?Focus’s range of cyclocross bikes contains two models: the all-carbon Mares CX and the alloy-framed Mares AX. Buying a ’cross bike offers a lot of advantages to non-’crossers – their toughness makes them great commuter machines and light touring all-rounders – and the AX 3.0 is a perfect example: a steed that performs swiftly on the tarmac, but also has qualities that a standard road bike can’t match.
At this price bracket you’re not going to get a lightweight race machine for easy shouldering over the rough, but with the AX 3.0 you’re also not getting race-ratio gearing. A typical ’cross bike for competition would have a 46/36 chainset; the AX 3.0 offers a wider spread with a 50/34 compact. And while its 10kg weight might make it more of a burden to carry, it’s less of an issue on a long-distance commute over rutted roads – which is when you’ll appreciate the bike’s strength and comfort.
The AX 3.0’s nimble feel makes any venture on road fun, as you can flick it around obstacles, such as errant texting pedestrians crossing the road without looking. The Schwalbe Rocket Rons, with their small-block treads, aren’t as fast as slicks, but they’re still pretty rapid, and you can easily hold 20mph without undue buzz or road noise.
Focus’s RAT thru-axles give a solid connection between hub and dropout
It’s on the trail that this bike really comes into its own, though, its balanced yet exciting and reactive handling allowing you to go ever faster through the dirt. In fact, we were happy to take it on steep sections we had no right to be on – trails we’d normally only tackle with a hardtail or full-suspension cross-country mountain bike. Okay, we’ve got a few battle scars, but such is our confidence in the Mares’ handling that we’ll accept the wounds.
The bike’s thru-axles play a notable part in that ride quality. Rarer than rocking horse manure until recently, as more road bikes now come with disc brakes, they offer a more solid connection between the dropouts and hubs, preventing brake rotor rub and judder. Here, Shimano’s R517 brakes perform smoothly, positively and are easy to modulate, and the Focus-designed RAT thru-axles lock the wheel securely but only take a quarter turn of the quick release to undo and remove. It’s faster than a standard quick release – you don’t have to unwind the skewer – and you also don’t have to release the brake to remove the wheel.
The Mares’ balanced yet snappy handling demands that you head for the rough stuff
The AX 3.0’s kit is what you’d expect for this kind of money, with the saddle and super-compact bar being well shaped, and the rack mounts adding to its commuting credentials. The bike also overcomes any lazy national stereotypes – this German bike categorically ‘fun’, which is what a cyclocross bike should be all about. Whether blasting through the woods or the urban jungle, we can’t recall many rides that offer this much enjoyment for the price.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Chances are if someone told you that their new range of bikes was called Riot you would be expecting some beefy, big travel, borderline downhill hell raiser, which makes the first sight of Ghost’s Riot Lector 9 frame something of a shock.
Once you’ve established that the company’s idea of rioting is hammering old-school-style technical singletrack flat out along, down and (particularly) upwards rather than laying waste to a black run descent then this Ghost is a seriously playful and standout-fast poltergeist.
While the super-skinny brace tube between the flattened, steeply sloped top tube and skinny seatstays might look freakishly fragile, a second glance will show that there’s serious strength where it really matters. The hexagonal down tube is big enough to work as a front fender even with 2.25in rubber. The bottom bracket basket it expands into covers the full width of the BB95 bearings and you have to really peer down to even see there’s a smaller chainring tucked in on the XTR crank.
The carbon frame and ingenious ‘Riot’ linkage buried in the belly of the bike are designed to be BabelFish efficient at translating your effort into blistering acceleration and effervescent, ego-boosting pace.
There is a riot brewing in that lot… namely a Riot Link
Reading the onsite hype it seems like a lot of effort to create a floating shock with significant bottom stroke ramp up. That’s reinforced when you’re staring down into the belly of the bike trying to work out exactly what’s happening in between the downturned chainstay extensions and the bottom end of the Fox shock. It’s not a bike that we would recommend to riders who routinely leave their bikes long enough between washes to grow a garden either.
