After ripping my shoe in half at a reasonable recent uplift day at Revolution Bike Park and after having the same pair of short for nearly 5 years with the accompany holes in the crotch that conveniently caught my saddle every time I rode, put simply it was time get a new pair of shoes and shorts.
So what did I go for?
My previous shorts were tad above the knee and though this has no effect on performance I wanted something a little longer and the Specialized Enduro Sport Shorts are bang on the money. Just covering the knee even when worn at waist height.
With deep pockets you can get a lot into these shorts, but it never gets in the way. The pockets are placed onto the side of the short, so with your leg pumping on the pedals you’re not finding the material stretching or impeding your leg strokes. Added to that the short is made out of VaporRize™ woven fabrics, which offer plenty of stretch making this by far the most comfortable short I’ve ever worn.
At a recent freezing day at Bike Park Wales, they also brought good wind proofing and insulation to the ride. Apparently they’re as good in the summer too, but lets see.
So for the first 3 or 4 rides on these, they’re proving to be a good replacement, so onto the next kit piece.
You can’t beat being clipped in. After destroying my recent pair of Mavic shoes at Revolution Bike Park, I wanted a more protection, solid shoes, after my mainly fabric Mavic summer riding shoe.
So the Specialized 2FO, was a very appropriate replacement. It’s got a relatively stiff protected outer (good for those high speed rock hits) and a firm sole that I immediately felt the benefit of on the climbs. Specialized claims its “Body Geometry sole construction and footbeds are ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.” Marketing guff to one side, what this felt to me was that my knees didn’t feel the distance anymore and either I’m getting fitter or the above efficiency remark is ringing true.
The shoe is also optimised for foot-out riding, with it having quite a bit of flat, grippy sole around the cleat to allow you to ride on with a fair bit of grip and control without being specifically clipped in. The by-product of this also being you’ve got plenty of walking grip as you trek back up to hit that jump one more time!
Other than that, the shoe doesn’t have the traditional lace up system, which for me, especially when riding in winter is a big deal. My laces never kept my shoes tight, and trying to lace them up again when they’re sodden, covering in grit and mud only made it more frustrating. So the 2FO shoes come with Two independent Boa® S2-Snap dials, which do a great job of effectively tightening the whole shoe around your foot, both around the bottom but also the top. And they don’t get loose throughout the ride. #Win
So it’s time to get back on the bike, happy in the knowledge my arse I no longer on show and I’ve got a proper set of shoes on!
I’m a mountain biker. Always have been, and at the point of writing this, think I (might) always will be. There’s some doubt in there for sure and I can tell you why. Gravel Bikes. “What?” you may ask? Well in my own words imagine a chunkier road bike that’s designed to ride off road. “Ah that’s a Cyclocross bike Archie?”. Well sort of, but the Cyclocross bikes are UCI homologated. Think of them as race honed bikes, rather than bikes you’d ride for leisure. Hence, Gravel Bikes.
So to test out the theory, and confirm if this is just another marketing ploy by the bike brands to sell yet another niche bike, I picked up the 2018 Specialized Diverge Sport Carbon in August and have been running it for a couple of months now. And to make things interesting, rather just give my opinion on things, I’ve also lent it to my Dad who’s been eager to swing a leg over one ever since the genre came out a few years back. So this article will be coming at the Diverge from two angles.
The Gravity enthused Mountain Biker (Me)
The long distance trail rider (Dad)
So without further intro let’s get cracking!
The bike – Specialized Diverge Sport 2018 Carbon. £2000, now £1529.
And I quote “The Diverge gives you the ability to go where you want and enjoy yourself while you do it, whether it be popping down to the shops, joining a local group ride or tackling a tough dirt climb.” Let see then…
It can fit tires up to 42mm while still having room for mud, along with a frame design that has been constructed out of lightweight FACT 9r Carbon Fibre, one of the lightest in its class and an absolute feather compared to the Stumpy. The Diverge features an all new version of the Future Shock system (think of it as a fork shock in the headset) giving you 20mm of travel, allowing the bike to soak up those bumps with ease, on gentle or so rides. It also comes with a Shimano Tiagra 2×10 Speed groupset to tackle whatever may come your way on and off road, as well as Tektro mechanical disc brakes, which work well, though take a bit of getting used to; after riding with hydraulic disc brakes on MTB’s, I’m used to massively more power and sensitivity. Still though, this is hardly a DH rig so I won’t judge.
