triple DH world
champion Fabien Barel, have raced the
exact same frame on the gnarly Enduro
World Series stages you can’t really argue.
The 6.0 model here is the cheapest
option, but there are no prizes for guessing
that the German brand’s direct sales model
means you still get a top-tier frame built
into the lightest bike on test. High-end
parts like a RockShox Reverb dropper post,
Shimano SLX chainset and Mavic wheelset
complement an exquisitely designed frame
with clean sculpted lines and excellent
finishing quality. It’s also packed with
contemporary features like a tapered head
tube, 142x12mm bolt-thru axle, integrated
rubber chainstay protector and sleek
anodised pivot hardware.
Frame sizing is a little concerning, though.
Canyons tend to be on the small/short side
and riders over 6ft will struggle to fit the
largest Spectral tested here though moving
to the XL 29er version could be an option.

SUSPENSION
An open cartridge Fox Evolution Float
fork has its travel reduced internally from
150mm to 140mm to match the rear. Even
with the reduction in travel the 32mm
platform is pretty stretched and isn’t very
stiff. Also, the fork had dry wiper seals that
made them sticky to get moving.
A Fox Performance series CTD Float

shock with a Boost Valve takes care of
suspension duties on the rear. There’s quite
a soft, deep feel to the Spectral suspension,
so we fitted the largest volume reducer to
the air can to tighten up the ride — this is
something any rider can cheaply and easily
experiment with to give a more progressive
suspension feel.

COMPONENTS
The Reverb Stealth dropper post is a
welcome luxury on any bike and the
lightweight Mavic Crossride wheels add
plenty of zip. Factor in the chain-retaining
XT Shadow Plus 2x10 drivetrain and
you’re looking at an excellent overall ride
experience. This component package
wouldn’t look out of place on a £3k bike.
The only black mark on the kit list was
the inconsistent Avid Elixir 5 brakes, where
the rear brake lever pulled to the bar and
faded on most rides.

PERFORMANCE
Once we swapped out the big, slow-rolling
Conti Mountain King tyres, the Spectral
felt a lot more nimble. There’s lively zip
and energy once it’s up to speed, and it
maintains momentum well over a variety of
pitches on both loamy and rocky surfaces.
Pedalling with the stock shock creates
some up and down movement on steeper
climbs or sprinting hard out of the saddle,
and aggressive riders might find the
suspension a bit ‘floaty’ and too eager to
use all of the travel too often when riding
hard. All testers rated the Spectral’s trait of
encouraging you to play and interact with
the trail, aided by the frame feeling stiff
and precise and the geometry placing rider
weight down low in the frame.

On a previously tested size-medium
Spectral, the balance between front and
rear was spot-on, so it was a bit frustrating
that we couldn’t get the handlebar low
enough with the size-large frame’s taller
head tube. This set-up pitched rider weight
more rearward, amplifying (or perhaps even
creating the issue) of the rear feeling a tad
wallowy at times.
Also, the cheaper Fox fork with 32mm
stanchions doesn’t really match the
Canyon’s potential, or offer great steering
precision and resistance to twisting. It had
an unpredictable action too, so we ended
up just pumping it up harder to gain the
support we craved and simply took the hit
on lack of tracking and sensitivity.

VERDICT
The Canyon Spectral 6.0 could have
walked away with this test with a few
simple changes. It’s more expensive
than the Vitus but the frame displays
excellent construction quality, most
of the parts are dialled and the direct
and engaging ride offers glimpses of
performance only found on far more
expensive trail bikes.
Bikes are sold as complete packages
though, and thanks to the overly tall
front-end and twisty, poorly damped
fork, a slightly softer than ideal rear
shock for aggressive
riders and issues with
the Avid rear brake,
we couldn’t award
higher marks.