The XTR stop/go equipment is as flawless as ever and if you can wait just a couple more months you will be getting the all-new XTR group. The Haven wheels haven’t got the best hub reliability record though, and you could easily find a lighter and/or better-equipped complete bike for the money.
Easton rims are paired with high volume Hans Dampf rubber
We have never been big fans of Ritchey’s Rizer bar shapes and felt the Ghost’s WCS Carbon Rizer 710mm bars could do with some more width to put some torque into turns. They’re usefully stiff though and the WCS 60mm stem means you can play about right on the edge of the plentiful front traction. The X-12 thru-axle rear end and Riot setup can also handle a decent drop without stumbling sideways or obviously losing composure.
As soon as we clipped in and put some pressure through the pedals it was obvious that the Ghost’s 26-tooth ring was going to be largely forgotten. In fact we never used it once throughout testing, even on maybe-I-shouldn’t-have-done-that-last-descent cramping crawls back up to the trailhead.
Deflate and cycle the shock and you soon find that this isn’t a typical Pace or Trek-style shock setup where the bottom end of the shock is pulled down and away as the top gets compressed. There’s a fractional drop of the bottom as you move through the first 30 percent (which is mostly sag) but then the rear of the shock doesn’t move again until 80 percent through the stroke. At that point the Riot linkage drives the rear of the shock upwards against the compression loads and creates a super high rising rate ‘stopping track’ effect on the travel.
The Fox shock is driven from both ends for a progressive bottom out
While this sounds (and looks) frighteningly complicated, what it means in reality is that the bike pedals extremely well even with the compression damper wide open. There’s some stiction in the solid state bearing bushes (rather than conventional cartridge bearing pivots) and upper linkage angle that reinforces the firm ‘platform feel’. That gives a psychological advantage going hard on smoother surfaces but it does create a chattery, occasionally traction scattering character over small bumps.
Once the linkage flips through and the shock turns more linear it carries that speed through decent size rock and log stoppers. This can be a recipe for a saggy feel at the rear but the chainstay pivot four-bar rear architecture helps with a rapid return to sag level. This meant the Lector never felt like it was wallowing about when we wanted to get the wattage down.
The linkage also reduces maximum stress loads on the linkage and rear stays too, which is why Ghost can make them so thin. Our medium sample was 500g heavier than Ghost’s claimed weight, and it’s the pedal response not the poundage that makes it a naturally high velocity weapon.
The Strava trophies on your post-ride download aren’t just going to be restricted to the climbs either. While we never bothered using the front shifter to drop us out of the big ring, the Reverb button above it got as much use as a fighter plane joystick trigger. It’s great to see more German brands embracing progressive geometry, and while the Riot isn’t particularly slack the easy mid-stroke makes it hunker down and stretch out if you drive down through your feet into corners.
Precision and poise from the frame is impressive on technical singletrack
The bike’s long anyway and at 335mm from bottom bracket axle to ground it’s really low slung. That gives it great natural stability through high-speed corners even when the treads start to go sideways.
The 32mm legged Fox fork is the only obvious limiting factor if you’re into more aggressive riding. It’s smooth and supple when you get to the climbs and you can get round the linear damping crushing down in hard corners by keeping it in Trail mode.
Throw in some bigger hits and more random roots and rocks though, and the rest of the bike soon starts to push harder than the fork can cope with structurally and you start to trip over it as it twangs back and twists around in your hands. You will generally be able to keep it together down most local woodsy descents, but show it an open rocky hillside and an open throttle and the rest of the bike definitely deserves a burlier fork and much broader bars.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Rose is a German direct-seller, and is no back-bedroom effort. Its factory is fed by almost half a mile of conveyors for super-fast shipping. The Root Miller is its 130mm 29er, and supposedly offers ‘superior ease’ for downhills and something even better for the climbs.
