Welcome to a new monthly feature on BikeRadar called ‘Throwback Thursday’. We won’t showcase the latest technology here; instead we’ll highlight vintage machines that left an indelible mark in the pages of cycling’s history. Some of you may even remember these bikes when they were contemporary, but we hope all of you will enjoy this look at the bikes of yesteryear.
The Specialized S-Works Epic Ultimate is perhaps the quintessential example of a true factory ‘works’ machine. Although the company built approximately 1,500 samples between 1990 and 1995, each one supposedly put the balance sheet into the red. No matter, though – it was indisputably cool, undeniably cutting-edge in terms of technology for its time, and highly sought-after by racers and enthusiasts alike.
The Epic Ultimate was the brainchild of Jim Merz, a former frame builder in the Portland, Oregon, area who eventually landed a role as a designer at Specialized in the early 1980s. For its time, the Epic Ultimate was truly revolutionary with titanium lugs TIG welded and externally machined by Merlin Metalworks, and carbon fiber tubes that were then bonded in right at Specialized’s headquarters in Morgan Hill, California. Claimed weight for the frame was just 1.2kg (2.6lb).
“Jim is really such a prolific, capable fabricator of not only bikes but chainrings, equipment, anything,” Specialized founder and chairman Mike Sinyard told BikeRadar. “This guy was amazing and he was the original DNA of the Specialized brand. He never made it into the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t a high-profile guy but he was the guy. He’s a real guy, a real innovator, and he’s the exact opposite of a retro grouch. He is an advanced grouch.”
Building frames in such a manner was a painstaking and expensive process. According to Sinyard, the company was only able to produce at most two frames per day – a wholly unacceptable output by modern standards for a mass manufacturer. Moreover, they were all assembled by one Specialized employee, Brian Lucas.
“Back in the day, it’s not like we sat around in meetings and really thought about things too much,” Sinyard said. “We’d just go, ‘Hey, that’d be great. That’d make a difference. That’d be the best of the best. That’d be a bike that we’d want.’ We didn’t think about image a lot but looking back, it was a great innovation at the time to make something really light like that. We never made money on the bike. It was a very small thing and we made it right there in Morgan Hill.”
Whatever it actually cost, one could argue that it was merely an early example of how winning on Sunday could yield sales on Monday. Mountain bike racing legend Ned Overend would capture the first mountain bike world championship on an S-Works Epic Ultimate in 1990 and the iconic image of a mustachioed Overend speeding down the trail in Durango, Colorado, is one that many fans of the time will never forget.
This particular Epic Ultimate isn’t actually the machine that won that day, but it’s no less significant. This one was originally owned by Mark Norris, who headed up the S-Works program at the time and used it as a test bed for various parts. Aside from Overend’s personal rig, Norris’s Epic Ultimate is apparently the only other fully custom sample to be built – at great expense – using the height of the 16.5″ size but the length of the 18″ variant.
And test it he did.
Norris’s Epic Ultimate was no showroom machine that was babied and coddled. Instead, he raced it on a regular basis and the frame shows the scars of that heavy use. It was only in this manner that he could evaluate the parts that would potentially be used in either the racing program or the production machine.
Not surprisingly then, there were plenty of component makers who were itching to get their foot into that door and Norris’s bike was constantly awash in exotica. Some of those period-correct bits aren’t on the bike today but there are still plenty of fascinating one-off bits to be seen.
Highlights include an ultra-rare Le Cr?me welded titanium crankset (with serial numbers 0001 and 0002), a slick custom-made titanium handlebar with welded-on bar ends, a set of prototype Mavic Crossmax wheels that were picked up in person at Mavic’s headquarters in France, a prototype CNC-machined Shimano XTR rear derailleur, a Tioga machined titanium cogset, Boone titanium chainrings, a Specialized Futureshock FSX fork with a one-off brace machined by then-Avid head Wayne Lumpkin, and prototype Specialized tires with handwritten test notes that are still on the sidewalls.
At one time, the bike also had a set of prototype magnesium Specialized S-Works brake levers and an ultralight beryllium bottom bracket spindle that supposedly cost a thousand dollars to produce – back in 1992. Virtually every bolt on the bike is titanium.
As shown here, the bike weighs just 8.80kg (19.40lb) – an impressive number even by modern standards although things have obviously changed since then.
“You have to put it in context of the time,” said Overend, who is still immensely fit and regularly trounces racers half his age. “Then it was state of the art: the RockShox forks with their hydraulic damping worked better then the bumper forks from Manitou and Scott, but it was not much travel and the whole front end was pretty flexible, especially with that ‘lost wax’ Ti stem. When the fork was compressed, like under hard braking going into a turn, the front end got pretty steep.”
“It was super light for the time and the frame was pretty stiff, so climbing was probably its best attribute,” Overend added. “After getting used to a full-sus 29er with modern suspension, riding that bike down a fast rough trail would be downright frightening today.”
That may be, but few modern bikes are likely to have as big an impact as the S-Works Epic Ultimate did back in the day.
Special thanks go to the folks at Vintage MTB Workshop. For more incredible samples of mountain bike history – and a preview of what you’ll see here in coming months – visit their web site at www.vintagemtbworkshop.com.
Whether you’ve set your bike aside for snow sports or rode it hard all winter, now is the perfect time to give your machine a thorough inspection to ensure it’s in tip-top shape for spring.
