australia

BikeRadar Editor’s Picks – Ben Delaney

Some great products solve problems, like ice-cold, please-don’t-be-frostbitten genitalia on sub-freezing rides. Others create new options we never thought about, but now lust after. Hydro-Di2? Yes, please.

I spent a lot of time on various 700c machines this year on the roads around my home in Boulder, Colorado. As new shoes, GPS computers, helmets and clothing filtered through the test line-up, I mostly rode race and endurance road bikes, but dabbled with some tri bikes and even a little cyclocross. These five things stood out as my favourite pieces of road gear for 2014.

BMC Teammachine SLR01 Ultegra

I loved riding the bmc teammachine slr01 - up and down mountains, on dirt, pavement... anywhere, really: i loved riding the bmc teammachine slr01 - up and down mountains, on dirt, pavement... anywhere, really

Too many bikes these days are pigeon-holed: race bike, comfort/endurance bike, aero bike, climbing bike. If you want just one good bike, this could well be it. Granted, BMC is as guilty as any company of such pigeon-holing, and the SLR01 is slated as a climbing race bike: the geometry skews more towards an aggressive position than the Gran Fondo endurance bike, and there aren’t any meaningful concessions made for aerodynamics.

But with a sub-800g frame and a noticeably soft seatpost, the SLR01 hits the sweet spot of comfort and agility. It felt right at home in my favorite pursuits, whether racing tarmac circuits, bombing down serpentine mountain roads or climbing dirt backroads high in the Rockies. Its eager acceleration felt like any ?ber-stiff race rocket, but the plush ride — not only at the seatpost but at the bars, as well — rivaled any good endurance bike.

Funny thing is, when the bike showed up for test I wasn’t all that interested in it. Perhaps that was because, after riding 25-28mm clinchers and tubeless tires for most of the spring and summer, the stock 23s looked skinny, and my brain said, ‘this is going to be a harsh ride.’ Boy was I wrong. I hated to send this one back!

US$5,600 / ?TBC / AU$10,620 (Dura-ace spec, reviewed model not available in Australia)

www.bmc-switzerland.com

Shimano R785 Hydraulic Di2 levers

Shimano's r785 hydro/di2 lever is the best there currently is: shimano's r785 hydro/di2 lever is the best there currently is

Although the ever-cautious Shimano hasn’t perfected them enough to bestow a ‘Dura-Ace’ or even an ‘Ultegra’ label on these levers, the R785 hydraulic Di2 shifters are the best road hydraulic system right now by a long shot.

For shifting, Di2 has my money. The performance and ease of use make mechanical Dura-Ace feel clunky.

For braking, R785 levers feel like mechanical Dura-Ace, with smooth and predictable lever travel, but with easy single-finger operation, even in hard downhill stopping. (SRAM’s latest Hydro R levers work well, too, but the lever travel feels odd to me: too much squeeze for not enough cheese.)

Speaking of lever squeeze, I am eagerly awaiting the day SRAM or Shimano offers road hydro levers with contact adjustment, so you can dial in your levers like you can on your mountain bike.

In the meantime, R785 is the best there is.

?US$699 / ?TBC / AU$649 for assembled set of levers, hoses and calipers

www.shimano.com

Ant+

Increasingly, ant+ makes the world of cycling tech go 'round: increasingly, ant+ makes the world of cycling tech go 'round

When it comes to technology, too often there is a line in the compatibility sand: Shimano or Campy, Mac or PC, 10- or 11-speed. (Don’t even get me started on bottom brackets…) I love the fact that Ant+ simply works across so many platforms, brands and products. I use a CatEye HR strap with an old Garmin Edge 500 and a new Stages power meter. When I’m testing something new, like a Wahoo Kickr or a Garmin 920XT, connecting it all together is simple and solid. I salute the companies for cooperating on a single protocol, and especially Garmin for keeping it open now that the Kansas City giant owns the technology.

Conversely, Polar wireless products are not Ant+ and therefore incompatible with the rest of the world. Unless you’re making something really special, I’m not plunking down my money on a closed-system product.

As winter settles in for the long, trainer-bound haul in much of the northern hemisphere, I am digging the fact that a tiny Ant+ USB can connect me to interactive training software like TrainerRoad and an increasing number of multiplayer online racing videogames, like Tour de Giro or Zwift.

