SRAM’s new Rise 60 mountain bike wheels aimed at XC and trail riders

CHICAGO (BRAIN) — SRAM”s new Rise 60 wheels feature a new hookless 21-mm carbon rim and new hub features. The Rise 60 wheels will be available in 27.5-inch (in January) and 29-inch sizes (in November)

Buyers guide to mountain bike pedals

Mountain bikers are faced with a broad array of pedal options from downhill-focused platforms with razor-sharp teeth to ultralight clipless models aimed at cross-country racers.

Here are some tips on how to determine the pedals that are best for you and your riding style.

Platforms vs clipless

At their essence, platform – or flat – pedals are barely different from what we all learned on as kids. They have big, broad shelves to place your feet along with some means of providing some grip for the bottom of your shoes.

As it pertains to mountain biking, though, platforms are generally preferred more by downhillers and gravity riders who prefer a larger surface area to help protect their feet from impact, and the freedom to instantly pull them off at will to help with balance when the trail gets dicey (which can also be handy for beginners). Sharpened cage plates and/or traction pins lend a little more security to keep you from getting bounced off, too, and while they can be used with virtually any type of conventional footwear, it’s best to go with skate-type shoes with particularly sticky soles.

Platforms tend to be quite heavy, though, and some riders want an even more connected feeling than even the most aggressive pins and stickiest shoes can provide. In these cases, only clipless pedals will do and the range of options is tremendously broad.

So-called ‘clipless’ mountain bike pedals use cycling-specific shoes and metal cleats that bolt on underneath (instead of the old plastic cages, or ‘toe clips’, that wrapped around your feet and from which these pedals derive their name). Those cleats are then mechanically attached to the pedals like a lock-and-key, usually with spring-loaded devices that release your foot with a simple twist as needed – or if you crash.

What to look for in platform (flat) pedals

Platform, or flat, pedals differ most by the level of traction provided. Sharper and/or more numerous pins or teeth will give a better grip but they can also be dangerous if you slip. Alternatively, pedals with larger platforms give your shoes more room to bite as do concave surfaces that effectively ‘cradle’ your feet.

A selection of platform (flat) pedals from dmr, nukeproof and burgtec:

A selection of flat pedals from DMR, Nukeproof and Burgtec

Another factor to consider is the thickness of the pedal body itself. Fatter pedals can sometimes feel clunky underfoot so generally speaking, thinner is better. That thinness can sometimes come at the consequence of bearing durability, so stick to models with multiple seals or ones that are at least easily disassembled for servicing.

If you live in rocky areas, also think about how often the pedals will hit the ground. In those situations, it’s important that the traction pins are replaceable (preferably from the back so that they can be removed even when ground down). Certain models also have replaceable body sections, too.

What to look for in clipless pedals

Mountain bike clipless pedals are generally offered with one of three different platform sizes: the traditional (and most compact) option with a small body to house the retention mechanism and little more; a mid-sized ‘trail’ option that adds a small cage; and full-sized models that provide a large and stable foundation for your feet.

While the traditional size is the lightest, it’s best to choose based on what type of shoes you’ll use – and how much walking you expect to do. Race-type cross country shoes with very stiff midsoles should typically be paired with traditionally sized pedals; softer and more flexible skate-type shoes are best able to make use of full-sized pedals’ bigger platforms; and the new crop of semi-flexible trail shoes are usually best paired with medium-sized pedals.

A selection of clipless (spd-style) pedals from crankbrothers, shimano and look :

A selection of clipless pedals from Shimano, Crank Bothers and Look

Shimano launched the clipless boom in the early 1990s yet despite its age, SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) is still the predominant format. It’s not the best at shedding mud and snow nor are they usually the lightest around but the cleats are tough, the engagement is very secure, and the metal bodies are generally extremely durable. SPD is often the only option to offer an adjustable release tension, too, meaning you can start with a light hold on the cleat and gradually dial things up as your skills improve.