A Gravity Riders POV
It feels weird. Probably an obvious thing to say and yes after 5 minutes or so, I started to get used to the feeling of sitting on top of the front wheel compared to the lazy, reclined feel of the Specialised StumpJumper. The second immediate thing you notice riding it is the efficiency in which your pedal strokes initiate movement. It’s not a playful bike, well not compared to what I’m used to, but neither did it feel like it was begging me to stop. So one of the best rides I’ve had on it so far was the red-graded mountain bike trail at Thetford. Generally, a trail which requires momentum to get those smiles going and momentum is what the Diverge delivered. Focusing less on getting the most out of the corners my riding instead focused on not losing momentum in the corners and hammering down those straights. The opposite to a MTB ride, but boy was it fun. With my brother and mate behind me running 150mm trail bikes, the difference in my ability to cover ground effortlessly was quickly highlighted. Yes, they could keep up, but they were really trying. Their ride had turned into a damage limitation exercise as egos were now on the line.
My luck was about to turn however, as 2/3rds around the trail we hit a very rooty/bermed section that really underlines how far forward your centre of mass is on the Diverge compared to the Stumpy. Now they were right on my tail and nibbling away at my tyres. I’ve been caught and if I’m not careful, about to be over taken. It’s at this point you realise you’re at the limit of the Diverge’s ability off road. With its limited tyre width (38mm or 1/5 inches) compared to an MTB and near enough vertical head angle you can’t really attack the rough stuff, you just get through it. Though as you’re doing this, yes you’re not fast, but boy is it good fun hustling the Diverge over terrain other day riders are struggling on with their rentals. It may look fragile, but it can play hard too!
So, it’s different the Diverge. It’s opened my mind to genuinely travelling with my bike, rather than looping the same downhill section. As a bike 80% of the time it feels more than capable off road and when you take it that 20% extra, well it’s like thrashing a small hatchback. Your ability to have fun comes down to how well you can get the car, or bike in this case working. I’ll be sad to see the Diverge go and would compel anyone who’s not sure on the idea to give one a go. Anyway, it’s time for me to shut up and hand over to Dad. Dad, whatcha reckon?
A Long distance Trail riders POV
Adventure biking. To some it’s about long trips with everything bar the kitchen sink packed into saddle bags, but for others (like me) it’s about sticking a pin in the map and finding a way to ride there irrespective of the condition or availability of the roads.
Up until now my weapon of choice has been a Trek Cobia ‘ hard-tail’ mountain bike, but during the past few weeks I’ve had Specialized’s Diverge Sport gravel bike at my disposal, thanks to Rutland Cycling. So, will the Diverge out-perform my Trek on the fire roads? And can it keep up when the going gets really rough?
With its FACT 9r carbon frame, the Diverge weighs around 4kg less than the Trek (at 9.5kg) and you feel this every time you step on the pedals – gearing is similar (with its 10-speed 11/34 cassette and 48/32 chainrings) but it’s the way it picks up speed, due to its lower weight, and keeps on accelerating (thanks to better aerodynamics) that sets it apart. But make sure you keep the tyre pressures pumped up, it needs at least 50psi in its 700 x38c tyres, otherwise it can feel sluggish and much harder work.
Specialized sells another multi-surface sports bike, the CruX, developed for the weekend warriors competing in cyclocross, and compared to the Diverge this has hydraulic disc brakes (rather than the cable operated Tektro Spyres) and a 20mm taller bottom bracket for climbing over obstacles and navigating tight turns. Otherwise both weigh the same with the CruX sporting shorter gearing (an 11-speed 11/28 cassette with 46/36 chainrings) and a slightly less relaxed geometry.
But perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the ‘Future Shock’ progressive suspension (developed with McLaren Applied Technologies) fitted above the head tube, with its 20mm of travel (and 3 interchangeable spring units) it smoothes out the ride, reducing fatigue and making a rocky trail more than tolerable. Ok, it’s no match for the 100mm travel on my Trek hardtail, but it genuinely makes the Diverge an all-terrain bike with the only limitation being the rider’s bravery or talent.
So, back to my earlier question; has the Diverge been a worthy replacement for my Trek hardtail? Well, yes and no.
During the past few weeks I’ve ridden 130 miles, 73 of them on tarmac and the rest on a mixture of gravel roads, forest trails and grassy fields. The smoother the surface the bigger the advantage in favour of the Diverge, with it being some 10-15% faster than my hardtail, and considerably quicker when tackling the steeper gradients in Fineshades Wood. But it’s less clever at speeding through the berms – a combination of its higher seating position and narrower handlebars making it feel more nervous than a mountain bike and less forgiving if the surface changes in the middle of a turn.