“You are quickly going uphill, speed-oriented you lay on the deeper front,” says the Rose site, excited beyond translation. So does the bike itself make any more sense?
Rose offers three Root Millers (we’ve previously reviewed it in its cheaper 1 build), each with a handful of options for the drivetrain, rolling stock and finishing kit. The 3 features top-quality Fox bounce – the Factory-damped, Kashima-coated Float shock gives 130mm travel and easily-switched CTD damping via a bar remote, though it’s not linked to the 120mm Fox 32 CTD fork.
Mavic’s Crossmax ST wheels are shod with Schwalbe Hans Dampfs in 2.35in. Despite the burly look, the bike’s only 12.97kg (28.6lb) without pedals.
The first key observation is that it’s small. Rose’s size guides recommend Large for riders 6ft 2in and over, but the Medium’s 590mm top tube leaves even those around 6ft cramped, especially with the standard 60mm Race Face stem. Select a longer stem – 90mm, say – or, more sensibly, size up.
Once rolling (with a 70mm stem) it’s nimble thanks to that short wheelbase and a 69.5-degree head angle, and it never feels too steep… both because of the 29in wheel and, unfortunately, the saggy rear end. It’s very eager to sit down through its travel, and even with little sag – 20 percent or less – it feels soggy and unsupportive. It’s mushy and only dully communicative while it does it too, which is odd given the excellent Fox damper. The upside is that it blurts through straight, rough lines by just swallowing the hits up.
Another big issue is flex at the rear. Those long, unbraced seatstays can do little to resist it, and you can pull the rear Mavic noticeably out of line just by cranking hard. Pump it into a berm and it steers from the rear like a forklift. Get excited on a tight, twisting trail and the Rose wilts, bends and ties itself in knots.
Ultimately, despite the big-tubed look, tough hoops and stubby stem, the Root Miller is more XC than trail – and very traditional XC at that. It’s short and steep, and against peers such as the Scott Spark 720 it looks positively old-fashioned – even before you factor in flex and sagginess.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
CARLSBAD, Calif. (BRAIN) — With the appointment of a dedicated North America e-bike manager, Focus Bicycles USA plans to make Kalkhoff and Focus e-bikes more available in the United States
SEATTLE (BRAIN) — REI is bringing German mountain bike brand Ghost to the U.S., selling the high-performance bikes exclusively through REI stores and REI.com starting in January. “Partnering with Ghost brand bicycles allows us to offer a premium, high-performance, award-winning bicycle brand with full distribution across the United States,” said Mike Cannon, REI merchandising manager for bike. “We are impressed with the level of detail, smart design and engineering Ghost brand bicycles bring to the industry. The line will also help round out our bike assortment so REI can better support all levels of cycling.” Founded in 1993 in the Bavaria region of Germany, Ghost is part of Accell Group NV and its North American business entity, Accell NA
LAS VEGAS (BRAIN) — Retailers might be drawn to the Abus booth at Interbike this week by its new bright green Hyban urban helmet. With an integrated light in the back, multiple vents and optional rain cover, it’s one of 14 helmets the German lock maker is working to bring to the U.S
The German bike industry has always been a star of the Eurobike show and this year’s event only further reinforced that trend. Carbon fibre once again is the primary material of choice for ultralight principals such as AX-Lightness, THM-Carbones and Carbonice, but companies such as Tune, German A, Trickstuff and Acros continue to demonstrate that aluminium still has its place.
Here’s some more details on a few highlights but be sure to browse through the image gallery for even more lustworthy bits and pieces such to whet your tech weenie appetite – and your wallet.
AX-Lightness showed off a range of astoundingly light road disc wheels, all built with carbon fibre clincher or tubular rims built in the company’s German headquarters.
Road disc brake clinchers weighing just 1,110g per pair? Yes, please
Headlining the range are the P 24T ED tubulars, built around Extralite CyberFront and CyberRear six-bolt disc hubs and straight-pull, ultra-thin stainless steel spokes for a claimed weight of just 880g. Clinchers weigh as little as 1,110g per set.