First and foremost, it is always good to settle on a system when inspecting your bicycle. You could divide the task by various categories — e.g., wheels, frame, suspension, brakes, drivetrain, etc. — or you could simply work from front to back. Either method works, so long as you cover all the bases.
Here are 10 things to check over.
Editor’s Note: This list is list is geared towards the beginner and intermediate home mechanic and is by no means exhaustive. Have some insight to share? Leave a comment below.
1. Inspect your tires
Determine how much tread your tires have left and check for knobs that are peeling off as well. Inspect the tire to make sure there are not small tears or thorns stuck in the tire that could become a problem on the trail.
It’s not uncommon for tire casings to give out before you’ve worn out the tread. Check for excessive sidewall wear: look for abrasions and threads protruding from the casings.
If you run your tires tubeless, now is a good time to top off your tires with a fresh scoop or two of your favorite sealant.
How to set up tubeless mountain bike tires
Spin your wheels to check for any side-to-side wobbles or vertical hops. This is also a good time to make sure the wheels are spinning freely and that the hubs are neither too loose nor too tight. Give the spokes a quick squeeze to make sure none are loose. Tension and true as needed. If you are not comfortable doing that, take the wheel to your favorite shop.
Take a close look at where the nipples meet the rim; hairline cracks could quickly turn into a major problem.
How to true bicycle wheels
While checking your wheels for trueness, you hopefully heard the sweet sound of silence as the disc brake rotors spun through the brake calipers. If you heard scraping it may be time to reposition the brake caliper.
Brake rotors can also become bent, so pay attention to any side-to-side wobble; this is an easy fix with an adjustable wrench, a quiet workspace, and gentle tweak of the rotor.
Check the brake pads for excessive wear and replace if needed.
How to align your disc brake calipers
How to straighten a bent disc brake rotor
How to remove and replace disc brake pads
Inspect the fork stanchions for any nicks or scratches. Use a clean rag to wipe off any dirt from the fork seals. Check the seals for cracks or excessive fluid build up; both are signs that your fork may need to be rebuilt.
Once everything seems to be in working order, cycle the fork and rear suspension several times before checking your sag settings and adjust your air pressure accordingly.
How to set suspension sag
The stem, handlebar and seatpost may be the three most thankless components on a mountain bike. While they need very little in the way of routine adjustments, it is still important to inspect them for signs of damage from time to time.
Remove your seatpost and regrease the seat tube, or use carbon paste if the post is carbon. Remove the handlebar and inspect it for signs of over-clamping; check for deep gouges that could lead to a potential failure down the line.
When it’s time to reinstall the handlebar, make sure the stem is straight, the headset properly adjusted (there should be no play or binding as the handlebar moves back and forth) and position the brakes and shifters to your liking. Be sure to tighten everything to its proper torque.
How to adjust handlebar height
How to service a headset
Are wider handlebars better?
6. Shift and brake lines
Check derailleur housing for signs of wear, paying special attention to where the cables stop on the frame, as it is not uncommon for the wires encased in the plastic derailleur housing to pull through the ferrules at the end of the casing. Replace worn cables and housing as needed.
Follow a similar system for the brake and dropper seatpost if applicable.
Follow the brakes from the levers to the calipers checking for signs of wear and scuff marks.
How to replace and adjust derailleur cables
How to replace a hydraulic brake hose
After inspecting the shift and brake lines for wear, it is also a good idea to check the frame. Brake and shifter housing that is allowed to rub excessively against a frame can and will chew through steel, carbon and aluminum frames. It’s easy enough to prevent this with a few small strips of protective tape.
Examine the frame for signs damage from rock strikes, pay particular attention to the down tube and chainstays.
If you ride a full suspension, be sure to check the suspension pivots and shock bushings for any signs of play.
Tips to protect your frame from wear and tear
Without a functional drivetrain you’ll be going nowhere fast.
Shift through the gears, there should be no popping or skipping from one cog to another without you moving the shift levers.
Inspect the derailleur hanger to ensure it’s not bent.
Examine the teeth on the chainrings and cassette cogs for signs of bent or broken teeth. Keep in mind that on most modern components the teeth have varying shapes to aid in moving the chain from one cog to another.
Inspect the chain for wear, ideally with a chain-checker tool. Over time the bushings that make up the chain’s rollers wear down and develop play, this play allows the chain to “stretch.”
How to adjust a front derailleur
How to adjust a rear derailleur
How to check for chain wear
How to fix a broken chain
9. Frame fasteners
While some of these nuts and bolts would have been covered while looking over your brakes, cockpit, frame and drivetrain, this is still worth its own mention.
If you don’t own a torque wrench and plan on doing your own bike maintenance, buy one. Keep a list of the manufacturer’s recommended torque values whenever possible. Pay special attention to those bolts that you rely on to keep your smile intact: stem, handlebar, brakes, shifters.
Why torque wrenches are invaluable
10. Prep your gear
Last but not least, take a few minutes to go over the gear that connects you to the bike.
Check to make sure the buckles on your shoes are in good shape and that your cleats are firming screwed in.
Examine your helmet for cracks and replace if needed.
If you ride with a hydration pack, take the time to clean it out and repack it. Have a bladder in need of cleaning? Never bothered to throw out any of the energy bar wrappers? Have several punctured tubes stuffed in the bottom of your bag? Now is the time to deal with all of this.
Inspect your tools, too. Make sure your shock pump and mini pump are both in working order. If you carry a first-aid kit, replace anything you used.