WE LOVE
Superb quality, stiff
chassis is a match
for any high-end
aluminium frame

WE HATE
Full potential
not unleashed
as we couldn’t
achieve ideal
ride position

RockShox Reverb
dropper post is a
touch of class

142x12mm bolt-thru
axle boosts stiffness
at the rear

Fox Float CTD
Performance shock is a
little too eager to move

JULY 2014

mbr 131

BIKE TEST
Stem at
maximum
height is still
too low

New Angle
Optimised
Suspension with
130mm travel

Formula C1
brakes are
impressive
stoppers

Forged Pathlink
rotates backwards as
shock compresses

GT SENSOR ELITE
£ 1 , 74 9 . 9 9

SPECIFICATION
Frame 6069 aluminium,
130mm travel
Shock Fox Float CTD
Evolution Boost Valve
Fork RockShox Sektor
Solo Air, 130mm travel
Wheels GT All Terra
hubs, Jalco XCD21
rims, Continental
X-King tyres
Drivetrain Shimano
Deore chainset, shifters
and mechs
Brakes Formula C1
180mm
Components Fizik
Tundra2 saddle,
Crankbrothers Cobalt
seatpost, 80mm stem
Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight 14.34kg
(31.6lbs)
Contact gtbicycles.com

GEOMETRY
Size tested M
Head angle 68.2°
Seat angle 68.3°
BB height 334mm
Chainstay 443mm
Front centre 696mm
Wheelbase 1,139mm
Down tube 682mm
Top tube 601mm
Reach 431mm

G

T’s new Sensor ditches the brand’s
old-style, higher bottom bracket
‘upright’ geometry in favour of
more modern, lower-slung, lengthier
numbers. It also uses a refined
variation of GT’s I-Drive suspension system
called Angle Optimised Suspension to
deliver 130mm of travel with a significantly
lower centre of mass and a lighter back-end.
The somewhat complicated-looking
configuration uses a forged ‘Pathlink’ strut,
which houses the bottom bracket and joins
the shock to the chainstays, which hang
from a huge rear swingarm that appears to
have eaten too many steroids. Thankfully,
GT’s designers have kept the overall frame
silhouette and graphics looking very clean
and sleek.

SUSPENSION
A key aim of the Angle Optimised
Suspension is to balance the interaction
between the chain and the relatively high
main pivot. This pivot location is desirable,
as it gives a rearward axle path, which in
turn allows the rear wheel to move up and
back over bumps and enhance the Fox CTD
shock’s ability to absorb square-edge hits.
To counter the negative pedalling effects
of the high main pivot, the ‘Pathlink’ rotates
rearward as the suspension compresses, to
reduce the chain growth associated with the
rearward axle path. It sounds complicated,
but doesn’t feel quirky to pedal and it
definitely rolls over bump edges better. Up
front, the Sensor gets a super-supple but
divey RockShox Sektor Solo Air fork with
130mm travel and an effective lock-out dial.

COMPONENTS
After years of complaining about the lack

132 mbr JULY 2014

of feel and excessive rotor drag on Formula
brakes, we’re pleased to say the (flawless
here) new C1 brakes proved a revelation
with great lever shape, tons of power and
ample modulation.
The GT High Flange hubs and Jalco rims
look a bit cheap, but they didn’t stop the GT
being one of the fastest-feeling bikes under
hard pedalling, even if the Conti X-King
tyres were severely lacking when it came to
stopping or turning quickly.
While the flat profile of the Fizik Tundra
saddle was uncomfy for some, the lack of a
dropper post or even a seatpost QR made
adjusting the saddle height for descents a
total pain in the ass for all. Also, the 3x10speed drivetrain had the same flexy cranks
as the Norco Fluid.
The lengthy 80mm Kore Cubix stem felt
out of date on a newly revised, longer sizemedium trail bike and amplified the ‘over
the front’ feeling the Sensor can exhibit.

PERFORMANCE
Despite being the heaviest bike on test,
the Sensor responds directly to pedal
power to give great acceleration on flowing
singletrack, and once up to speed the bike
keeps on trucking over medium-sized
square-edged hits and lumpy terrain with
impressive smoothness. With the exception
of the twisty Deore cranks, the bike feels
rock-solid too, great for firing in and out of
tight berms or getting on the gas.
The suspension is a tale of two halves.
The rear is very sensitive and supportive,
and gobbles up chatter without feeling too
saggy, but doesn’t balance well with the
softer Sektor fork, where the front-end felt
under-damped and rode too low, even with
the stem raised as high as it would go.

On more downhill-style trails, the
combination of the steeper head angle,
long chainstays and the ‘lengthening rear
end’ of the suspension design tended to
work the rider over a little; all three factors
combine to pitch weight forwards when
the going gets tough, and make the Sensor
feel slightly nervous and unpredictable.
Slacker geometry or more travel up front
might help matters, but another gripe
was some quirky wheel-spin habits when
ascending particularly technical climbs.
The rear suspension felt like it wanted to
squat rather than drive the rear wheel into
the ground under low-speed, high-torque
situations like winching up knobbly, steep
and tough pitches.