But not once have I felt unable to tackle the terrain we encountered. Diverge is more than just a road bike with chunky tyres, it’s an all-terrain performance bike designed to go as fast as you can peddle. Its carbon frame makes it a breeze to lift over gates and the front forks can handle up to 42mm tyres making even the muddiest trails a cinch. You might even describe it as the most widely talented bike you can buy.
Take one for an extended test ride (away from the tarmac) and see what I mean. Gravel bikes are far more than a marketing gimmick and will open up a whole new world of riding adventures. Whether you’re a roadie or mountain goat, there’s room for another bike in your life and its name is Diverge.
As a reminder, a base layer provides that critical foundation to any layering system when prepping for a cold environment; cycling or skiing. Often in my case, I resort to using an old t-shirt instead but its ability to facilitate temperature regulation and perspiration management, are not its strengths. Cue sweaty back, pause to cool down and then freeze as soon as a hint of a breeze blows over you. Its time to be an adult with my riding gear, get something that works and works well so I can focus on the matter at hand, riding! Wearing a proper baselayer doesn’t just get round the issue of a sweaty back; the insulation of the lower arms helps warm blood from the body’s core to flow down to the hands, keeping the extremity region warm. Aka, warm fingers, leading to accurate brake lever feel in even the most cold conditions.
So when GripGrab emailed me earlier in the summer and said they had some news around Base Layers my ears pricked. The Danish brand as you’ll likely have seen on my channels have been sponsoring me for a while and I’ve learnt they don’t make bad products.
Seamless Winter Base Layers –The Freedom seamless are made using a circular knit technology, which means they require no stitching. Cool. The technology provides a high-stretch synthetic fabric that is has good insulation and good wicking capabilities.
Warp-Knit Winter Base Layers – For the ultimate fit, the Freedom Seamless Thermal base layer is what Grip Grab call a warp-knitted base layer. Their pioneering technology allows fabric thickness to be contoured throughout it, as well as it being seamless. This results in their ability to place added insulation in specific areas, yet also integrate high-stretch areas to provide a superb fit.
Antibacterial – Another interesting feature GripGrab don’t bring to light is the antibacterial function their material has – i.e you’re not forced to wash it after every ride because it stinks. Instead, I’ve used my three times in a row now ( I know, don’t judge me) and it still smells as fresh as it came! Impressive.
So what are my overall thoughts? Well, it just works. I’m not made aware of any discomfort, excessive heat built up or uncomfortable fitting. It just works, both in slightly warm conditions (15C with a Jersey on over the top) and at around 5C. This Base Layer feels properly engineered.
They also feel very plush. As with all Grip Grab products (and I’m not just saying this) they feel expensive, they feel like they’ve chosen the best materials they could in creating it. So like with all of life’s luxuries they make you feel good when wearing them.
So, as Winter approaches and the temperatures start to drop, there’s even less reasons not to ride! Thanks GripGrab.
Its all well and good having a playful trail bike that encourages you to push it more and more. It lures you into this sense of invincibility to huck and hustle every trail centre you visit. So rather than head to a typical trail bike destination to see its true potential, I called the new Stumpy’s bluff, and took it straight to Antur Stiniog. Where you ask? It’s a downhill mountain bike park, in the Snowdonia national park, on the side of a slate quarry. What this results in, is super aggressive, hard core, no joking about trails, that frequently break 200mm downhill rigs. It’s the only place I’ve been too where you regular hear “oh yeah last time I was here, I punctured by kidney”. Its that kind of trail centre. So come on then Stumpy, if I am to believe the marketing hype and messages out of Specalized, you should just about manage this by the skin of your inner tubes. The question is, did it, and did the 27.5 or 29er version fair best? It’s time to read on…
My old school mate Gareth joined me for the trip. Having bought a Stumpy recently and been singing its praises, he was the ideal riding buddy to go thoroughly test the Stumpy with. Though concerns were already being raised over the lack of travel and thick casing tyres, before we had even left home! So, we had a 4-hour drive ahead of us to Antur and having packed the bikes up inside the M135i, we left early, keen to get mile munching, and quickly. As ever with Snowdonia, we left the blue skies of Cambridgeshire and arrived in the foggy, misty, rainy conditions of Antur. It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, this place always feels like Lord of the Rings!