Telltale signs it’s time to replace your helmet
What to pack for long mountain bike rides
Have something to add to the list? Leave your comments below.
Giant’s aero road machine the Propel was launched last year, but the range was was limited and pricey – the Advanced SL 3, for example, was four-and-a-half grand with an Ultegra groupset. We loved the bike, but we weren’t so enamoured of the price.
For 2014 Giant has increased the range and reduced the prices of the Propel bikes and really has hit the sweet spot. In fact, the new Advanced 3 won the ‘best aero’ accolade in Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year Awards 2014.
The Propel frame’s aero properties didn’t come easily to Giant’s designers. During its development, they went through more than 80 iterations of the design as well as plenty of prototyping, riding and wind tunnel analysis. Were their excessive efforts worth it? The simple answer is yes, but maybe not for the reasons you’d imagine.
We’ve seen the data, visited wind tunnels and ridden plenty of aero road bikes, but what really makes the Propel Advanced 3 stand out for us is its ride quality.
The bike’s geometry is based around the race-ready TCR, and its close cousin the Defy. Our large test bike had a 58.5cm long top tube, with a tight 100cm wheelbase, a 73-degree head angle and a seat angle that’s half a degree slacker. This results in a fast-handling bike that keeps things exciting without being twitchy or nervous.
The slender aero down tube changes shape midway along the down tube. This isn’t a styling exercise – it’s designed to incorporate a standard bottle cage and round bottle in. The second bottle cage mounts are lower, so they stay in line with the down tube bottle. In hindsight it seems like an obvious design, but that doesn’t make Giant any less clever for having done it.
For a model with Shimano 105 and alloy kit, its overall 8.2kg weight is also impressive, and shows just how light the frameset is.
The ride quality is easily as good as the excellent TCR’s, the frame and fork soak up enough high frequency vibrations to keep fatigue at bay. It can’t quite match the Defy for absolute comfort but that’s not the Propel’s intention. For a full-on race-ready aero machine, its smoothness is pretty much peerless.
The Propel Advanced 3’s component package is based around Shimano 105, exactly what we’d expect of a bike at this price. The shifting performance is spot on and the cable routing is all internal, routed through ports behind the head tube, which gives it a very clean look.
The V-brakes are designed by Giant but built by TRP. Both the front and rear are shaped to match the frame; the front fits behind the fork crown and the rear follows the shape of the seatstays. The design is based on a mountain bike style V-brake, with two arms joined by a solid ‘noodle’.
They have shorter travel than a calliper brake, which takes a bit of getting used to, but offers plenty of power. That said, the Propel is not a bike where dragging a brake on descents comes naturally, but it feels stable and stiff, and we were forever trying to descend with minimal braking to fully exploit the rapid nature of the Propel. This bike a fine companion for going downhill fast.
The wheels are new to us, but we’ve been impressed with Giant’s hoop offerings so far. The P-A2 wheel uses a sealed cartridge hubset from Formula with bladed stainless steel spokes. The new rim is 35mm deep and shaped similar to Zipp’s alu 30s, so it’s wider than a standard rim and? gives Giant’s impressive PSL-1 23c tyres a rounder, broader profile. The wheels will be at the more budget end of the Giant range, but we are impressed with the modern design and stiff construction, as well as how good they felt on the road.
The cockpit comprises a stem and ovalised bar from Contact, which is good for the money. The Fi’zi:k Arione saddle and bladed carbon seatpost are other highlights.
It has a 53/39 chainset and a wider 12-28 cassette that’ll appeal to strong sportive riders – for whom the Propel is a great choice – but a 52/36 chainset would have been perfect. Ultimately though, Giant has created much more than an aero race machine. It’s a brilliant all-rounder with a boundless enthusiasm for speed.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards, which will be published on 3 March 2014. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Want to buy a mountain bike? Before you do, read our essential advice on how to make sure you make the right purchase. Whether you’re looking to commute to work or get going on entry-level downhill declines, these tips will help you reach a purchase decision.
1. Three main types of mountain bike are available – rigid (with no suspension), hardtail (with a suspension fork at the front) and full-suspension (with both front and rear shock absorbers). There’s some more guidance in our Best Mountain Bikes under ?500 Buyer’s Guide. Pick what makes sense for the terrain you intend to ride.
2. The first step should be deciding on the budget you have available – and remember that you’ll probably need some extra kit to make riding your new bike a practical and enjoyable experience, such as a helmet, gloves and apparel. These days you can find decent lightweight sub-?500 mountain bikes with aluminium frames, though the more you spend the lighter the bike is likely to be and therefore easier it is to climb and accelerate on.
3. You will also need to factor in a bare?bones maintenance budget of about ?100 a year (this breaks down to a couple of cheap tyres, a new chain, a couple of sets of brake blocks and some workshop labour) – and even more if you plan to do plenty of off-road riding. You could save yourself some of this by doing the work yourself, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty and you feel confident enough to give it a try.
4. In the UK, the Cycle to Work initiative has encouraged employer-purchasing schemes combined with government tax breaks. This makes it possible to treat yourself to some serious equipment, worth up to ?1,000, and feel that you’re getting something back from the taxman at the same time – always a bonus. If your company isn’t in the Cycle to Work scheme or you’re self-employed, creative financing is well established in the bike trade. Many bigger shops and online retailers offer good – and often zero per cent – credit deals that have helped countless cyclists access good equipment with relative ease by spreading the cost.