It’s a mighty thing, that little Ant.

www.thisisant.com

Assos Tiburu winter bibs

A windproof crotch on waffle thermal fabric is the best of both worlds: cold-weather comfort without constrictive leg panels: a windproof crotch on waffle thermal fabric is the best of both worlds: cold-weather comfort without constrictive leg panels

Assos holds a few dubious distinctions among cycling clothiers: most expensive, most ridiculous advertising imagery, most incomprehensible product names… But often, the Italian-Swiss company absolutely nails it, particularly with bib shorts, thanks to immaculate pad placement, luxurious materials and well-thought-out cuts.

Assos new winter bibs use a waffle thermal fabric and the same partially free-floating chamois construction as S7. While the waffle fabric offers great warmth thanks to the little pockets of air (loft is a good thing for winter clothing), the season-specific highlight here is the windproof crotch. Sound weird? Well, it’s not as weird as huddling under a handwarmer in a public restroom, trying to regain feeling in your sensitive bits. And yes, I’ve been there. More than once.

I’ve tried a number of bibs tights with wind- or thick waterproof material on the entire front portions, and these can be warm on very cold days, but they don’t move well. Even when just pulling them on, bib tights with wind-treated leg panels are stiff and often seem to test the seams. The Tiburu bibs move like summer shorts, but with a warm thermal fabric throughout, and a windshield for your crotch.

US$299 / ?166 / AU$329

www.assos.com

ProLink ProGold lubricant

I've been buying progold prolink for years, and see no reason to change lubes: i've been buying progold prolink for years, and see no reason to change lubes

This made my list last year, too. It’s a humble workhorse, this stuff. It’s a degreaser cleaner and lube in one. Put it on, let it set, then wipe off the excess, taking the muck along with it. I put it on every single bike in my garage, from the kids’ bikes through all the road bikes to the mountain bikes.

US$8.70 / ?5.50 / AU$14.95

bikes.progoldmfr.com








Superstar Proline Tool Kit review

Direct-seller Superstar is known for very strong value, and this Proline kit is a good example. The 16 tools inside the box are sturdy and functional, if not flashy.

The long, ball-ended Allen keys are crisply made. Their sizes run from 2mm to 10mm, and they have their own fiddly holder inside the case. Other obvious elements include a pedal spanner, a chain breaker, pressed-steel cone spanners and spoke keys in three sizes – including Mavic.

There’s a three-pronged Torx key, though the big T40 arm is of little use – a T30, T25 and a smaller one, such as the T10 that’s often found on brakes, would have been better. While the two screwdrivers (one flat, one cross-head) are decent, they are arguably taking up room that more specialist tools could occupy. The same can be said of the tyre levers. This criticism is true of many tool kits though, not just the Superstar Proline.

The superstar proline tool kit contains 16 sturdy tools:

The Superstar Proline tool kit contains 16 sturdy tools

The inclusion of? chainring bolt tool is a nice little touch, as is providing two sturdy handles that fit six different heads (chain whip, cassette tool, pedal spanner, bottom bracket wrench, crank puller and ISIS bottom bracket wrench). They save a lot of space and attach rapidly with sprung-bearing secured pins – you even get two spares.

The plastic case is chunky and holds the tools firmly, though you do have to dismantle the bigger stuff to get it back in, obviously. It’s not a big kit, but it’s a damn good start.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Note: the Superstar Proline tool kit is not distributed in the US or Australia, but Superstar can ship overseas.








RockShox Monarch DebonAir shock sleeve upgrade review

Increased volume air spring sleeves aren’t new. The clever bit about DebonAir is that rather than a single chamber design that just adds volume to the positive (impact absorbing) air spring, the retrofit sleeve also increases the volume of the negative (stiction fighting, initial movement helping) air spring.

This is beneficial to RockShox Monarch and Monarch Plus shocks, which have always had great damping but suffered with a comparatively sticky, wooden feel at the start of the stroke.

The larger volume negative chamber reduces the load needed to start an upgraded Monarch or Monarch Plus shock moving by up to 25 percent. That’s a big difference in small bump absorption and the responsiveness of ground following compression and extension movement. This increases comfort when you’re cruising but also boosts traction in the first 30 percent of the stroke.

The larger main volume also means a more gentle spring progression rather than a sudden ramp up towards the end of the stroke. That’s caused mid-stroke wallowing problems with other increased volume shocks, but RockShox’ damping balance still keeps the shock impressively on point.

This screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it. the result is a new benchmark for all-round rear end control:

The screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it

This means great corner railing support and successive hit absorption without the shock having to return to higher in the stroke to regain meaningful control. It’s also improved the comfortable big hit appetite of our Giant Trance 27.5 host bike.

The result is a more supple, high traction start, better-balanced mid-stroke and long drop composure than any other air shock we’ve tried, including Fox Float and Float X units.