Gareth’s concerns were soon backed up as soon as we started getting the bikes out the car and building them up; we were looking seriously out biked. As if by magic our aggressive full suspension trail bikes looked like thin, delicate steeds compared to their burley car park stable mates. However fear not, with our lift passes in hand and full face helmets on, we made our way over to the uplift and up the mountain. We arrived on top of the mountain, wind and rain in our eyes with two options. Red or Black. Knowing we only had trail bikes and with it being the start of the day, we opted for Red. Before barely getting started we found ourselves in two wheel drifts down the mountain as we discover the Speacliazed Tyres aren’t fans of wet slate!
Feel tired and still waiting for the Macky D’s Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin to kick in, we took off down one of the many knarly red trails to find that the Stumpy’s were already up for the fight. After one run down, we were just about clued in, with the brakes now developing a decent level of bite, we opted for the same route down with a little more pace this time. Again the Stumpy’s took it within their stride and our confidence grew. The 1pm shut down for lunch came quickly with both Gareth and I chuckling at how no one all morning had come close to catching us, let alone overtaking us on their downhill rigs. Perhaps the Stumpy is the ultimate trail bike, it certainly feels like one of the best bikes we had ridden.
So as we finished lunch and head up for the afternoon, with the now drying trails and growing confidence we decided to hit the blacks. Trails that I remember back in 2015 felt harsh on my then 210mm downhill rig. First thoughts then on the Stumpy on Blacks? Mechanical sympathy!! The trails build on the already ridiculously rough reds that will happily shake your bike to bits, but now with essentially a permanent jagged rock garden from top to bottom. Except this time, unlike a typical trail centre rock garden you’re doing 20mph + and landing from height on these triangular rocks. Enthusiasm waned slightly on the first run, but with the morning gone the fear of punctures left us and was quickly replaced with excitement. We put hammer to tong, pointed the bikes down and let go of those brakes. It’s now here where the Stumpy feels like its having a proper face off, with it bottoming out front & rear on occasions and rims going ping. Welcome to downhill country!
The challenge with Downhill is ensuring you ride the hill and the hill doesn’t ride you. You’d think with 25% less travel, smaller less aggressive tyres and a steeper head angles we might be getting schooled by Antur. In reality, the Stumpy had us covered. The harder we rode the better, more impressive the Stumpy became. Where previously you didn’t bother pedalling your DH due to its inefficiency, this time you pedal, gain more speed, ride obstacles how you wanted to. And even with just 150mm travel, both bikes are light and providing you know how to ride, give you enough travel to get you through. All in all, the Stumpy left both Gareth and I with the conclusion; what can’t a trail bike do? And if you could only get just the one bike, you really can’t go wrong with the 2019 Specailzed Stumpy. Though I did end the day with a puncture…
Which Stumpy faired best?
29in vs 27.5in is becoming an age old argument/discussion now between mountain bikers. Putting aside all the XC rubbish around 29ers, Antur illustrated quite obviously the difference. In short, the 27.5 has a smaller rolling radius and therefore when hitting a hole falls deeper within it, knocking momentum and unsettling the rider. With the 29er, this effect is somewhat reduced. What this meant in practise, across the slate ridden rock gardens of Antur Stiniog, the bigger wheeled Stumpy skated across the rocks better than the 27.5 and remained more stable at speed, resulting in gains of about 4 – 5 bike lengths on what you could sort of call, the straights. Granted when it came to the super techy and tight switchbacks the 29er wasn’t as nimble and agile, so choose your wheel size according to your trails you ride on and how you want to ride. But for us, the 29er Stumpy came out on top at Antur.
How did it ride?
There are three things you need to know about how the Stumpy feels to ride. 1. Well balanced between axels. 2. Super plush and predictable with its Fox sus and finally 3. Capable with a capital C! To come away from Antur Stiniog and not end up in an ambulance when really trying to go as fast as possible downhill underlines the Stumpy’s credentials. In fact, there’s little point rabbiting on. Let me leave those three points with you, in the context of Antur. If you need further colour to the context, YouTube Antur and you’ll soon start to understand just how good this bike is.
For more details on the Stumpy, see my previous stumpy article here
For more details on Antur, see their website here. I guaranteed you they’re some of the loveliest guys you’ll meet in North Wales and compel you to book your day.
First off though, I why the Stumpy, aka the Specialized Stumpjumper. Well for a while now I’ve heard good things about the Specialized Stumpjumper in mountain bike groups but I never read or saw any glowing reviews about it in the press. Nor when comparing it against other bikes in its category. So when the 2019 Stumpjumper came out with a wealth of positive reviews in the press, my ears pricked. After joining forces with Rutland Cycling, it was the Stumpjumper I was keen to try.