5. Your local IBD (that’s ‘independent bicycle dealer’ in trade jargon) is a good place to buy, especially if you take a long-term view on warranty and after-sales service. Person-to-person contact should ensure that you don’t get lost in the bike-purchasing woods.
6. Before you step over the threshold of your IBD, make sure you have a firm idea of the extent of your budget. Keep in mind that most local shops will have deals on offer depending on the time of the year, and that they’re always keen to move last year’s stock.
7. There’s no doubt that a lot of the best deals are to be found on the internet. Now that buying online is done with barely a flicker of concern, you should be able to find plenty of good deals. But remember to set aside at least ?30-?50 to get things sorted mechanically during the first month because, unlike purchases made at your IBD, you won’t be able to send an internet-bought bike back for its required first service.
8. Ebay and other auction sites are another obvious online option. However, we would only recommend purchasing here if you’re an experienced mechanic.
9. Alloy, steel, aluminium or carbon? The frame material will largely be dictated by the price, but expect either steel or aluminium to cost up to about ?300. From this point onwards, oversized aluminium tubing is pretty much dominant. As you head towards the ?1,000 mark, you might start seeing the appearance of carbon in the fork, and possibly portions of the frame. Steel is the most forgiving of the trio, and will tolerate the most neglect, as long as you don’t let it rust. Aluminium takes hard knocks in its stride but has to be watched more closely after about three years or more of use as it has a limited fatigue life. Carbon is the most temperamental as any cracks or frame damage from careless use usually mean the bike is toast. It should only be considered if you’ve got a long commute on good roads or are planning more serious riding beyond your everyday jaunt to work.
10. 26-inch wheel urban bikes are basically an offshoot of mountain bikes, combining the stouter characteristics of an MTB frame with slightly smaller and more resistant wheels. Fitted with faster and narrower tyres than their knobbly counterparts, they almost match hybrid bikes for speed, while offering better kerb- and pothole-hopping capability. If you don’t want to worry about the consequences of abusive urban riding conditions or you’ve always been tough on machinery, this type of bike is the way to go.
11. Such is the state of refinement and advanced technology in bikes today that virtually any widget or feature you could think of has been designed, tried, tested and put on the market, offering what amounts to an overflowing buffet of choice. Consequently, another way to fine-tune your bike is to think of some of the features you want and ask the helpful salesperson if that combination is already available off the peg.
12. Suspension forks are worth considering if?you have to deal with really rough stuff. Of course, if you’re using your bike for leisure-time off-roading, suspension becomes more of a consideration, but otherwise it tends to add extra weight and make life generally more difficult if you live in a hilly area. Steer clear if the main aim is commuting.
13. Internally geared hubs are bulletproof and require little maintenance. They’re available in various models with between 3 and 14 gears, but will add weight and cost to the bike. Derailleur gear systems are more widespread, offer up to 30 gears and are generally lighter – but because they’re more exposed to the elements, they require more frequent maintenance. With regular checks, though, derailleurs are the way to go for ease of riding.
14. You might want to make sure that the bike you’re getting is equipped with sufficient and correctly placed eyelets (attachment points that are built into the frame) to install a rack of some sort, along with permanent mudguards, which are a must-have in this country. Unless you want to get dirty and you’re not thinking of doing any commuting, that is.
15. We’d strongly recommend you don’t buy any bike until you’ve checked it for size. Like with clothes and shoes, sizing tends to vary between manufacturers, so while you might need a bike with a 54cm frame from one brand, you might require a slightly smaller or bigger size from another. You should stand over the bike with both feet flat on the ground, legs close together. Lift the bike up or look at the amount of clearance: you should be able to lift the front and back wheels evenly off the ground by about 7-8cm, which should give the equivalent clearance between your crotch and top-tube. Mountain bikes tend to have designs with a sloping top-tube, meaning the frames are now smaller in size than they would have been in the past when about 2-3cm of clearance was the norm.
16. Equally important is the reach, or distance from the saddle to the bars; a test ride will help you to determine if the position on the bike of your choice is going to be comfortable or not, and experienced shop staff are trained to help you achieve this correctly.
For more advice on bike positioning, check out: and How to get your road bike position right and How to get your seat height right .
It’s no surprise that the Canyon Torque Ex Gapstar has an excellent parts list. However, it’s backed up by a well-featured 180mm travel, four-bar frame that’s capable of more than just playing in the park.
The main highlight of the outstanding kit bolted to the Canyon Torque is the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock. With adjustable high- and low-speed compression and high- and low-speed rebound damping, it’s incredibly tunable.
In conjunction with the neutral-feeling and stable suspension platform, this unit really allows you to balance fast and furious descending control with pedalling manners in a way no other bike here can.
It also helps that the Canyon is fitted with a double on the RaceFace Chester cranks, so in addition to the top 36T ring there’s a 22T bailout option. The long, 46.6in wheelbase and relaxed 65.9-degree head angle mean that, with sufficient weight shifting, you can winch up steep climbs pretty easily.
The e*thirteen chainguide and clutch-equipped SRAM X9 rear mech keep the chain firmly in place, and a bashguard fends off rock strikes. It adds up to a bike that’s confident downhill but still manages to make surprisingly short work of uphills.
That relaxed front end and the 170mm travel, air-sprung RockShox Lyrik RC fork give plenty of support and confidence when it gets rough, tracking true thanks to the 20mm through-axle and tapered head tube.?