AX-Lightness doesn’t seem to have skimped on the rim features, either. Both the tubulars and clinchers are available in 24mm and 38mm depths, while the clinchers are built with a tubeless-ready profile and have a generously sized 18mm internal width.
AX-Lightness’s carbon clincher road rims are generously sized with an 18mm internal width. They’re also tubeless-compatible
AX-Lightness also continues its incredible Vial Evo carbon fibre road frame with claimed weights between 660g and 720g depending on size (although the one on display was only 650g). Efficiency of material is the name of the game here, with mostly round or modified oval cross-sections, relatively large tube diameters, and smooth transitions throughout.
Like the rims, AX-Lightness builds the Vial Evo in its German factory and the raw finish leaves nothing to hide. That said, the frame design may be form-follows-function but it’s awfully nice to look at nonetheless.
650g of carbon fibre goodness
How light can carbon cranks get, we wonder? THM-Carbones has updated its long-running Clavicula and created the Clavicula SE, built with moulded carbon fibre arms and a carbon fibre spindle that supposedly weigh just 287g.
The claimed weight for a complete setup with bottom bracket and 53/39-tooth Praxis Works chainrings is an unbelievable 509g. That’s roughly 200g lighter than comparably configured top-end offerings from the big three and an even more incredible figure when you look at it in terms of percentage.
THM-Carbones’ new Clavicula SE cranks are unbelievably lightweight – and pretty
As compared to the original Clavicula – which will continue to be sold as the Clavicula Classic – the new SE boasts a more skeletal five-arm spider and a driveside arm that’s now hollow where it’s joined with the axle.
THM-Carbones has also built in a wide range of compatibility, too, with options to fit threaded, PF86, PF30, BB30, BBright, and BB386EVO bottom bracket shells.
Looking to cut a few grams and got some money burning a hole in your wallet? Carbonice first established itself in 2008 with a carbon fibre braze-on front derailleur adapter that weighed a claimed 4.5g, but the company now has a fairly wide range of bits catering to hardcore weight weenies.
Try not to think too much about what these things cost
Examples include a 750mm-wide riser bar at just 124g, 10g Matchmaker X clamp setups for SRAM/Avid brakes and trigger shifters, a 5g seatpost collar and a 3g chain catcher.
As you’d guess, the prices aren’t exactly cheap. The handlebar will set you back €200, the clamps are €60, the seatpost collar is €73, and the chain catcher is €20. And that braze-on derailleur adapter? That’ll set you back a cool €50.
Naturally, you have to pay more to get less
Tune is perhaps best known for its hubs and this year the company has decided to concentrate on fat bikes – already a well established market in the US but a segment that’s apparently seeing steady growth in Europe.
The Fat Kong rear hub comes in as low as 240g – the same as many high-end conventional mountain bike hubs. Tune will offer it in both 170mm and 190mm widths for quick-release dropouts along with the corresponding 177mm and 197mm thru-axle variants.
Tune is banking on the continued growth of the fat bike market
The matching Fat King front hub weighs as little as 139g and will be available in 135, 142, and 150mm spacing.
Naturally, Tune saw fit to do a complete fat bike build to showcase the other items in its stable. Centered around a 9:Zero:7 Carbon Whiteout, the showpiece came in at just 9.1kg (20.06lb) without pedals.
9.1kg, all in
Lightweight had its usual collection of silly-light carbon fibre road wheels (in both disc and rim brake varieties) at Eurobike along with its recently introduced Urgestalt road frame.
What came as a complete surprise to us, however, was the e-bike concept on display in its booth – a project commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Not many expected to see a concept e-bike in the Lightweight booth at Eurobike
Built around a carbon fibre frame and fork (naturally), the bike features a highly integrated design with the drive system, battery, lights and controls all forming a rather cohesive-looking shape. Hidden inside the chassis is a new type of drive system that uses a string of magnets situated around the rim, which are then accelerated as they pass through the frame.