There are of course a few variations of the Stumpy within the range, from the aluminium framed Stumpjumper Comp to the all singing and dancing S-Works Stumpjumper. I went for the middle of the range Carbon Comp version, baring 29inch wheels and Fox suspension set up as the best all-rounder. P.S Don’t forget with Specialized, their EVO version comes out later this year…
So what’s my first thoughts of this apparently completely reworded bike? Well, if the title of this article is anything to go by, the performance lived up to the hype! Here’s three things I loved about the new 2019 Specialised Stumpjumper.
My Stumpy is the 29in version of the Carbon Comp, as I was keen to see what it felt like compared to my YT Jeffsy 27.5 inch. Unfortunately for me, within the first 100 yards of riding the Stumpy, I could tell it was going to be a laugh, possibly more so than the YT. You normally gain a bit more stability with a 29er bike, something which is great when bombing downhill over rough ground but does mean you lose out when it comes to the twisty bits. Not with the Stumpy. The bike was not only surprisingly agile, but it begs for you to chuck it around, lean it right over and push it. Everywhere I’ve ridden it, I came away thinking it could have handled more. In fact, it wanted more. Heading down “Lower Cliffs” at Cannock Chase was an absolute riot. The more you pinned it, the more you jumped it, the harder you rode it, the better it got. This is what trail riding it all about. After getting to the top of a pretty gruelling climb, you want it to point it downhill and be rewarded for your efforts, and boy does this deliver. I was actively looking for rides to race with!
There’s no denying the Stumpy is a good looking bike. Its hydroformed Aluminium or Carbon frame with it’s a-symmetric rear shock design looks expensive. And with my version’s big 29inch wheels and tyres, it looks serious with a capital S. The Carbon Comp comes in either Black or White/Cream. Black has all the signature pieces in red, like the Specialized brand on the downtube while the whitey cream version gets them in Blue. Looking on Rutland Cycling’s website before ordering those details didn’t really come across, but given I’m sort of an Instagramer, I went for the brighter whitey cream so it’ll stand out in the pics, and stand out it, it did. With the eye-popping blue lettering and the black components, there’s a decent level of contrast across the bike, yet still retains a clean, polished look. Saying that though, I have seen a Black Stumpy Comp in the flesh and if I’m honest both colors look absolutely spot on. You can’t go wrong with either version.
My Carbon Comp comes with Fox suspension all around, boasting 150mm front and rear from its Fox Shox Float Rhythm 34 and Fox Shox DPS Performance respectively. I’m not normally a Fox sus rider, favoring Rockshox instead so I was curious to give this a proper try both downhill and uphill. The first thing I noticed is the super subtle ride and small bump sensitivity, something my Rockshox sus lacked of lately, likely after me upping the pressures for a day at Revolution Bike Park. But still, this large wheel carbon Stumpy had an element of poise filling you with confidence. Second, to that, there is a great balance between the front and rear. The Rhythm 34 fork up front is pretty structurally stiff which means you can really lean on the front mid corner before putting the power down. The rear shock then does a brilliant job handling both the small stuff to the big stuff. There were a few jumps that it bottomed on but given a volume spacer or two, the bike felt very DH like in attitude. But even for me, its not all about the downhill. When pointing this uphill, the bike climbed well; with three settings on the rear Shox you set it to firm, medium and open. All of which gave very little bob when climbing and great traction.
Overall, you really get the sense that Specialized has taken their time with this bike to make it the best they can. From the super wider handlebars to the very comfortable saddle, I really haven’t got a bad thing to say about this Stumpy. It also comes with some very chunky rubber in the form for Specialized Butcher & Purgatory tyres – 2.6in wide and lean them over and they’ve got tonnes of grip!
I’m now faced with a challenge. A good one, but a challenge none-the-less. Find it a trail it won’t be able to handle. It’s going to have to be something good, something techy, rough and unforgiving. I feel a return visit to the infamous Revolution Bike Park. Stay tuned, let’s see how far I can push this Stumpy, I’m not sure Revs is quite enough…
Perhaps the Mountain Bikers obsession in collecting “gear” for riding is dwindling. Still I’m very much of the option riding with gloves is better, and here’s four reason’s why. Missed any, let me know in the comments!