VERDICT
GT has maintained the best traits of its
signature suspension philosophy and
wrapped it up into a much slicker and
better-shaped package. The new Sensor
Elite chassis is undeniably solid, with
rear suspension that maintains rolling
speed on the roughest trails. As such, it’s
a great choice for ironing out vibrations
and gobbling up miles effectively.
Rider position is mostly good, but
on steeper descents the bike becomes
slightly unbalanced and asks the front
fork to work too hard. And,
even though it sprints
and pedals well, the
Sensor is too heavy
for out-and-out
climbing addicts.

WE LOVE
Pedals efficiently
and doesn’t get
slowed down by
rough terrain

WE HATE
Rides too frontheavy and could
lose a couple
of pounds in
weight
Sector fork was
underdamped
and overactive

Angle Optimised Suspension
looks overbuilt but
performs well on the trails

New Formula C1
brakes performed
impressively

JULY 2014

mbr 133

BIKE TEST

QR rear axle
isn’t as strong
as a 142x12mm
bolt-through

Norco’s A.R.T.
suspension delivers
120mm of travel

Tapered head tube
and fork steerer
added for 2014

Shimano Hollow Tech II
cranks add stiffness but
there’s no clutch mech to
keep the chain in place

NORCO FLUID 7.1
£1,800

SPECIFICATION
Frame Aluminium,
120mm travel
Shock Fox Float CTD
Evolution
Fork Fox Float CTD
Evolution, 120mm travel
Wheels Formula DC
hubs, WTB Speed
Disc i23 rims, Maxxis
Ardent 2.25in tyres
Drivetrain Shimano
Deore chainset and
f-mech, XT r-mech
and shifters
Brakes Shimano
Deore, 160mm
Components
Norco Trail
Sizes S, M, L, XL
Weight 14.14kg
(31.18lbs)
Contact
evanscycles.com

GEOMETRY
Size tested L
Head angle 67.2°
Seat angle 72.5°
BB height 328mm
Chainstay 430mm
Front centre 728mm
Wheelbase 1,158mm
Down tube 695mm
Top tube 616mm
Reach 452mm

134 mbr

JULY 2014

W

ith 120mm at each end,
Norco’s new Fluid has the
least travel on test, but
the switch to bigger 650b
wheels and the associated
geometry shifts take performance and
capability much further than you’d expect
for a short-travel machine. It’s the same
story we’ve seen elsewhere, and indeed the
lively Canadian trail bike punches above its
expected weight.
The pricier of two models in the Fluid
range, the 7.1 is still a budget-conscious
option, and as a result a few corners have
been cut in frame construction compared to
more expensive Norcos. There’s a tapered
fork steerer for 2014 to improve front-end
stiffness, but the chainstay lengths don’t
alter between different sizes, plus there’s a
bolted-together, rather than welded, rocker
link and a quick-release instead of boltthrough fastening rear axle.
Still, the new aluminium frame has got
it dead right where it matters most: the
geometry. A low bottom bracket, slackish
head angle and short chainstays blend to
offer a good riding position and an agile feel.

SUSPENSION
Three of the four bikes on test (GT Sensor
excepted) use a similar, tried-and-tested,
sealed bearing Horst Link suspension
design with the shock running parallel to
the seat tube. A basic Fox Float CTD shock
handles bumps on the Fluid, and although
the Evolution series shock doesn’t have a
‘Boost Valve’ for the manufacturer to use to
tune compression, the rear suspension feels
well damped and supportive. As ever, the
three-position CTD adjuster allows you to
firm up the rear suspension for climbing.

Keeping it Fox at both ends, the Float 32
fork uses the same stanchion (upper tube)
size as the Fox fork on the Canyon Spectral,
but with its shorter 120mm-travel chassis
(which is less susceptible to twisting) it feels
more solid and steers more directly. It’s not as
comfortable or sensitive over rough ground
as the RockShox forks on test, though.

COMPONENTS
Norco usually nails the short stem/wide bar
combo, so it was surprising to find a huge
90mm stem that’s totally unmatched to
the playful Fluid attitude. We swapped it
for a shorter 60mm stem and this greatly
increased steering control and weight
distribution. Maxxis Ardent tyres with Exo
sidewall protection mounted to wider WTB
rims are spot-on for trail riding, as are the
rock-solid Deore brakes, which, even with
smaller 160mm rotors front and rear, are
a great choice to save pennies without
sacrificing performance or reliability.