We’re big fans of the stealthy matt anodised finish on the frame, and although there’s no dropper post fitted, the frame does have bosses for external hose/cable guides underneath the top tube.
The front end is slightly tall; we found the stem had to be run as low as possible to help carve turns, but it’s not a deal breaker and the 785mm wide RaceFace bars gave excellent leverage.
It’s an easy bike to muscle through turns and hustle through rocky, rough sections, and it backs up that front end with a stiff, taut chassis.
Some of the Canyon’s pedalling verve comes from the tubeless-ready Sun Ringl? Charger Comp wheels, which we liked, although we hated the end caps for the front hub, which fall out and attempt to lose themselves whenever you take the wheel out.
The mid-weight, EXO sidewall Maxxis rubber uses an incredibly grippy Super Tacky compound up front, paired with a faster-rolling 60a compound at the rear. This gives plenty of grip and feel, and it breaks away progressively, which means more confidence to push harder.
When it does get too much, the Avid Elixir 5 brakes haul up in an efficient manner, though they do lack tool-free adjustment. On the plus side, they use neat clamps to integrate cleanly with the SRAM X9 shifters.
The Torque Ex Gapstar can tackle the rough and tumble of bikepark use and thrash down natural downhill courses, but if you break free from the uplift it sucks up natural big mountain riding too.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
?If you’ve let the muck build up on your bike, here’s a step-by-step guide that will get it looking like new – and running much better – in less than an hour.
We think this is best avoided: a five-minute hosedown and application of lube straight after your ride will help keep your bike running smoothly, if not showroom shiny. But nobody’s perfect – least of all us – so here’s how to shift serious grime.
|Buy cleaning kits from:||
The chain is the most important part of the transmission. The first step to cleaning it is to use hot water — wearing rubber gloves will help you use hotter, more effective, water. Add regular washing-up liquid to your bucket of water and allow it to foam up.?
With the chain in the biggest gear, apply the mixture vigorously using a stiff bristle scrubbing brush. You’ll see a bright, shining chain emerge.
With the chain free from dirt, apply a biodegradable degreaser to the chain and allow it to soak into all the links. This will remove any debris and sticky residues you can’t see, and make for a free-running chain.?
Rotate the cranks backwards a few times to get the degreaser right into the links. Allow to drip-dry, or wash off with clean water.
Use a soft rag to wipe the chain completely clean — you’ll be surprised what still comes off a clean-looking chain. You’re trying to massage the links, moving them through as wide a range of movement as possible — this helps expose the sections of link normally hidden from view.
Apply lube only when the chain is clean. We prefer to lube a chain as little as possible, with as light a lube as we can get away with. Use a dripper bottle, because it’s easier to apply accurately and with minimum wastage.?
Coat the whole chain, spinning the cranks to force the lube into the links. That’s where lube is most useful — not coating the outside plates, as many believe. Wipe excess lube away with a rag.
Slide the outers to expose previously covered sections of inner cable. Give the entire inner cable a wipe-over with a section of rag soaked in degreaser. If you come across any sections that are rusty, replace with a new inner cable. Most dry cables can be reinvigorated with a little light grease.
The best way to apply grease evenly to a cable is to first apply the grease to a clean (lint-free) rag. Holding the rag in one hand with the greased section between thumb and forefinger, gently pinch the section of inner cable in the rag and draw it through.
The idea is to allow the grease to get into the fine strands of the cable without creating any blobs of grease.
Front mechs always suffers from neglect. They’re hard to access and are often jammed full of dry mud, and have pivots drier than a Jacob’s Cracker. The first thing you can do to get your front mech swinging happily again is to apply steaming soapy water. Use a small toothbrush to get right into the parallelogram? and underneath the band.
Give the mech a good going over with the rag. Use a thin strip of rag to thread though the body of the front mech — this allows you to floss the body. Don’t overlook the inside of the front mech cage, as these get pretty grubby from rubbing the chain all day. A couple of minutes and you should have a gleaming front mech.
There’s no point having a free-running chain if the jockey wheels of your rear mech are bunged up. Use an old? spoke or the blade of a thin, flat-bladed screwdriver to carefully hook out any old grass and oily gunge that’s trapped between the jockey wheels and the mech arm side plates.
With the serious grime gone, use a little degreaser and an old toothbrush to scrub the jockey wheels (not forgetting the insides of the mech arm). It’s possible to unscrew the jockey wheels from the mech arm, but we don’t recommend you do so unless you’ve got a thread lock to use when reinstalling the pivot bolts. Sadly, we’ve seen too many rides ended by bottom jockey wheels falling out.?
Re-lube the jockey wheels. They really only need the very lightest touch of lube, as they’ll pick up enough from the chain through use. Remember these little wheels attract a lot of dirt, and with lube being sticky, it doesn’t pay to make matters worse by overdoing it. Wipe the excess away with a rag. They should look dry.
Set the rear gears into the largest rear sprocket and then, without letting the rear wheel spin, shift into the smallest rear sprocket. This will free up a bunch of inner cable and allow you to pop the outers from the slotted cable stops on the frame. With the cables now fully unclipped from the frame you can inspect, clean, re-lube and reinstall everything.
Use the lube dropper bottle to apply drops of lube to all the pivots on the front mech. These take a lot of load, and can use all the help you can give them to remain mobile. Shift the mech into the smallest chainring and then work the parallelogram with your fingers to get the lube worked in.