Reason 1: Prevent hands from slipping
I don’t know about you, but my hands get pretty sweaty in the summer, especially if you’re doing a long ride. Without gloves, I tend to slip and slide on my bars, even brake levers. While a good grips can compensate most of this, I still feel more comfortable riding with thin summer gloves, absorbing the sweat and always providing plenty of grip on the bike.
Reason 2: Easy to wipe away sweat Sweat on my hands is just one part of the summer problem, but sweat from my face or forehead is another. Count that in with dust and dirt and you’ve got yourself a pretty uncomfortable mess half way round your all day loop. It’s at this point, the towel like strip on the thumb part saves the day.
Reason 3: Protect those hands
From crashing to touching your chain, to digging and moving trail features about. Keep though fingers clean for the soon to be consumed cheesy chips and use the gloves instead. If you’re a weekend warrior like me, you’re soft, office hands will thank you.
Reason 4: Optimize your comfort Comfort be it for short of long rides is paramount to a good ride. You don’t want anything taking your mind off the ride, so finding that glove that gives you that sensitivity vs Rolls Royce comfort is king. – Yes I’m biased to GripGrab but riding with technology such as the ProGel and SuperGel gloves transform a ride. That small gel patch underneath the pam of your hands does a lot to reduce the chatter.
OH and then there’s the look, but that’s far to emotive to rationally break down 😉
I’m not a fan of E-Bikes. Well, let me rephrase that. I wasn’t a fan of E-Bikes, until life got in the way. Let me explain.
When away for a weekend with friends to catch up, cycling though on the list, wasn’t the only thing we had planned. Not to say biking isn’t social, however socialising amongst other bits meant the time we had to cycle was a couple hours max. With the weather forecast threatening thunder and lightning, by the time 2 o’clock came round and we were ready to go, my riding window was getting smaller and smaller. Plus, that long game of Monopoly that went into the early hours the night before and the bowl of cornflakes in the morning meant I was hardly on my ‘A game’! So the picture I’m attempting to paint is the lack of time and also lack of any general ride prep was about to hinder my ride. But I hadn’t been for a good ride in ages, so was dying to get a good circuit in – and this time it was at my midlands favourite, Cannock Chase, the Monkey Loop.
Luckily for me, Rutland Cycles have graciously given me the new 2018 Specialized Turbo Levo FSR comp carbon 6fattie for the trip weekend. And this is where the whole concept of E-Bikes starts to make sense; its convenience. When you’re tired, not fuelled properly but still want to have a good ride, I defy you to not agree with the concept. Even if I wasn’t tired and had eaten a hearty breakfast, even then the E-Bike makes sense. Here’s why;
If you like to ride, you can ride for longer on an E-Bike. Going one step further, if you like to ride fast, you can ride even faster on an E-Bike. Generally, if you like riding full stop, you’ll like an E-Bike. If you are some kind of purest however and think this is all terribly wrong, please move aside and resign yourself to history, as progression is heading in the E-Bikes direction. Sorry mate.
So if you get it, which E-Bike should you chose? Well, I’ve ridden a few in my time now. A Trek Superfly, Cannondale Moterra and Bergamont E-Trailster. If I’m honest with you, they felt like tanks and though the Trek was by far the best I’d take my YT any day of the week.
One of the biggest turn offs I got was first and foremost the power delivery of the electric motor. Too often you rotated the cranks only slightly either to put half a crank in or just to resettle your feet position and then the electric motor would kick in but a second delay, so by now your mid-corner and being pushed out and into that rather hard looking tree. The Levo, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. First and foremost you never really noticed any delay in power. Reading up after I rode the thing, Specialize claim “Our motor is the only one on the market to feature instant engagement with the pedals, so you’ll be able to call for extra power exactly when you need it.” and it honestly feels like it.
The second turnoff is the handling. If you are used to riding something light and immediate, you’ll immediately notice you lose that fine feel you get. That’s due to the weight, which though light in its class, the Levo is heavy overall – circa 20kg. However, with that added weight you get added grip, grip that means you’ll be able to carry that additional speed around the corners, as well as on those straights. Not only that, the extra weight also keeps you nicely planted, a term more associated with cars than a push bike, but in practice means you can smash your way down with increased confidence, so when you need to turn, brake or pedal, they’ll be no interruption in service.