Crankbrothers is another major option with a feel that’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. The attachment is less mechanical feeling but the upside is more freedom of movement on the pedal before the cleat disengages from the pedal. Mud clearance is generally outstanding, too, and they’re among the lightest options out there.

Time and Look round out the major players with an overall feel, mud shedding, and durability that falls somewhere in between Shimano and Crankbrothers.

For any choice, be sure to consider the pedals’ serviceability. While most pedals have some sort of seals, their quality and effectiveness vary tremendously and they’ll all eventually need maintenance. Look for options that don’t require special tools (or if they do, make sure they’re inexpensive and easy to obtain) and won’t require an entire afternoon to relube.

Lastly, don’t be overly tempted by low weight. Mountain bike clipless pedals live a tough life with lots of abuse so function and durability should be your primary concerns. Besides, any lightweight product can feel awfully heavy when you have to carry it home.

Norco Revolver 7.1 review

The trail and enduro crowd have seized the new 650b wheel size with enthusiasm. It faces a harder fight for acceptance in cross-country circles however, where 29ers have proven their speed-sustaining advantages.

That hasn’t stopped Norco – in common with companies such as Scott, Focus and Cube – from trying, of course. All have released 650b race hardtails alongside established 29ers.

Frame and equipment: lighter side

Interestingly, 650b (or 27.5in wheel) bikes face a lot of the same challenges 29ers have increasingly evolved solutions for already. 29er frames and wheels are now so light that even the lightest 650b kit is only a few grams less – so far, anyway. That said, Norco’s new sub-kilo Revolver 7 frame is a featherweight by any wheel-size standard.

According to the Canadian company it’s the lightest and stiffest frame it has ever produced, and even in this mid-level ‘mostly metal’ component trim, it’s still only a fraction over the 10kg mark. Its ballistic-speed friendly weight is matched to a stealthy matt black aesthetic to create a bike that lines up for any race with a look of suitably murderous intent.

The matt finish provides a stealthy and sinister appearance: the matt finish provides a stealthy and sinister appearance

The matt finish provides a stealthy and sinister appearance

While the sleeve-jointed ZTR Rapid rim isn’t as light as the aftermarket version – which is welded – it’s still tubeless-ready, and converting will further increase traction. Going tubeless will also take some sting out of what’s undoubtedly a thumpingly stiff rear end – it’s much closer to a 26er than a 29er for rider comfort.

The choice of unapologetically firm Prologo saddle and super-light silicone grips as contact points further confirm this is a competition rather than comfort-focused machine. That’s fair enough, as if you’re looking to skim off a lot more staccato trail abuse – and don’t mind a little less immediacy – Norco has its larger-wheeled Revolver 9s.

The unashamed performance focus doesn’t mean the frame is pure utility. The gear cables and brake hose feed into the headtube and exit at the chainstay ends via neat, moulded ferrules. There’s no direct-mount front mech plate so it looks clean running a single ring, and the little bolted seat clamp is neat.

SRAM’s stripped down X01 transmission is a perfect ally for such a punchy bike. It saves a ton of weight compared with double ring designs and makes next gear selection blissfully simple. Yes, the alloy cockpit and seatpost could be carbon to save weight, but most similar price, similarly framed bikes run alloy finishing kit too.

SRAM’s x01 transmission is perfectly suited to this bike: sram’s x01 transmission is perfectly suited to this bike

SRAM’s X01 transmission is perfectly suited to this bike

The one obvious specification downgrade is the RockShox Recon fork, rather than a RockShox SID/Reba or Fox item. Its hollow-bottomed leg and alloy crown/steerer mean it’s not as heavy as it could be, but it’s still chunky for an otherwise light race machine.

It’s good to see a 15mm Maxle thru-axle though, as it makes a big difference to steering accuracy and means you don’t have to upgrade the hubs from quick release if and when you upgrade the fork.

