Christmas. It’s a time of year that’s synonymous with eating way too much food, having awkward family get-togethers, and the annual reawakening of Michael Buble. For those of us lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere though, the Christmas holiday period is also prime time for cycling. Unlike my North American counterparts, our Christmas family time isn’t so much filled with egg nog and snowball fights, but rather ice-cold beer and beach cricket. And for those of us with a two-wheeled inclination, it’s also the perfect time of year for early morning road rides, mid-afternoon beach cruises, and warm summer evening mountain bike rides.
Given that we’re just kicking into our main riding season Down Under, I’ve put together a Christmas wish list full of items that I am absolutely pumped on for the New Year. There are a few nods towards some Aussie companies, and a few other items that have really caught my eye this year. Read on for some giftspiration (new word, awesome I know), or just the opportunity to dream!
Cycling in Tasmania is currently going off. The road scene has been steadily growing thanks to the brilliant Tour of Tasmania race and the notoriety of local exports such as Richie Porte. However, it’s the newly developed mountain bike trails around North East Tasmania that are really getting Aussie and Kiwi cyclists hot under the collar. I would love to go on tour with Vertigo MTB, who offer full trips and shuttling services for both the Blue Derby and Hollybank mountain bike networks. Vertigo MTB also offers road cycling tours of the Launceston region (Richie Porte’s hometown), so I could easily see a week-long trip of both fat and skinny-tyre bliss on the cards. Throw in Tassie’s reputation for craft beer, world-class whiskey, amazing seafood and produce, and you’ve got yourself a trip of a lifetime!
While we may all think we’re pretty slick on the trails, I will happily admit that I’ve got plenty of room for improvement. I’ve heard great things about the skills clinics with Gravity Oz, who operate out of the Victorian High Country just a few hours outside of Melbourne. Aside from riding in a beautiful location, the chance to pick up some tips on cornering and jumping technique would be very welcome indeed.
The last experience I would love to fulfil stems from my trip over to Park City in Utah earlier this year for PressCamp. I had a small sampling of the riding around the Park City region (they estimate there’s over 400 miles of singletrack!), and I’ve been left gagging for more ever since. The folks at White Pine Touring were terrific at showing me around on some of the more famous trails in the region such as Mid Mountain and Wasatch Crest Trails, but I am definitely hitting them up next time I fly over to the States so that I can explore more of those epic back country trails.
Whenever I dream about my ideal drop-bar bike, I always come back to Baum. Based out of Geelong in Australia, Baum Cycles create some of the most exquisite Steel and Titanium road bikes on the planet. Each frame is tailor made to its owner and their needs, whether it’s a high-octane criterium race bike, or a supple long-distance hauler. Discs or rim brakes, electronic or mechanical shifting – you choose the parts, and Baum select the right tube profiles and dimensions to suit your proportions and riding position. Technical details aside, I just simply can’t get past those colour combinations and the precision pin-striping.
I’m also head-over-heels in love with some of the creations coming out of Flying Machine. Hot paint jobs, intriguing build kits, and high-tech 3D printed Titanium lugs are what makes these guys stand out from the pack. In particular, the F-One-HD above makes me sweat. There is just something about a superlight, super-expensive, belt-drive, disc brake-equipped singlespeed road bike. It’s so ridiculous, it’s positively awesome! When Bikerumor first published a story on the Perth-based company, I was instantly drawn to the clean lines of the bikes and the seamless 3D printed Titanium lugs. But I also dig the collaboration with the CSIRO and the level of research and technology that is going on behind the scenes. Very cool.
2015 has seen a resurgence of the humble trail bike. As the hype around Enduro begins to settle down somewhat, many riders are turning back towards the 4-5.5″ trail bike segment in pursuit of a lighter and more nimble package. Advancements in suspension and frame technology, combined with bigger forks, fatter tyres and slacker geometry mean that today’s trail bikes can handle the kind of rowdiness that was the exclusive domain of dual-crown downhill bikes only a few years ago. A perfect example of this progression is the new T-130 C from British company Whyte Bikes; a company that has been pushing contemporary big-bike geometry into their shorter travel offerings for many years now. While the rest of the industry is beginning to catch up, the new carbon fibre T-130 C Works is easily one of the hottest and most capable trail bikes going this season.