PERFORMANCE
From the very first ride, the Fluid’s lack
of travel was apparent, and this was both
its strength and its weakness. Pumping
through flowing sections of trail, the 120mm
suspension rides tight and makes the bike
feel poppy. Combined with the excellent
shape and riding position, the Norco
Fluid puts you right in the action with a
manoeuvrable, engaging sensation.
The bike manuals, jumps and corners
great, but you can easily find the limits
of the suspension on rougher or steeper
terrain, and both the chassis itself and
cheaper, flexy Shimano Deore cranks, can
get a bit twisty when hard cornering and
bump forces are combined.

The Fluid also exhibits a little bit of
suspension-induced pedal feedback,
especially in the granny ring, but still
manages to sprint well and generally
remain efficient. It feels like it really
wants to get going on the trail when
you inject some power and rides lighter
than its 14.14kg (31.18lbs) weight might
suggest. Drivetrain noise and regular
chain dropping are both major sticking
points, however. The rear mech is Shimano
XT level but lacks the chain-stabilising
Shadow Plus feature, and in any of the
three front chainrings the Norco dropped
the chain off both sides on nearly every
descent, which was annoying as it
interrupted an otherwise decent ride.

VERDICT
The fun-to-ride Norco Fluid is
wonderfully playful, and it seems to
have inherited some of the spirit of the
multiple mbr test-winning 26in Norco
Sight. It’s a tad heavy for a 120mm-travel
trail bike, and the aluminium frame could
be a bit stiffer, but the Fluid 7.1 still offers
an engaging and responsive ride.
Crucially, though, the Fluid doesn’t
cover ground, up or down, any faster
than bikes here with more travel. As
a result, you’ve got to ask where this
120mm bike stands, given that you can
easily get out of your
depth if you stray too
far from the safety of
a trail centre.

WE LOVE
120mm ripper has
great geometry
and is a lot of fun
to mess about on

WE HATE
Rattly chain jumps
off the triple
chainset on every
downhill or fast
section

Rear QR is an obvious
nod towards Norco’s
bid to keep costs down

Rear suspension
offers decent support
and feels well damped

Rear mech would really
benefit from Shimano’s
Shadow Plus technology

JULY 2014

mbr 135  

  

          
  
   

  

 
    

   

      
     

 
 
   
  
 
 

 
  

 
 

   

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BIKE TEST

140mm travel
front and rear

Easton EA70
XL wheels are
top kit at this
price point

Best in class
Shimano
SLX brakes

142x12mm rear
dropouts add
stiffness and
security

VITUS ESCARPE 275 VRS
£ 1 ,4 7 9.9 9

SPECIFICATION
Frame 6061 aluminium,
140mm travel
Shock RockShox
Monarch RT
Fork RockShox Sektor
RL Solo Air,
140mm travel
Wheels Easton EA70
XL wheels, Continental
X-King tyres
Drivetrain
FSA V-Drive chainset,
Shimano XT f-mech,
r-mech and shifters
Brakes Shimano SLX
180mm
Components Vitus,
740mm bar and
60mm stem
Sizes S, M, L
Weight 13.56kg
(29.9lbs)
Contact
chainreactioncycles.
com

GEOMETRY
Size tested L
Head angle 66.3°
Seat angle 71°
BB height 332mm
Chainstay 441mm
Front centre 735mm
Wheelbase 1,176mm
Down tube 698mm
Top tube 620mm
Reach 443mm

V

itus, the in-house brand from
internet retailing giant Chain
Reaction Cycles, offers excellent
value by cutting out the middleman
and selling direct to customers.
You order your bike online and it arrives in
a big cardboard box fully assembled. It’s
a formula that works really well, and last
month the excellent Vitus Sentier 275 VR
stomped to victory in our Hardtail of the
Year test. We were keen to see if the new
140mm-travel 650b Escarpe was cut from
the same winning cloth.
Like plenty of other manufacturers,
Vitus has redesigned its Escarpe frame
to accommodate 650b wheels for 2014.
Changes include a shortened head tube to
counter the increased stack height of the
bigger front wheel and taller fork, and Vitus
has also used the opportunity to extend the
front triangle to better suit shorter stems
(60mm here as standard) and wider bars
for a distinctly new-school fit. ISCG tabs on
the bottom bracket shell offer extra chain
retention options if you need them, and a
Shimano 142x12mm bolt-through axle adds
stiffness at the rear. The overall shape and
geometry of the frame is great, but the
frame finishing falls a little short of some
others in this test.