The sleeve refits to any 2014 Monarch (RT3, RT, R, RL, XX) or Monarch Plus (RC3, R) shocks as well as 2013 Monarch RT3 shocks. Most of the volume increase occurs at the seal end so it doesn’t affect shock/frame fit as much as Fox’s Large Volume eyelet design can. You can buy pre-fitted Monarch RT3 or Monarch Plus RC3 with similarly great performance.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Note: Currently this item is not available in Australia








RockShox Monarch DebonAir shock sleeve upgrade review

Increased volume air spring sleeves aren’t new. The clever bit about DebonAir is that rather than a single chamber design that just adds volume to the positive (impact absorbing) air spring, the retrofit sleeve also increases the volume of the negative (stiction fighting, initial movement helping) air spring.

This is beneficial to RockShox Monarch and Monarch Plus shocks, which have always had great damping but suffered with a comparatively sticky, wooden feel at the start of the stroke.

The larger volume negative chamber reduces the load needed to start an upgraded Monarch or Monarch Plus shock moving by up to 25 percent. That’s a big difference in small bump absorption and the responsiveness of ground following compression and extension movement. This increases comfort when you’re cruising but also boosts traction in the first 30 percent of the stroke.

The larger main volume also means a more gentle spring progression rather than a sudden ramp up towards the end of the stroke. That’s caused mid-stroke wallowing problems with other increased volume shocks, but RockShox’ damping balance still keeps the shock impressively on point.

This screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it. the result is a new benchmark for all-round rear end control:

The screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it

This means great corner railing support and successive hit absorption without the shock having to return to higher in the stroke to regain meaningful control. It’s also improved the comfortable big hit appetite of our Giant Trance 27.5 host bike.

The result is a more supple, high traction start, better-balanced mid-stroke and long drop composure than any other air shock we’ve tried, including Fox Float and Float X units.

The sleeve refits to any 2014 Monarch (RT3, RT, R, RL, XX) or Monarch Plus (RC3, R) shocks as well as 2013 Monarch RT3 shocks. Most of the volume increase occurs at the seal end so it doesn’t affect shock/frame fit as much as Fox’s Large Volume eyelet design can. You can buy pre-fitted Monarch RT3 or Monarch Plus RC3 with similarly great performance.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Note: Currently this item is not available in Australia








RockShox Monarch DebonAir shock sleeve upgrade review

Increased volume air spring sleeves aren’t new. The clever bit about DebonAir is that rather than a single chamber design that just adds volume to the positive (impact absorbing) air spring, the retrofit sleeve also increases the volume of the negative (stiction fighting, initial movement helping) air spring.

This is beneficial to RockShox Monarch and Monarch Plus shocks, which have always had great damping but suffered with a comparatively sticky, wooden feel at the start of the stroke.

The larger volume negative chamber reduces the load needed to start an upgraded Monarch or Monarch Plus shock moving by up to 25 percent. That’s a big difference in small bump absorption and the responsiveness of ground following compression and extension movement. This increases comfort when you’re cruising but also boosts traction in the first 30 percent of the stroke.

The larger main volume also means a more gentle spring progression rather than a sudden ramp up towards the end of the stroke. That’s caused mid-stroke wallowing problems with other increased volume shocks, but RockShox’ damping balance still keeps the shock impressively on point.

This screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it. the result is a new benchmark for all-round rear end control:

The screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it

This means great corner railing support and successive hit absorption without the shock having to return to higher in the stroke to regain meaningful control. It’s also improved the comfortable big hit appetite of our Giant Trance 27.5 host bike.

The result is a more supple, high traction start, better-balanced mid-stroke and long drop composure than any other air shock we’ve tried, including Fox Float and Float X units.

The sleeve refits to any 2014 Monarch (RT3, RT, R, RL, XX) or Monarch Plus (RC3, R) shocks as well as 2013 Monarch RT3 shocks. Most of the volume increase occurs at the seal end so it doesn’t affect shock/frame fit as much as Fox’s Large Volume eyelet design can. You can buy pre-fitted Monarch RT3 or Monarch Plus RC3 with similarly great performance.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Note: Currently this item is not available in Australia








RockShox Monarch DebonAir shock sleeve upgrade review

Increased volume air spring sleeves aren’t new. The clever bit about DebonAir is that rather than a single chamber design that just adds volume to the positive (impact absorbing) air spring, the retrofit sleeve also increases the volume of the negative (stiction fighting, initial movement helping) air spring.