A trail bike that totally knocked my socks off this year was the latest Mach 429 Trail from Pivot Cycles. Equipped with an incredibly supple 116mm of rear wheel travel, a 67.5-degree head angle and shorter chainstays courtesy of the Boost 148 rear end and offset chainline, the Mach 429 Trail is a high-speed sled that’ll have you rethinking your position on 29″ wheels. Another big wheeler that looks to be flat-out fun is the new Cotic Solaris. I’ve spent many miles on the original Solaris, and I can concur that this is indeed a hardtail that loves to get radical. The Reynolds 853 tubing offers a surprisingly smooth ride, and the slender seat/chainstays offer heaps of clearance for fat 29er tyres or 27.5+ rubber. Like the original, the new Solaris is capable of running a fork with up to 120mm travel, but it drops the BB lower and stretches out the top tube lengths to better suit shorter stems.
And while I may be pushing my editorial word limit here, I just gotta squeeze in that hot-mango Ripley LS from Ibis Cycles. In a similar vein to Santa Cruz’ Tallboy and Pivot’s Mach 429, the new Ripley platform has split into a standard version and a Long Slack (LS) version. The LS model offers the same dw_link suspension design and 120mm of travel, but with longer top tubes across the size range and a head angle that’s kicked back nearly 2-degrees for those who like to get rowdy. 2016 surely is looking good for the return of the 29er trail bike.
Heading back Down Under, without doubt one of the most exciting products to hit the market this year for me was the new Tammar V4.8 wheels from Bouwmeester Composites. Designed, engineered, tested and manufactured in Australia, the new Tammar V4.8 wheels offer a unique rim design that aims to create a much stronger wheel that also offers more vertical compliance. Stiffer ain’t always better. The single-wall profile uses super thick carbon fibre for high impact strength and the ability to run higher spoke tensions. Check out Tim’s longterm review for more details.
The last 12 months has also seen significant innovation on a smaller scale, with neat items such as the ReMount from Lindarets offering a brilliant solution to a frustrating problem. Getting your cockpit dialled is so important for having a clear mind on the trail, and the ReMount simply puts your dropper remote in a more ergonomic position so you don’t have to think about it. Another great innovation has been the new Corset air sleeve from Vorsprung suspension, which is offered as an upgrade for those with existing Fox shocks. Looking for more suppleness, better mid-stroke support, and improved big-hit control? The Corset could be your ticket, and it’s definitely on my list to try out in 2016.
Of course it’s summer here Down Under and so the days can get pretty darn hot around Christmas time. In fact, my home town of Bendigo is set to reach 40+ degrees over the next few weeks (that’s over 104+ fahrenheit!). As such, we do plenty of night riding over summer, as it’s a great way to escape the heat as well as the kangaroos and the snakes. I’ve been testing a Light & Motion Seca 2000 for a good while now, and it puts out an incredibly high quality of light. While some lights may say 2000 Lumens on the tin, the quality and usability of those Lumens can be a whole other thing. In the Seca’s case, the beam pattern is without doubt its greatest strength, and it floods the trail with a very even spread of light with excellent colour. Another light I would love to get my hands on is the compact Equinox light from Exposure. Using an all-in-one design with a high quality CNC machined body, the Equinox punches out 2000 Lumens, which is all controlled by a wireless remote next to your grips. No wires and no external battery packs, just a compact design and a very simple helmet bracket. I’ve used the Diablo before, and it has been a ripper little helmet light, but the idea of having a bit more power is appealing. Like the Seca, the Equinox isn’t particularly cheap, but then I’ve had enough failures and annoying issues with cheap lights that I won’t go back.
Grips are an easy Christmas present. They’re inexpensive, they fit inside Santa sacks well, and they’ll freshen up anyone’s cockpit who is in need of replacement of their existing ratty trips. The Ergon GE-1 grips use a contoured design that suits the open riding position that comes with using wide bars and short stems. Oh and they come in heaps of rad colours! Check out Zach’s review of the Ergon GE-1 grips.