SUSPENSION
The air-sprung 140mm-travel RockShox
Sektor fork and Monarch RT rear shock are
easy to balance front and rear, and together
offer a supportive ride, with the Sektor fork
performing better than the Fox forks on
test, both in terms of sensitivity and control.
The Monarch RT shock offers only an ‘open
or closed’ lock-out lever and rebound
adjuster, but you don’t need any more dials

when the suspension is tuned as well as it
is here: in open mode we had no desire for
extra firmness for anything but long fireroad climbs.

COMPONENTS
The new 650b Easton EA70 XL wheels
previously cost £450 in 26in, so there’s no
disputing their quality or value. The same
can’t be said of the tyres — we were glad
to swap out the plastic-feeling Continental
X-Kings for our Maxxis control rubber. This
change immediately unlocked the Escarpe’s
potential and you’ll want to do the same.

Bolt-through axle
boosts rigidity
at the rear-end

JULY 2014

mbr 137

BIKE TEST

TEST
WINNER!

WE LOVE
Amazing value
and balanced
performance from
the cheapest bike
on test

WE HATE
Elsewhere, Shimano SLX brakes and XT
gears with the chain-stabilising Shadow Plus
technology equate to the best kit in test,
with the bonus of a quieter 2x10 drivetrain
with sturdy FSA cranks rather than the noisy
triple chainsets found elsewhere. There’s no
dropper post included, but you could buy
your favourite and still have change thanks
to the competitive Vitus pricing.

PERFORMANCE
Quality Easton wheels
deserve to be shod with
higher quality tyres

60mm own-brand
stem makes for good
riding position

138 mbr JULY 2014

With neutral pedalling and supportive,
progressive suspension the Escarpe 275
VRS is very easy to get along with. The
stable ride offered by the 650b wheels and
long, low geometry with slack angles feels
safe and planted at high speed, but the
frame does feel a tad less sturdy than the
Canyon or GT when you really push it hard.
Also, the flipside of the stable geometry
and extra length is that the bike can feel a
little less urgent and manoeuvrable. Flicky,
BMX-ey style riders who like to work the
bike around berms and milk the trails for
speed may find the overall length of the
Vitus a little duller and less playful for things
like manuals and sudden direction shifts.
Acceleration isn’t the fastest in test
either, but the Easton wheels roll quickly

and there’s a nice poppy feel to the
suspension if you want to pump the terrain
to build speed.
Rider position is well centred thanks to a
short stem (the only one on test we decided
not to swap out), and Vitus appears to
have done its homework with its four-bar
suspension design, as there are no nasty
quirks to unsettle balance; it climbs well,
there’s good cornering traction and nothing
untoward happens under braking even on
the steepest sections of trail.

Frame finishing
and detailing
could be a little
more polished

VERDICT
It’s hard to think of a package for this kind of money that
offers comparable performance to the Vitus Escarpe 275 VRS.
Ride quality is stable and predictable, with no weight penalty
despite costing hundreds of pounds less than the competition.
With just three size options, however, some riders will
fall outside of the range, and if your only focus is all-out fun,
then the Vitus might fall a tiny bit short.
It more than makes up for it in its
versatility, though. From big days out
to trail centre blasts, right through to
steeper, more technical DH tracks, the
Vitus will make light work of them all. You
can’t ask for much more for under £1,500. 

              
           
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BIKE TEST

TEST
WINNER!