Ride and handling: twists in the tale

As soon as you press the pedals you realise Norco’s claims about the stiffness of the rear end and bottom bracket are no idle marketing dream. Drive is delivered along the chunky stays and through the 142×12mm thru-axle-rear wheel with undiluted strength. Combine this to that low mass and minimal rolling resistance from Schwalbe’s hard Racing Ralphs and the Revolver is seriously quick on the draw.

In comparison to a similarly specced 29er, these smaller wheels and shorter spokes have less inertia to overcome and greater stiffness. This creates a real acceleration advantage when you’ve only got space for a few pedal strokes on technical trails, and the Revolver’s direct connection makes it easy to temper torque if the hard compound Performance semi-slick rear tyre slips.

The revolver is an immediately engaging, enjoyable and fitness-flattering ride: the revolver is an immediately engaging, enjoyable and fitness-flattering ride

The Revolver is an immediately engaging, enjoyable and fitness-flattering ride

So why not stick with 26in? We’re still surprised by how much more traction there is from a 650b tyre over an identical 26in one. While it definitely requires some skill, it’s perfectly possible to nurse even this skinny rear tyre through the deepest slop, and reap the fast-rolling rewards elsewhere. A set of chunkier tyres is still a wise move for regular mud-plugging, of course.

While the fork is relatively stiff and the 700mm flat bars/mid-length stem give a reasonable amount of control leverage, there’s some flex in the front end of the frame. You feel it as slight twist as you enter and exit corners, but it’s easy to adapt to and often flattering on tyre traction. It does undermine the tight-terrain response advantage of the 650b wheels compared to 29ers though.

The flex becomes a more meaningful problem at high speed. The Revolver can shimmy noticeably, and clipping a rock on fast and loose sections can get the front and rear halves of the bike flopping about with a distinctly disconnected feel.

The TK damper doesn’t need many rocks in its path to feel rudimentary and ragged by comparison with more sophisticated control circuits either, and surprisingly for such a race-focused bike there’s no remote lockout either.

It’s certainly not the first cross-country race bike to get nervous on rough, difficult terrain though, and less aggressive descenders who tend to focus more on climbing will find the low weight offsets handling traits they rarely ride hard enough to provoke.

In summary there’s no denying that Norco’s Revolver 7.1 is a seriously light, direct, stripped-for-speed race weapon. It’s one with a mostly-decent spec and a murderous aesthetic to match, too. Nevertheless, the below-par fork and obvious fore and aft frame twist undermine its truly aggressive racing potential in a very competitive category.

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

Strider expands 12-inch balance bike line to three models

RAPID CITY, S.D. (BRAIN) — Strider Sports Intl., Inc., has expanded its line of 12-inch wheel balance bikes, which are intended for 18 month old to 5-year-old children. The 12-inch bike is now available in three models at three price points

SRAM launches 7-speed and 10-speed downhill groups

CHICAGO (BRAIN) — SRAM is lanching two new single-chainring downhill groups that include technology borrowed from its single-ring XX1 and Xo1 cross-country mountain bike groups, including wide-narrow X-Sync chainrings, Cage Lock and Roller Bearing Clutch  features in the rear derailleur and a 7-speed X-Dome cassette.

AX Lightness factory visit

The lightest production road bike frame available is about to emerge from a small industrial estate in Germany, yet, aside from dedicated weight weenies, few riders will have heard of AX Lightness, the brand behind it. BikeRadar recently visited the AX Lightness factory in Creu?en, and discovered what is perhaps the best kept secret in carbon fibre.

When people talk about carbon frames and components, the last place that’d normally spring to mind would be Germany. But AX Lightness has been producing all of its components in-house within Germany for over a decade.

The complete ax lightness operation takes place within this modern building in creußen, germany:

AX Lightness don’t just manufacture bicycle components. Just a few years ago, most of the company’s time was occupied with work from car manufacturers and motorsport. It even produced complex carbon fibre components for Sebastian Vettel’s Formula One car!

Take a look at their current product range and you’ll find an extensive line-up of both road and mountain bike components.