The rear sprockets are the final port of call on this bicycle maintenance mystery tour. They’re full of technology to help faster shifts, but also full of grease, mud and grass. Pick the worst lumps out with an old spoke or the blade of a thin, flat screwdriver. You’ll be surprised what hides in those tight spaces, even on expensive, open alloy carrier versions.
Get the hot soapy water on them and get scrubbing with a brush. Really stubborn grot can be shifted with a dose of degreaser and another hit with the scrubbing brush. Getting to the backs of the sprockets can be tricky, but it’s really worth persevering, as the cleaner you make it, the less easy it is for new mud to stick.
Give the sprockets some flossing with your strip of rag. This helps dry the sprockets, and also buffs away any outstanding marks. The cleaner you can keep your sprockets, the faster they’ll shift and the longer they’ll last. Dirt acts like a grinding paste when in contact with any part of your transmission, so get rid of it.
?You can get away with just cleaning the important parts, but a full wash-down should be part of your regular post-ride plans. Take the wheels off the bike and wash everything, beginning with the underside of the saddle and working downwards.
?Add a drop of lube to your brake lever pivots — they dry out too and work better with some liquid love. Ditto the shifters. For SRAM X.9/X.0 gears, simply unscrew the top caps and drop a few drops on the spring and cable nipple. With Shimano, undo the plastic grub screw and put a few drops inside before replacing the grub screw.
If you love your bike, show it offby taking a soft duster and some nice polish and giving the paintwork a buffing it’ll never forget. Apart from making the bike look shiny, it also helps make it harder for dirt to stick to the frame the next time you’re out.
The marketplace is rammed with bike cleaning fluids, and they’re mostly pretty good. Most are applied using a trigger bottle spray, requiring you to leave it on for 30 seconds and then wash off with a brush.
That’s all well and good, but we have just as much success with car shampoo and hot water. You can even use washing up liquid, but remember it contains salt so you want to be sure you get it all off.? For all the marketing hype, the detergent and the grime-busting strength of steaming hot water are hard to beat. Have a good selection of sponges and brushes available to get into all the nooks and crannies.
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Finally, here’s a video featuring some of our best tips, as mountain bike beginner Emma talks you through cleaning your bicycle:
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There’s a general air of aggression about the sturdy 180mm travel Vitus Dominer 2. Despite its relatively low price, it still manages to pack a punch, with a selection of durable if unﬂashy kit.
The chunky aluminium frame features some smart details. The lower shock mount shares a ﬁxing point and axle with the main pivot, helping to trim some fat, while the downhill-spec 150mm spacing rear through-axle is clamped by a pinch bolt threaded into a separate trunnion – so clumsy threading won’t write off the frame.
The linkage driven single-pivot back-end meters out 180mm of travel via the RockShox Kage coil rear shock. It manages to be impressively stable when pedalling and, pointed downhill, it swallows up the rough stuff with the endearing enthusiasm of an excited Labrador scofﬁng down its dinner.
The RockShox Domain fork is stretched to its full 180mm of travel, but thanks to the 20mm through-axle and steel stanchions, it’s still respectably stiff – though at the expense of considerable weight. And where air shocks are easily tuned, coils need replacing if the stock rate isn’t right for you (it’s a simple task, but costs around ?30 rear and ?35 front for new springs).
There’s external compression damping adjustment, but throw the bike into a rock garden and the simple damping gets overwhelmed and unpredictable. Over wider spaced hits, however, it cushions landings from drops or jumps effectively.
The tough, dual-ply Maxxis tyres are extra soft compound on the front, and give plenty of conﬁdence and grip. Strong Avid brakes, a decent 750mm bar and stubby 45mm stem improve d descending control.
Despite the easily confused fork, the relaxed head angle keeps things reasonably stable when you’re pointed downwards, which is the direction the Dominer works best in. Point it uphill and the sheer bulk of the bike works against you, as does the short-feeling cockpit.
The effective top tube may well be a spacious 622mm on the size large frame, but that’s partly due to the very laidback seat angle – cockpit space varies greatly depending on how far up the saddle is. Even when you’re stood up, the bike feels pretty short and perched thanks to a short front centre (the distance from front axle to crank axle). It’s a sensation that’s not helped by a tall head tube that’s made even taller by a thick, non-removable headset cap.
The feeling of being too high is compounded by the interrupted seat tube, which forces you to trim the long seatpost so much – if you want it slammed right down – that it’s too short for climbing.
The Dominer 2’s bulk helps it plough on through when charging downhill and, given enough gradient, it’s actually quite fun and lively – but it’s too dulled on tamer stuff.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
The Volagi Liscio was the market’s first disc brake specific performance road bike. BikeRadar tested the original Liscio back in 2011 and enjoyed the ride, but most importantly, the braking performance. Now we’re in 2014, there’s far more support for road discs, with hydraulic brakes and compatible lightweight wheels easily sourced.
In many ways, the Liscio2 (confusingly still called the ‘Liscio’) is the same as the original, but there are a few important improvements. The frame has moved to internal cable routing, which makes it compatible with both electronic and mechanical systems. Additionally, the rear dropouts have been widened to 135mm, a now-accepted width for disc brake equipped road bikes.
Our test bike blended functional performance and value for money. Two key highlights are the TRP HY/RD brakes and Volagi’s Ignite SL carbon clincher wheelset, which was mated to a modest Shimano Ultegra 6800 build.