Conclusion

T

he switch from 26in to bigger 650b
(27.5in) wheels has well and truly
shaken up the trail bike market. And
with a broad spectrum of freshly
designed or updated models to
choose from, the good news for riders in
the market for a new full-suspension bike is
that performance is better than ever.
Both the GT Sensor and Norco Fluid are
good bikes in many ways; the Fluid frame is
a great shape and a lot of fun to ride, while
the new GT Sensor looks sweet in the flesh
and has some unique suspension qualities
that make it smooth and fast over bumpy
ground. Neither is without fault, however.
The Norco doesn’t pedal and climb as
rapidly as some 120mm bikes we’ve tested,
and it’s also let down by some of the spec
and its inexplicable desire to drop its chain.
It doesn’t help that it was the heaviest bike
in test. As for the GT, the fork feels out
of sync with the rear suspension, which
makes the bike feel a little unbalanced
front to back. GT hasn’t quite nailed the
performance, which means the 130mmtravel Sensor doesn’t quite fulfil its potential
as an all-rounder.
Canyon and Vitus clearly have the
upper hand in terms of the equipment
they offer, simply because taking credit
card details over the internet doesn’t incur
the overheads associated with high street
retailing. Both models exhibited some
quirks with sizing though so you’ll need to
be extra-careful when choosing the size.
That aside, Canyon’s excellent frame
quality is noticeable, and its cheapest
Spectral has a great selection of parts to
match. It slips up, however, with the spindly,
less precise Fox 32 CTD fork and the overly
tall head tube on the size L that makes it
difficult to get centred on the bike. The fact
it was the lightest bike on test and came
with an internally routed Reverb dropper
seatpost couldn’t override this fit issue or
the unreliability of the Avid brakes.
Despite a slightly generic-looking frame,
Vitus has nailed the angles on the Escarpe
275 VRS and chosen the most appropriate
suspension fork and shock to maximise
performance. The build-kit is all dialled
too, with the stiffer hollow-forged cranks,
quieter 2x10 drivetrain and lighter wheels
enhancing the ride experience. It’s a shame
about the Conti tyres, but given that the
Vitus is by far the cheapest bike here it’s
hardly a deal breaker.

Vitus has nailed
the angles on the
Escarpe and the
build-kit is dialled
140 mbr JULY 2014

RANGE FINDER

Our test winner’s stablemates
VITUS ESCARPE 275 VR
£ 1 , 1 9 9.9 9
One rung down the Escarpe ladder, the 275 VR
gets the same great frame and shock as the testwinning VRS, but the fork has been ‘downgraded’
to a heavier RockShox Sektor with chromed steel
upper tubes. The gears have also taken a hit, but
seeing as it’s all predominantly Shimano SLX, it
shouldn’t damage performance one jot.

VITUS ESCARPE 290
£ 1 , 2 7 9.9 9
Based on the same Vitus V-Link suspension design as
the new 650b bike, the Escarpe 290 delivers 120mm
of travel. What it lacks in suspension, however, is
more than compensated for by the improved rollover
and stability of the 29in wheels. But even with that
extra traction, you’ll still need to swap out the stock
Conti tyres to unlock this bike’s full potential.

NOTES ON THE NUMBERS

COCKPIT CONUNDRUM
If you compare the geometry on the GT to the
Canyon, it’s obvious that the former’s steeper
head angle gives a much shorter front centre
measurement, even though there’s only 11mm
separating the top tube lengths on both bikes.

So, while both bikes offer a similar fit, the GT will
have more weight on the front-end, which may
explain why the fork felt divey.
On a separate note, all of the bikes here came
with nice wide 740mm handlebars to improve

Canyon Spectral

GT Sensor

Norco Fluid

Vitus Escarpe

A Head angle

66.9°

68.2°

67.2°

66.3°

B Seat angle

70.2°

68.3°

72.5°

71°

C BB height

340mm

334mm

328mm

332mm

D Chainstay

431mm

443mm

430mm

441mm

E Front centre

742mm

696mm

728mm

735mm

F Wheelbase

1,173mm

1,139mm

1,158mm

1,176mm

G Down tube

700mm

682mm

695mm

698mm

H Top tube

612mm

601mm

616mm

620mm

I Reach

440mm

431mm

452mm

443mm

control and handling. This is a undoubtedly a
massive step in the right direction — all we need
now is for bike manufacturers to start fitting
shorter stems as standard and we’ll finally be
cooking on gas!