This is beneficial to RockShox Monarch and Monarch Plus shocks, which have always had great damping but suffered with a comparatively sticky, wooden feel at the start of the stroke.

The larger volume negative chamber reduces the load needed to start an upgraded Monarch or Monarch Plus shock moving by up to 25 percent. That’s a big difference in small bump absorption and the responsiveness of ground following compression and extension movement. This increases comfort when you’re cruising but also boosts traction in the first 30 percent of the stroke.

The larger main volume also means a more gentle spring progression rather than a sudden ramp up towards the end of the stroke. That’s caused mid-stroke wallowing problems with other increased volume shocks, but RockShox’ damping balance still keeps the shock impressively on point.

This screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it. the result is a new benchmark for all-round rear end control:

The screw-on sleeve increases traction and sensitivity without overwhelming the damper’s ability to control it

This means great corner railing support and successive hit absorption without the shock having to return to higher in the stroke to regain meaningful control. It’s also improved the comfortable big hit appetite of our Giant Trance 27.5 host bike.

The result is a more supple, high traction start, better-balanced mid-stroke and long drop composure than any other air shock we’ve tried, including Fox Float and Float X units.

The sleeve refits to any 2014 Monarch (RT3, RT, R, RL, XX) or Monarch Plus (RC3, R) shocks as well as 2013 Monarch RT3 shocks. Most of the volume increase occurs at the seal end so it doesn’t affect shock/frame fit as much as Fox’s Large Volume eyelet design can. You can buy pre-fitted Monarch RT3 or Monarch Plus RC3 with similarly great performance.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Note: Currently this item is not available in Australia








Seattle launches bikes share with 500 bikes

SEATTLE (BRAIN) — Pronto Cycle Share, offering 500 bikes across 50 stations in Seattle, went live Oct.

New brand, Atomik Carbon, rolls out mountain bike rims and handlebars

TAMPA, Fla. (BRAIN) — Atomik Carbon, a new brand out of Florida, is hitting the market this year with carbon rims and handlebars. The start-up is now shipping its all-mountain/Enduro carbon rim, which goes counter to some recent trends — it has a tire bead hook and has a moderate internal width of 24 millimeters, while many trendy carbon wheels are going hookless and offering internal widths of 30mm or more.

VAST Link – a never before seen rear suspension design

It’s not often we get a glimpse at a design while it’s still in initial prototype form, but that’s exactly what we have with the VAST Link suspension system. This novel mountain bike rear suspension design is currently in its concept phase and will likely remain that way until it is either bought or licensed.?

The VAST Link allows the rear end to pivot from a main pivot located near the back of a rigid chainstay. This pivot layout comes with a host of claimed benefits including a rearward and upward axle path, improved shock stroke leverage ratio, increased lateral stiffness, reduced unsprung weight, reduced frame weight and lower manufacturing costs.

A basic drawing of the vast link design. the creator, tim southall is a self-confessed 'backyarder' when it comes to bike design: a basic drawing of the vast link design. the creator, tim southall is a self-confessed 'backyarder' when it comes to bike design

A basic drawing of the design makes sense of what’s going on

Part of the inspiration for the design was to achieve a similar rear wheel axle path to successful systems such as the DW-Link, but with less complexity and pivot points.

There is certainly merit to the design. We’re dubious of some claims, however, including the reduced frame weight and increased lateral stiffness. With little holding the seatstays in plane beyond the rear shock, we suspect plenty of reinforcement (weight) will be required at the chainstay-mounted main pivot to counter lateral movement. We also foresee chain growth having a large impact on the viability of this design.

Behind the VAST Link design is Tim Southall, a 33-year-old South Australian with a long history in riding and a self-proclaimed ‘backyarder’ when it comes to design. Doing carbon bike repairs part-time when home from working overseas in the tourism industry, he started to look into suspension system improvements. Over the past two years, Southall has put together this still-unfinished prototype with 118mm of rear wheel travel in order to test his unique suspension design.?? ?

Unlike the majority of the industry – which uses 3D modelling to test early phases of design – Southall built a working model to test common fitment issues. Since starting the prototype, he admits to have underestimated the extreme difficulty in building such a prototype – especially without the use of heavy-duty jigs and similar.

Being in Australia, Southall says that on a small scale, getting items such as high-modulus carbon sheets and pivot hardware is near impossible. So for the moment, the prototype remains a concept and not something he’s has been able to ride.