Here are just a few examples of ax lightness' extensive product range: here are just a few examples of ax lightness' extensive product range

Everything is carbon and many of the products are the lightest you’ll find anywhere. It’s no wonder that AX Lightness components were used on what is still believed to be the lightest bicycle ever built.

Company founder Axel Schnura’s original focus was on little more than producing the absolute lightest components available, but the firm has since undergone a shift in its thinking. The aim now is to not only produce the lightest parts but to also produce the best. AX Lightness learned that it could add useful ergonomic features, improved practicality and function to many of its components while only adding minor figures to the overall weight.?

These tweaks are slowly bringing AX Lightness away from its roots in niche weight weenie-ism, yet it’s fair to say that all of this kit is top-shelf: Keith Bontrager’s aphorism of “strong, light, cheap; pick two” applies perfectly. However, for those who want AX Lightness design at a more affordable price, there are Engage components.

Engage brakes prepared for inspection. engage are the sister brand of ax lightness. engage components are designed, checked and assembled in germany but are built in asia:

Engage is a sub-brand from AX Lightness, and all Engage parts are designed by AX but made in Asia. It’s important to mention that all Engage parts are subject to the same stringent quality control as regular AX Lightness component and, as a result, each Engage part is inspected and assembled in Germany.

Whether you’re a wealthy weight weenie or not, AX Lightness is definitely a brand to look out for. Check out our image gallery for an exclusive tour behind the doors of the AX Lightness factory.


ISPO honors best start-up companies

MUNICH, Germany (BRAIN) — German trade show organizer ISPO has named one overall and seven category winners of its biannual “Bike Industry’s Best Start Ups” awards. The eight winners were selected from 188 entries, with the majority of product submissions coming from the e-bike and urban segments.  A jury of experts selected 35 of best newcomers from the pool of entries

Honey Bikes’ ‘Cross Is Boss’ series

BOSTON, MA (BRAIN) — Honey Bikes is offering three limited-edition race bikes for the 2013-14 cyclocross season. The company promises to deliver a race-ready bike by Aug

Cole Aries 920 wheelset review

Currently an unknown quantity in most riders’ eyes, Cole may become better recognised thanks to a recent distribution deal with Evans Cycles.?

The Aries 920 are Cole’s mid-range cross-country wheels. At 1,910g a pair they aren’t the lightest, but you do get rim tape, skewers, six-bolt disc adapters and 9mm/15mm axle adaptors.?

The 21mm anodised aluminium rims are laced with 28 double-butted spokes, and each spoke is treaded at both ends – the hub end threads into a replaceable brass barrel. The aim is increased strength, but it does mean spoke replacement is very specific.?

Both hubs are Centrelock and run silky smooth thanks to well-sealed cartridge bearings. Once rolling, the nice noisy ticking of the freehub is reminiscent of a Pro 2 – even if the engagement isn’t.?

The nearest comparisons to?the Aries 920 are the Mavic Crossride?wheels, which are two-thirds of the price and slightly lighter, although they’re blessed with bladed spokes. The Aries are versatile and attractive, but otherwise unremarkable.?

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


Kona Hei Hei Supreme – first ride review

Kona are celebrating thei 25th?year of bike building, and the Hei Hei Supreme certainly looks like a gift for those after a super-light race or trail speedster.?

For only a little more than last year’s Supreme,?this big-wheeler flagship now has a?full carbon frame, hopped-up Easton wheels, SRAM X0 kit (an upgrade from X9) and Race Face finishing kit. It’s a tempting deal on paper – but how does it perform out there in the hills??

Ride & handling: Speed at expense of stiffness

The Canadian company were one of?the first manufacturers to team a super-light frame with a trail-sized cockpit and high-control fork in their game-changing late-’90s Kula hardtail.?

Initial impressions promise a similar blisteringly fast but bewitchingly fun performance from the Hei Hei: with the suspension locked in Climb mode (or given a stable pedalling platform in Trail mode) its incredible lightness of being means it leaps out of the blocks as?well as most 26in-wheeled racers that we’ve ridden.?