Keep in mind that the bike is still in concept form but the designers claim a healthy 500-watt boost on top of the rider’s pedaling efforts plus a sub-15kg (33lb) target weight.
The rear wheel is driven via the magnets that are situated around the perimeter of the rim
Who knows if it’ll ever see the light of day but we’ll certainly never discourage anyone from aiming just a little bit higher.
Want more? Click through the gallery above to get your carbon fibre fix
German brand Canyon has arguably done a better job than anyone else at combining superb quality bikes with unbelievable pricing for those who don’t mind getting their bike in a box rather than the local shop.
Nothing shows that more clearly than this, the firm’s most affordable full suspension bike.
The Nerve AL frameset is a previous What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year and multiple bike test winner, and it’s easy to see why. The heavily shaped tubeset is light enough to build into an 11kg race weapon. Even though the AL 6.0 gets QR hubs and axles front and rear rather than the 15mm front and 142×12mm rear of the AL 7.0, the tapered head tube and shaped tubing still give reasonably tight tracking. Double rear brake clips can be used for a dropper seatpost cable/hose while internal routing keeps the gear cables tucked out of sight.
What’s blindingly obvious is the outrageous value for money you’re getting delivered in Canyon’s signature robust, reusable cardboard crate. Simply put, if this bike cost almost double we wouldn’t be grumbling with the XT highlighted Shimano transmission and RockShox Reba fork.
The Nerve 6.0’s Evo spec Fox shock isn’t perfect, but knocks spots off what most of the price-bracket competition come with
The Evo spec Fox shock is occasionally notchy rather than predictably plush, but the 120mm of travel is still far better controlled than most discount dampers you’ll find on the Canyon’s price competitors though. You also get a three position CTD damping lever for Climbing lockout, efficient Trail feel or soft and squishy Descend settings.
Canyon has always been impressively on trend and the Nerve’s been brought bang up to date with 650b wheels without affecting its trademark efficiency. Canyon has even managed to spec full PaceStar triple compound Evolution series tyres, and these impressively quick yet trustworthy German all-rounders are a great match to the bike.
In fact Canyon has done such a good job keeping the Nerve AL’s signature speed and responsiveness that at first we didn’t even realise they had made the change to 650b. It leapt out of corners and scrabbled up climbs more like a 26in bike than a 650b.
The handling is fast and light like a smaller wheeled bike too and even the suspension is tuned to be pert and skippy over smaller bumps rather than smothering the trail in a soft pillow. That does mean more clatter and slightly less traction than it’s mid sized wheel peers but if you want a bigger stride and a smoother ride, the Nerve AL 7.9 29er is every bit as outstanding in terms of detail and value for money.
There’s ample steering speed and authority to get stuck into twisty singletrack
The 720mm bars and 80mm stem give enough steering speed and authority to make twisty technical singletrack fun, even if there’s noticeable twist with the QR skewer-tipped Reba. However if you’re worried about losing your Nerve, Canyon’s all-new Spectral 650 and 29er bikes are specifically designed to push the pace harder on more challenging trails and comes with screw-thru axles and 140mm of travel as standard.
In summary, Canyon’s new Nerve – and the 29er and Spectral bikes – are a lesson in why it’s worth not getting stuck at three figures if you can possibly help it when shopping for a mountain bike. Pushing your budget a few hundred quid past a grand can get you a far better specialist bike that’ll properly ignite your riding.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — Some say that what you see at Eurobike is coming to the U.S. market soon — maybe as soon as next month’s Interbike show (like the GoPro doggy camera mount), or maybe in a matter of years (electric unicycles? Well, maybe someday). Others say there will always be some things in the European market that will never translate to the U.S
FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN)—Coming off a mild winter and beautiful spring, the German market has experienced an increase in sales and market experts expect the positive trend to continue through the remainder of the year.