The prototype looks a little rough and that's because the focus is on the suspension design: the prototype looks a little rough and that's because the focus is on the suspension design

Plenty of time has been invested into this proof of concept prototype – it’s handmade without question…

?“To confirm that the design worked, the bike had to be built to test for chain clearance on the sprung chainstay and crank and heel clearance at all points of suspension travel in every gear – everything else could be tested in 2D modelling.” Southall said. “Luckily it all worked out and everything fits the way it should.”

“The fine tuning of the design which will require multiple prototypes to be built and tested is beyond my budget so I’m looking to sell or license the design to an existing or start-up company that has expertise in that area,” Southall continued. “Many subtle adjustments will need to be made to discover the optimum pivot placements – but as a starting point, this is the best platform by far.”

Either way, we applaud the ingenuity in attempting something so technical. Let us know what you think of the VAST Link!








Singular Buzzard review

Singular describes its Buzzard as a Swift (its cross-country frame) “with a shot of adrenalin and a couple of healthy measures of Dutch courage” but it’s pretty much a completely new bike with very different geometry. Has it got the recipe right for technical raving?

  • Highs: Resilient ride with precise, slow speed handling
  • Lows: Short front end cramps climbing capability and fast and loose descending style
  • Buy if: You want the smoothness of 29er wheels in an almost trials-style hop and pop format

Frame and equipment: tight butt

The Buzzard gets off to a good start with a wide splayed plate bridge behind the bottom bracket and a curved seat tube to give room for the chunkiest conventional boots available, such as the monster Maxxis High Roller 29×2.4in if you want maximum air cushioning.

Using a thin plate rather than tubular chainstay to give maximum tyre clearance isn’t a new idea but it’s simply effective:

Using a thin plate rather than tubular chainstay to give maximum clearance isn’t a new idea but it’s simply effective

While you don’t get the Swift’s eccentric bottom bracket for tensioning the chain, or a bolt-thru axle, you do get chainguide mounts (as well as pragmatic rather than pretty touches, such as folded metal cable guides, which keep the price down). The chromoly steel main tubes are upsized for strength over the Swift, and to take a tapered fork of up to 140mm travel, the Buzzard is fronted by a straight 44mm head tube. Combined with the shorter, more easily flicked round rear end, fat rubber capabilty and rearward shifted weight distribution for instant wheelies it’s potentially looking good for more technical trail taming.

Ride and handling: stunted front

What Singular has done with the front end definitely puts that techy potential in jeopardy. Rather than extending it to give a longer front centre and a decent reach with the shorter stem needed to make sense of the slack, long fork handling the designers have actually shortened it. Not just a bit either, but by 22mm compared with the Swift, which also makes almost 30mm shorter than many other comparable medium frames. Add the rear shifted rider position and the cramped feel immediately makes you think ‘fit a basket’ not ‘blast it’ up climbs or down descents.

At 570mm the effective top tube of the buzzard is very short relative to some of its peers, which has a dramatic effect on handling balance:

At 570mm the effective top tube of the Buzzard is very short relative to some of its peers, which has a dramatic effect on handling balance

Even with a super slack head angle, the short front end is prone to tuck in and slither rather than let you properly get weight behind it and drive it hard.

In its defence getting out of the saddle and working your weight around definitely helps and it’ll pick its way down really steep, tight turning slopes with precision as long as you force your weight back.

It’s worth working round the geometry if you can as the tubeset definitely has the trademark resilient feel and natural spring of steel when you start clobbering through rocks and roots. That tight back end also kicks well as long as you can keep the front wheel down and avoid kneeing the shifters.

Singular doesn’t have distributors in the US or Australia but will ship worldwide – see www.singularcycles.com/faq for details.

Specifications as tested:

  • Size: M (also available in L, XL)
  • Weight: 12.41kg / 27.3lb
  • Frame: Double butted 4130 steel
  • Fork: MRP Loop, 140mm
  • Shock: N/A
  • Max Tyre Size: 2.5in

TRANSMISSION

  • Chainset: Shimano Zee
  • Shifters: Shimano Zee
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Zee (R)
  • Chain: Shimano SLX
  • Bottom Bracket: Mortop Ceramic
  • Cassette: Shimano SLX

WHEELS

  • Front: Mavic CrossMax XL rim and hub
  • Rear: Mavic CrossMax XL rim and hub
  • Tyres: Mavic Quest, 29×2.4in

FINISHING KIT

  • Brakes: SRAM Guide, 180/160mm rotors
  • Bars: Renthal flat bars, 750mm
  • Stem: Renthal Duo, 50mm
  • Grips: Hope, lock-on
  • Seatpost: Easton EA30, 31.6mm
  • Saddle: Selle San Marco
  • Headset: Hope
  • Pedals: N/A

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.