The smooth-rolling wheels mean it sustains acceleration much better on rough climbs than small wheels can, and the steep seat angle puts you in a great position for attacking steep trails without looping out. This also means steady-power traction is good, despite the barely there tread of the Maxxis Ikon tyres.?

Big bars, low weight and a relatively tall front still make it easy to pop the front wheel up over bigger obstacles when you need to.?The butch bars also give a useful sense of security, while your forward-balanced weight means the front?tyre naturally hangs in longer than?the back when things get slippery.?

Roll all these characteristics down the trail and if you’re cruising with smoothly?spun gears, it’s a deft and efficiently?easy techy-trail dispatcher or rough fire road flyer.

Things become slightly less convincing if you start trying to push?the pace, or point the bike in a dramatically different direction to your current one. The low frame weight seems to come at the expense of stiffness, and those Easton wheels?are pretty twangy.?

The twist between the front and rear of the bike is made?more obvious by the big bars, which properly snake the Hei Hei about?if you’re giving it some out of the?saddle or trying to shove it into tight singletrack corners.?

If you stomp a big gear round while heaving the bars you knot it up even more, and it’s got a distinctly soft feel through the pedals – even when locked out. Peak power delivery isn’t helped by suspension that, unless you choke it down with the CTD lever, naturally bounces in time with your pedal strokes.?

That in turn makes it more likely to stumble and spit traction on loose or rocky ground, and makes steady spinning attrition rather than sudden sprinting attacks the best climbing tactic for the Hei Hei Supreme.?

Kona hei hei supreme:

Frame & equipment: Incredibly light and with upgraded spec

If it’s all about rolling up to the start line on the lightest machine, you won’t find many equals to the Kona tickling the stripy tape before the gun goes off. Even our large (19in) sample only weighed a hair over 25lb at 11.36kg, which makes it lighter than the Specialized Carbon Epic and the Giant Anthem Composite in the same price range – only the Lapierre XR 729 and Cube AMS 100 Super HPC SL 29 outgun it on grams from the bikes that we’ve tested recently.

The big tapered head leads into a smooth headbox with internal gear cabling, before tapering away in?geometric section maintubes, which expand again to meet the big asymmetric seat tube and press-fit bottom bracket.

The bottom corner is also reinforced?with twin shock mount webs, while?a deep kink in the toptube keeps standover clearance reasonable. There?are bolt holes for dropper post guides?if you want to make your Hei Hei?more hardcore.?

Kona have also shortened the back?end in comparison to last year’s alloy bike, bringing its measurements in line with most of its competitors. But despite Kona’s claims they haven’t left much space between the tyre, the seatstay bridge and the front mech, so running more rugged treads than the semi-slicks fitted as standard involves going for a smaller-volume tyre instead.?

The deep but narrow chainstays mean there’s reasonable room alongside the tyre, with a metal plate on the lower corner of the chainstay stopping the chain chewing chunks out of the carbon if it jams.?

The chunky, square, one-piece seatstays pivot on small clevis mounts above the dropouts, so the wheel follows Kona’s classic (and simple) low-pivot arc. The alloy linkage’s position has been reworked to slightly change the?shock characteristics.?

As we mentioned, you’re getting a serious mechanical upgrade on this year’s bike. The SRAM X0 kit includes a few ‘hidden’ down specs – alloy brake levers and lower-grade chain and cassette – but it’s still a very light way?to make a bike start and stop.?

The EA90XC wheels are some of the lightest alloy 29ers around, while the Maxxis Ikon tyres are our favourite wagon?wheel race rubber. The 720mm-wide Turbine bars offer proper trail feel as well, while the Fox Climb Trail Descend fork and shock certainly aren’t short on control either.

With its spacious cockpit, comfortably compliant ride and super-low weight,?the Hei Hei is undoubtedly a very efficient high mileage cruiser. Compared to last year’s bike it’s better value too, and much nearer its competitors in component terms.?

Unfortunately that same compliance and smooth suspension count against accuracy and power application when you start stomping?on the pedals and shoving it hard through corners.?

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