I
A

H
B
G

D

E
C
F

S P E C I F I CAT I O N

This month’s bikes at a glance
Make/model

Canyon Spectral AL6.0

GT Sensor Elite

Norco Fluid 7.1

£1,699.99

£1,749.99

£1,800

£1,479.99

Weight

13.44kg (29.6lb)

14.34kg (31.6lb)

14.14kg (31.18lb)

13.56kg (29.9lb)

Contact

canyon.com

gtbicycles.com

evanscycles.com

chainreactioncycles.com

XS, S, M, L

XS, S, M, L, XL

S, M, L, XL

S, M, L

L

M

L

L

Spectral aluminium

6069 Speed Metal Ultra Alloy

Fluid 27.5 aluminium

6061-T6 aluminium

Suspension fork

Fox 32 Float CTD Evolution

RockShox Sektor Silver

Fox 32 Float CTD Evolution

RockShox Sektor Gold RL

Rear shock

Fox Float CTD Performance

Fox Float CTD Evo

Fox Float CTD Evolution

RockShox Monarch RT

Front travel

140mm

130mm

120mm

140mm

Rear travel

140mm

130mm

120mm

140mm

Hubs

Mavic Crossride 15/142mm

GT All Terra 15/142mm

Formula DC 15/QR

Easton EA70 XL

Rims

Mavic Crossride

Jalco XCD21

WTB Speed Disc i23

Easton EA70 XL

Mavic

Stainless steel

Stainless steel

Easton

Continental Mtn King II 2.4in

Continental X-King 2.4/2.2in

Continental X-King 2.4in

Continental X-King 2.4/2.2in

Shimano XT 2x10

Price

Vitus Escarpe 275 VRS

FRAME
Sizes
Size tested
Frame material

WHEELS

Spokes
Tyres
GROUPSET
Shifters

Shimano SLX 2x10

Shimano Deore 3x10

Shimano XT 3x10

Front mech

Shimano SLX

Shimano Deore

Shimano Deore

Shimano XT

Rear mech

Shimano XT Shadow Plus

Shimano Deore Shadow Plus

Shimano XT Shadow Plus

Shimano XT Shadow Plus

Shimano SLX

Shimano Deore

Shimano Deore Hollow Tech II

FSA V-Drive Mega EXO

Shimano

Shimano

Shimano

FSA Mega EXO

Brakes

Avid Elixir 5

Formula C1

Shimano Deore

Shimano SLX

Rotor sizes

200/180mm

180mm

160mm

180mm

Crank
Bottom bracket

COMPONENTS
Saddle

Iridium 3.0

Fizik Tundra 2 MG

Norco Trail

Vitus

RockShox Reverb Stealth 125mm

Crankbrothers Cobalt

Norco alloy

Vitus

Handlebar

Iridium 3.0 740mm

Kore Durox 740mm

Norco 740mm

Vitus 740mm

Stem

Iridium 3.0 70mm

Kore Cubix 80mm

Norco Trail 90mm

Vitus 60mm

Seatpost

Rating

JULY 2014

mbr 141

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Our favourite
people choose their
favourite photos

A S C H O S E N B Y. . .

ANDY McCANDLISH
PHOTOGRAPHER

Who: Danny MacAskill,
Steve Peat, Hans Rey
Where: Isle of Skye
When: Summer 2010

N
mbr’s main man
north of the border
is an adventurer,
photographer, writer
and product tester.
His association with
mbr dates all the way
back to our first issue,
when he somehow
wangled a trip to
Morocco to test four
full-sussers. We’ve
tightened up on
expenses since then

146 mbr JULY 2014

ow and again a trip really comes
together. The company, the
riding, the atmosphere, they all
contribute to something that you
know will never be repeated. You
will have other great trips, but never quite
like this one.
This image bottles up one such trip for
me, and one quick look releases memories
of a great week away. It’s not often you
get Danny MacAskill, Steve Peat and Hans
Rey on a ‘bit of a road trip’, but that’s
exactly what we had round the west coast
of Scotland, and — what do you know — it
turned out these guys were great company
as well as great riders.
This photo was taken on the Sligachan
Bridge, Isle of Skye, on a rainy summer’s
day in 2010. We were heading into the
hills for yet another day on the trail and

I spotted the potential for a picture just
as we left the vehicles. This might look
like a jolly potter along, but they were all
riding along the two-foot wide parapet of
the bridge, over 20ft up from the rocky
riverbed. Of course that wasn’t quite
enough for Danny, middle, who popped a
long wheelie as they rode down the other
side. Nobody asked him to, he was just
being Danny.

It was that spontaneous spark of fun
and skill in amazing surroundings that
sums up the whole trip. Staying in bothies,
getting helicopter uplifts into the heart of
the Torridon mountains, beachside fires,
roadside trials riding and smiling faces
over whisky glasses. Sounds great already,
but when I look back and realise I was
with three of the most talented guys in the
world, it’s even more special.

When I look back and realise I was with
three of the most talented guys in the
world, it’s even more special

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