Though I only had two hours, the end result was a truly engaging and awesome ride. Uphill sections become enjoyable, no longer a means to an end, with technical features once a hindrance, now another feature to hit. Oh and those side offshoots you once thought would be cool to explore but didn’t have the time. Well, now you do. And finally, the descents. With the added grip and power, those descents go from being good, to great. You’re now riding at 120% as opposed to 1000%. You’re powering out of every turn. Smashing every jump. Braking late, yet still had more grip and braking power left over. Oh and your BPM – you’re still trying as hard as ever (mine was crica 180BPM) but instead of doing 10mph, you’re doing 20mph, everywhere. If you like mountain biking, I don’t see how you wouldn’t enjoy the Specialized Turbo Levo. It made my rather less than ideal situation, a great one. That would not have happened on my YT for sure. So E-Bikes are crap then? HA, not a chance.
In short, I’m sold. The riding experience was absolutely on point, and though different to my lightweight YT, brought its own enjoyable character to the table.
With its 2.8in Butcher tyres front and back creating a larger font print for extra grip and extra lean, means the new slacker carbon Levo frame has the basics covered for a good ride. Added to that, a RockShox Revelation RC 6Fatti fork up front with 150mm travel and a Rockshox Monarch RT, Rx Trail Tune with 150mm, means you’ve got the firepower to not worry about much. The tune on both was good, with little to no pedal bob. It pedalled very efficiently even when the battery wasn’t turned on (yes it’s not that heavy to pedal if you ran out of juice). On the battery front, the battery is housed within the carbon frame which looks wise leaves the bike looking clean. It also lasted long too; with two hours around the Monkey only knocking off one charge bar down from its 5 in total – so rough maths suggests its good for a 10 hour Cannock Chase loop! Maybe later…
Other than that, the Levo felt like a quality piece of engineering, made around its power unit and battery from the start, meant it rode like a proper, lower centre of gravity mountain bike designed around fun, not cheating hills. Talking of power unit, the bike had 3 settings. Turbo, which as the name suggests gave you thumping great waves of torque for those really, really steep climbs, a medium level which was fine but as I settled for the low setting. A level which fills those energy troughs without making a mockery of those hills – a nice balance. A very impressive power unit indeed.
For more deets on this thoroughly impressive bike see below.
FACT 9m carbon chassis / M5 Alloy rear triangle, 6Fattie/29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post IR routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 135mm of travel
Well unfortunately for me, I’m 6 months into my latest bike purchase, so a new e-bike on the cards is not a possibility. However, if you’re in the market for a new, proper MTB, I would thoroughly suggest you try an E-Bike. And don’t take my word for it either. Rutland Cycles are throwing a big E-Bike demo day at the Grafham store on the 9th of June. Or if you want to take it to your local they’ll deliver your chosen bike to you for the weekend, so you can test it out like it did. Check out the below links if you’re keen.
Riding clipless is great. Not only is your pedalling effort translated into movement more efficiently, you’re also better connected to the bike. You can feel what’s going on both on and off ground.
I transferred across to clipless a good amount of time ago now, after first riding my Orange Patriot around Cannock Chase on flats. Yes it looks good, but the enjoyment of riding was being hampered by muddy shoes, bumpy ground that knocks your feet off and then just the plan fact that you’re only using your quads to propel you.
So I’ve been riding a fairly humdrum pair of clipless pedals for years now. They do the job, but now starting to show their age. I’ve always preferred the looks of the big flat clipless pedals however you can’t fault the pure performance of clipless.
I’ve forgotten what the flat pedal feel is like, that grip, the ability to transfer your lateral weight through the bike. For example one of the many things I haven’t done on a bike is kick the tail out into a drift but now with the added support and grip of that cage, I can. But it’s not just limited to tricks. Carving the bike through corners you can feel that additional support and feedback from the bike. Really a best of both words on feel and support so far.
Admittedly, one pain of riding clipless is if you’re not clipped in, trying to go forward is a no go, especially if you’ve likely trekked up a hill, got mud on your shoes and now looking to hit a line. So one of the obvious added benefits of the Shimano M424 SPD is with that additional cage around the SPD, you’ve got that support to not worry too much about clipping in right there and then. In fact you can leave it clipped out as you hit that jump you’re been eyeing up; yes not as secure, but certainly not as frustrating as hiking back up the hill to try clipping in again.
Not to mention with these pedals, there’s also the way they look. That chunky, purposeful look, returns to my bike. No longer am I a member of the lycra clad XC whippets. Hello to the Mountain Bike Trail world!
So, Shimano M424 SPD. In short, they’re really rather good and though there are other pedals out there, you’d be hard-pressed to get a better clipless caged pedal for the money from the looks of it. If you’re riding clipless and haven’t yet given a caged pedal a go, I’d urge you to try it. It’ll be great to hear your thoughts, let me know in the comments below.