Ride and handling: competitive handling with relaxed positioning
The Liscio is now faster, and this is purely due to the lighter (and more expensive) rotating mass of our build. Jumping on the pedals is met with a satisfying turn of speed, still not in the same league as a race bike, but an improvement that easily excites.
As we’d mentioned in our previous review, the Liscio loves high-speed descending and offers an incredibly stable ride. When we overshot a corner at speed, we could comfortably fix it with the easily controlled brakes, helped by the stable handling. Leaning into corners is not race-bike quick but is livelier than expected given the bike’s relaxed head angle.
Volagi’s own LongBow Flex stays see the seatstays swoop past the seat tube and connect to the top tube. The idea behind this is to remove much of the impact force coming from the rear wheel and divert it into the frame, away from the rider. While it’s aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t really make a noticeable difference to ride quality.
The ride isn’t harsh by any means, but small bump compliance is lacking, with the 25c high volume rubber doing the hard work to smooth the roads surface. This isn’t a bad thing, as we were expecting a disconnected sofa-like quality and in turn got a ride that took the edge off rough roads, without eliminating the feel of what the bike was doing beneath the rider.
Where the LongBow seatstay design shows itself is on larger impacts, such as potholes or imperfections in the road surface. The design definitely lessens the impact to the body on these sudden and often harsh impacts. We wouldn’t go as far to call it suspension, but it takes the sting away.
Stiffness at the front end is adequate, however the separated seat tube section is easily flexed – luckily this has little noticeable effect under power. The slender aero profile tubes are pleasing to look at but are also the reason for the ride quality and detectable flex.
At the rear of the frame it’s a different story, with tall chainstays and a large BB30 bottom bracket section providing plenty of drivetrain stiffness to give efficient forward drive.
Positioning on the bike is comfortable, with a tall head tube that lets you achieve an upright position. The frame’s sloping top tube design means much of the proprietary aero shaped seatpost is exposed, with a generous adjustment range among the six sizes on offer. ???
Frame and equipment: minor yet important improvements
In 2011, the Liscio was revolutionary. Since then the frame hasn’t received any major changes. The carbon layup and tube profiles remain the same, as does the geometry.
The new electronic compatible internal gear cable routing is clean and simple and comes at a perfect time to match Shimano’s new R785 Di2 Hydraulic offering. The gear cables now enter at the front of the head tube, allowing for cleaner lines and shorter housing. The internally guided brake routing in the fork and frame pose a nuisance for those using new full-hydraulic setups, meaning a forced rebleed on initial build and in case of future rebuilds.
Rear dropout spacing was a previous complaint of ours and Volagi has now moved to the industry accepted 135mm width. This greatly expands your wheel options, as road disc specific wheels and even 29er mountain bike wheels will now fit.
Our test sample was fitted with Shimano’s new semi-compact cranks, we felt the 52/36T gearing was perfectly suited mpleted the bike’s versatility. It’s ready for long mountain ascents with ripping speeds on the return.
The 25c Michelin tyres ballooned with the Volagi 25.55mm width rim Ignite SL wheels, providing the small bump compliance. At just over 1,400g, the carbon clinchers are a competitive option in a growing road disc market – the wheels alone cost US/AU$1,895. Wheel stiffness was fair, but we did experience occasional and minor disc rotor rubbing with hard out of the saddle efforts, which shows there is some flex at the hub shell/axle/dropout interface. Luckily rubbing of this kind is barely enough to have any effect on efficiency.
Reefing on the TRP HY/RD brakes at speed rewarded us with control and confidence that’s hard to match with a full mechanical system. We experienced no sign of shudder, flex or pulsing that would signal the brake calliper and/or mounts are flexing under stress. At lower speeds, the brakes were grabby – something to be expected with the level of power on tap.
Much like our earlier review of the original Liscio, it’s hard to look past the disc brakes – they’re still what separates this bike from the masses and they remain confidence-inspiring, especially in poor conditions or high traffic. The biggest improvement to the Liscio is not through frame improvements, but rather in the increased brake and wheels options. ?
After three years on the market, the Liscio continues to offer an admirable combination of aesthetics, performance and confidence. The non-racer boldness of this bike was early for its time and has never been more relevant than now.
Note: Depending on your location, the Liscio may not be available as a complete bike. The frameset as tested includes the fork, seatpost and headset.
Build as tested:
With a pedigree that stretches back into the mists of mountain bike time, Yeti is a name that makes riders sit up and pay attention. The? ARC Big Top, first seen in 2010 as Yeti moved into 29in wheels, follows in the footsteps of its aggressive stablemates and impresses over just about any terrain.
One look at the frame confirms the hardcore intent. It’s a bulldog of a bike – large diameter alloy tubes ooze purposeful strength and capability, while a tapered headtube and removable chainguide mount indicate an intent over and above standard cross-country. Bolt-on cable guides that are compatible with full-length outers will appeal to UK riders too (other countries with less amiable climates are also available).
A frame weight of 4lb isn’t exactly featherweight cross-country either, but promises durability and strength.
Initially designed as a full alloy bike, the Big Top was quickly found to be too stiff for everyday riding. The solution was unusual – a carbon rear triangle melded to the alloy front to take the edge off. While we never tested the alloy bike so can’t vouch for it, the 2013 Big Top is still a super stiff frame that, although still fairly harsh to ride, is presumably significantly less so than if the whole bike had been constructed of metal.