Cycling fashion has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Thankfully we’re no longer obliged to wear boring blacks and greys or be forced to wear garish team kit that sees you plastered in logos like a cheap billboard. Aussie mountain bike clothing brand DHARCO has been absolutely killing it lately, with a sleek range of casual riding wear that has enough colour and pop, while keeping it real for post-ride hydration duties. I really dig the Tech Tees and the 4-way stretch baggy shorts.
Speaking of bright and colourful, it would be hard not to mention the wares from Sydney-based Attaquer. With their new season having just dropped, Attaquer is blazing a trail in a world where it’s getting harder to stand out from the pack on a Saturday morning road ride. Whether you like the out-there designs or not, you’ve gotta give these guys credit for flicking the bird to the status quo and trying something different. Watermelons – my word!
What would Christmas be without socks? But not regular socks, they are well-boring. Cycling socks are much more interesting, and one of my favourite pairs of socks at the moment are those from Swiftwick. Now finally available in Australia, Swiftwick offer the Aspire and Pursuit models for riders who appreciate a good compression fit and added arch support. The Pursuit socks use a thicker Merino construction that is ideal for mountain bikers who need a little more cushioning, and each model is available in a range of colours and heights.
My other favourite sock right now is “The Dog” from 4Shaw. Made with Coolmax fabric, these are ideal for hot Aussie summer riding conditions, and they’re part of a massive range of colours and styles. 4Shaw offer an even bigger range of other cycling garments, and they’re also known for being a big supporter of mountain bike racing in Australia. Note: dog not included.
Cycling shoes are very much a personal thing depending on the shape of your feet. In my case, I struggle with most shoes as my delicate lady-feet are typically too narrow for most brands. One shoe that I would love to try however, is the lace-up VR90 mountain bike shoes from Giro. With a stiff Easton EC90 carbon sole and grippy rubber tread blocks, they’re built for XC racing and trail riding. But while the lace-up design may look a little old-school amongst the BOA dials and ratchet straps of their competition, the VR90’s promise a better fit with more anchor points for fine-tuning the tension. And yes, I’ll have orange thanks!
For the more aggressive side of mountain biking, Shimano look to have a great option in the new AM9 shoe. I’ve been a huge fan of the old AM41 “Moonboot” shoes, which have done me well for the past 5 years, but the redesigned AM9’s are significantly lighter – one of my only complaints with the AM41s. According to the press release for Shimano’s new shoes, the AM9 is supposedly profiled to be easier to clip in and out of too, which is ideal for DH racing and aggressive trail riding.
…And Three Small Things
Some riders like to strap stuff to their bike, and some like to cram their jersey pockets full. Looking to offer a neat storage solution, Aussie company Eleven Velo developed the Ride Pouch that’s beautifully crafted from leather. I’d love one of these, because I’m a hypochondriac when it comes to preparing for a ride, and having everything already packaged ready to go in a neat bag that slips into your jersey pocket is highly appealing.
I’m not one for sugary Isotonic drinks and heavy energy bars, so when it comes to nutrition on the bike, I look for products that are as natural and sugar-free as possible. While there are plenty of nutrition products on the market, Pure Edge are carving themselves a niche on home soil with their range of Australian Certified Organic products and high quality Whey Protein Isolate. This would be great to stock up over Christmas, as it’s the kind of natural product that you don’t feel weird about having in your everyday diet. 6th-time 24-Hour Solo World Champion Jason English is one of Pure Edge’s sponsored athletes, and is renowned for being fickle with his training and nutrition strategies. If it’s good enough for Jase, I reckon it’s probably good enough for me!
And last but not least, I would be very pleased if I got myself some swanky bling from Tread and Pedals. Upcycling all kinds of different bike components and drivetrain parts, Tread and Pedals turns those old bits and pieces into functional works of art that you can either wear as jewellery or have around the home. I especially dig the cufflinks, though the chainring-clocks and tyre-stubby holders (coozie for our American buddies!) are absolute winners at Christmas time.