As for me, I’m looking forward to riding harder, which hopefully translates into faster!
I’m not a fair weather rider but looking back at my strava activity so far this year, the evidence suggests otherwise. So as the temperatures finally rose above freezing I thought its time to shock the legs and get back on the saddle. So 22 miles round Cannock Chase’s Monkey trail and off-piste ticked that box with a side helping of cramp.
Next up my old friend, Gareth was talking of riding Llandegla. It’s a great trail centre and the black run is a 9.5/10 trail. But I’ve been there loads of times, so I went onto Mountain Bike Wales to see what else there was and found Bwlch Nant yr Arian. I remembered this place from an age-old MBUK pull out and thought hhmm interesting. Apparently, it was mostly single track with fast and techy descents. Sounds promising, so time to kick off the 4-hour drive to the Aberystruth area!
The drive – I’ll be quick here – In my M135i, the motorways from Peterborough to Shrewsbury kept the MPG at a steady 38mpg which for a 3-litre twin scroll turbo ain’t bad. Anyway, long story short, about 10 miles out of Bwlch Nant yr Arian on the on A44, you reach a section of road similar to those from the EVO triangle. Open mountain roads, with smooth tarmac, banked corners and great views. 10 or so minute later I arrive with the smell of hot brakes and the exhaust ticking itself cool – mentally I was in the zone.
So what’s Bwlch Nant yr Arian like?
In short, really, very good. As good as Llanedgle is to be debated, for three reasons;
The descent to pedalling ratio is not as good I don’t think. There is a lot of out there wilderness riding once you climb out of the vistor centre. You’re riding forest fire roads high up on the mountains. Great views, but you start to wonder whether you’ve got lost and just followed a farm track – so pretty out there feel. On the otherhand Llandegla has great descents, but also a fair few boring single track climbs, especially last half way round.
But when you do hit the single track at BNYR, it’s good, really good! There’s not much dirt, more slate and rocks with a dusting of pine needles. That means the trails feel more carved out than compressed hardcore. They role fast and are generally pretty narrow, which results in the feeling of you pinning it everywhere. Especially as the turns are more flick flack chicanes in an otherwise flat out section. So in short, 10/10 descents, especially considering they’re generally on the side of an otherwise very exposed mountain.
Then there’s the climb. Roughly 2/3rds way round you’ve just completed about 10 minutes of flat out descending after riding the top ridges. Your pumped, hollaring and gernerally fired up for more. At which point welcome to the biggest fire road climb I’ve seen in sometime. Settle in well, as you’ll be climbing for the next 30 minutes or so on a fire road at the bottom of the valley…..its gotta be 3km.
However to leave you with a reminder of why you came, the last descent down to the visitor centre is again, exposed, fast and techy.
So as you sit now down after a good ride, I’d recommend the fruit cake to replenish those thighs by the way, all three of us agree, BNYR is up there on our list. And defiantly one to revisit.
So would I recommend?
Absolutely – its one to tick off the list, but not to say you won’t want to come back. Certainlly your level of fitness needs to be high, but I’ll certainly be paying another visit soon.
It’s been roughly a year since Grip Grab and I joined forces and in that time I’ve been purposely trying my hand at testing their gear out by bombing mountains with the DH to typical Cannock Chase loops on the XC.
I started out wondering whether I should subtly fit it into my content, but if I’m honest, if I was following someone and they we’re partnering with a brand, I would just prefer a straight up front airing of activity. So that’s what I’ve done.
So purpose of this article? Well it has been roughly a year since partnering and I feel the need to provide them a conclusion of my thoughts, but also to you guys too. So, Grip Grab who?
I’ll kick it off – its good stuff! And that’s not me saying it just because I get it for free. I’ve been using Troy Lee Design gear for a while now and I have to say, the quality of the products from Grip Grap is better. They feel hand crafted rather than mass produced. The quality of the materials is by far better, not to mention the finish too.
GripGrab mainly create Gloves and winter warming products, not a lot compared to Troy Lee Designs, but you can feel that focused attention on their smaller range of products. Every detail has been thought of from where the stiches, padding and velcro are. It changes for example between the glove range, depending on if it’s a gravity glove or cross country glove. I’ve ordered a few more bits this year, from full fingers gloves to Jersey’s so I’ll keep you posted on those.
For now though, I would if you’re in the market, thoroughly recommend the GripGrab brand. If you want gear that feels good, has the endurance and doesn’t make you look like a Christmas tree, give them a go. You’ll be surprised.