Topping off the frame feature list are the replaceable dropouts, so it can take on any guise from fully adjustable singlespeed, through 135mm quick-release to 142×12 bolt-through at the back. This makes it tremendously flexible and more likely to grow with your needs as the fancy takes.
Throwing a leg over the Big Top highlights one of its real strengths. Power. Press the pedals and it feels like everything is funnelling directly through the bottom bracket and into the wheels. Climbing is lively – that’s something that every tester mentioned – and it’s aided by the flow and bump-munching characteristics of the 29er platform.
When the trail starts to twist that rock hard front end just goes where you point it, holding sharp lines with its 70-degree head angle and slightly front-heavy riding position. It needs commitment, but push on through and you’re rewarded by high speeds and great fun. Yes, the riding position is definitely on the racy side, but it’s not so extreme you won’t enjoy it on your less well-groomed and more tricky trails too – those big 29in wheels steps in where necessary to mellow things out just enough.
The short rear triangle tucks under the seat nicely, helping with power transfer and traction when the inclines get steep and loose. It all adds up to a super-efficient distance machine, as happy buckling down to a long fire road muscle-twitcher as it is skittering over roots and threading its way through nadgery singletrack.
While our test bike featured the recommended 100mm travel Fox fork, it’s also rated for 120mm – and our local steep and technical trails were soon demanding something a little more capable that would gently slacken the head angle (by a degree or so) while it was at it.
So on went an identical Fox stretched out to 120mm travel – and dashed our expectations. Far from adding stability and speed, the longer legs just took the edge off the fast and confident handling elsewhere, and rendered the steering a little twitchy for our liking. Reluctantly we went back to the 100mm, and we suggest you stick to that length too.
The rest of the build kit is bang on. Capable, smart and robust XT components do their job without fuss, while the RaceFace Turbine stem, seatpost and cranks are all top-line parts. Appropriately wide 730mm RaceFace carbon SIXC bars take the worst of the trail buzz off that super-stiff front end, but a long day in the saddle still leaves you feeling a little like you’ve been working a heavy machine gun.
The Formula R1 brakes are light and powerful
The DT Swiss XR400 rims on 350 hubs have stood up stoically over the lengthy test, with neither a complaint from the bearings or deflection of the rim over several thousand kilometers – not bad at all.
The only parts we swapped during the test were the 90mm stem, ditched for a stubbier 70mm, and the front Maxxis Ikon tyre. They’re good, but we need something with a little more tread forour soft conditions.
There are only a few minor detail drawbacks. On loamy and muddy trails those plate-style braces across the chain and seatstays accumulate more grime than standard bar brace styles, and while the interchangeable ‘chip’ dropouts would come in handy for a change of setup, we took a few days to narrow a particularly annoying creak down to both sides loosening at once. A judicious tightening and application of threadlock fixed it, but still – irritating.
The brace across the seatstays tended to collect mud
Neither of these things even approach deal-break status of course, but were slightly disappointing nonetheless in what is otherwise a very well-made, smartly designed and premium-priced frame.
Know why it’s called the Big Top? It’s because Yeti originally thought 29ers were clown bikes. Having built one and experienced these wheels themselves though, they changed their minds, and if blasting through the twists and turns of a racecourse or the rooty singletrack of your local woods is your regular ride, the Big Top will entertain you too.
It’s a stiff and steep bike though, so if your trails are broken and fast with technical challenges and major inclines, look to more trail-friendly options. The Big Top is unforgiving of rough or extreme terrain, and stiff enough to pass on all its displeasure to you – it’s built for speed and accuracy, but on the right kind of smooth, flowing trails, that’s exactly what it delivers.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
The Genesis Equilibrium Disc offers a good ride quality and great looks. Reynolds 631 steel tubing is a lighter, stronger evolution of the classic 531 tubeset, which air hardens after welding, and is also used for the curved, lugged fork whose slim disc-specific blades not only complement the frame’s design better than any carbon offering could, but further enhance the lively ride quality.
The frame is beautifully constructed, immaculately finished and arrived very well set up. The handlebar height on our 56cm model is determined by the reasonable 150mm head tube height plus extra 27mm of external headset. It was perfect for this bike, low enough for tucking down out of the wind, but ideal for a relaxing cruise along the top.
The tall head tube and headset create a relaxed riding position
Termed ‘Sportive Disc’, the Equilibrium is intended for day-long comfort, and although it gave the impression of a sedate ride, we were hardly any slower than usual around our test circuit.
Shimano’s high quality XT mountain bike hubs are laced three-cross to 32-hole 23mm wide H Plus Son Archetype rims, creating very smooth-rolling, tough and forgiving wheels. The increased width adds stability and the extra air volume in the 25mm tyres results in a more cushioned, grippier ride.
The cable-operated Hayes CX Expert brakes took a little time to bed in, but were consistent in the wet, and have ample power to haul bike and a big rider to a controlled halt.
Despite its extra weight, the Equilibrium willingly springs into action when hustled, accelerating with enthusiasm and maintaining flatland speed with ease. In the hills, gravity determines that the Genesis isn’t a naturally rapid climber, but the sensible 34×28 bottom gear will get you up almost anything. Coming down, the bike’s mass and stability combine with those wider rims and tyres to keep it absolutely planted, and the power of the disc brakes maximises the frame’s deft handling, making descents fast, fun and safe.
Mudguard eyes give the Equilibrium year-round versatility, and its refined ride put a smile on our faces every time we ventured out, proving that quality can be as important as outright speed.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.