Since their invention in the ’70’s, mountain bikes have changed a lot, going from robust multi-functional bikes to high-tech sport machines. The suspension technology in particular has opened the door to a new dimension of riding, comfort and fun. Nowadays, there are so many different bike types for so many different uses. Fabricants and special interest magazines usually divide mountain bikes into the following categories: Cross Country, Trail, All Mountain, Enduro and Freeride/DH.
WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I NEED?
If you are already an active mountain biker, you will be able to define your profile quite easily. If you are a beginner, then you should first think about what you are expecting from your bike and what brings you the most fun. Here are some features that can help you evaluate yourself.
I AM A XC RACER
You like performance and light weight. You want to ride fast and you like competition. More than 100mm of travel is secondary for you.
You need a Scale RC or a Spark RC from the Cross Country category.
Tip: HARDTAIL (SCALE) OR FULL SUSPENSION (SPARK)?
Because of its front and back suspension, a full suspension bike, or “Fully” is normally about 1 kg heavier than a comparable hardtail which only has a front suspension system. However, the comfort of a Fully will allow you to save strength, will give you more confidence and will bring you much more fun. In most cases, mountain bikers are better off with a Fully. Nevertheless, if you are planning to race Cross Country or if you have a small budget, you should go for a hardtail.
I AM A TRAIL RIDER
You like your bike light, comfortable and playful. Even if you keep an eye on racing, you are more interested about having fun than actually competing.
You need a Spark 900 or Spark 700 from the Trail category.
I AM AN ALL MOUNTAIN/ENDURO RIDER
You want to ride fast but with comfort. Above all, you want to be able to ride anywhere. You like riding downhill, especially on technical trails.
You need a Genius from the All Mountain category.
With many options available on the market, wheel sizes can be confusing. Here is how we see it, and why we spec our bikes the way we do.
We find that both 27.5” and 29” wheels have their benefits. 27.5”, compared to 29”, will accelerate more quickly, and tend to open the door to more agile bike handling. Smaller riders often prefer the 27.5” wheel size as the bike will feel more maneuverable for them.
29” wheels tend to be rollover kings, able to get over anything in their path. With modern bike geometries, these bigger wheels are faster, and more capable than ever before. Stable, efficient and consistent is what you’ll get with a 29er.
POC, a leading manufacturer of helmets, eyewear, body armor, apparel and accessories has been chosen as the ‘Brand of the year 2017’ by the Bicycle Brand Contest (BBC).
The Bicycle Brand Contest, established by the German Design Council, focuses on companies in the bicycle industry and their partners. The winners, which are selected as an acknowledgement of excellent product and communication design in the industry, are chosen by an independent jury of experts.
POC CEO, Jonas Sjögren, said – “All of us at POC are overjoyed by the bicycle ‘Brand of the Year’ award and the recognition that it places on our products and mission. The bike industry is incredibly innovative and to be independently selected by a jury of sector experts is both humbling and inspiring. From day one our vision and mission has been crystal clear and we have always wanted to support cyclist safety and performance with products of unquestionable quality and relevance.”
POC, a leading manufacturer of helmets, eyewear, body armor and apparel was founded in 2005 in Sweden, with a clear mission; ‘to do the best we can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists’. The jury also awarded POCs latest mountain bike/trail helmet, Tectal Race, a helmet ‘category winner’ award.
POC CEO, Jonas Sjögren, added – “POC’s success has been built around its highly talented team. Our approach has always been to use our mission as the starting point in our product development coupled to an unwavering belief in research and development, innovation and constantly testing and refining our products. We try to never leave any stone unturned in pursuit of our mission and the Brand of the Year award is a wonderful recognition for everyone working in POC”
By: Philippe Tremblay | June 11th, 2017
You could say I had the misfortune of extensively testing the POC Octal-X on my first ride wearing it. While normally after a ride in a new helmet I would be thinking of its comfort, ventilation and fit, after this ride I was just thankful I was uninjured.
Riding along a local bike path chatting with a friend, an off-the-leash dog (in an on leash area) ran unexpectedly across the path beelining towards a flock of geese. Fortunately, we were not moving fast and the dog was uninjured just very surprised when my front wheel made contact with it.
I, however, was slightly less lucky and the tumble left me bruised and scratched. That surprised my two riding companions who were worried I had knocked my head on the pavement going down. I had grazed my head on the pavement but the helmet stood up to the test.
The Octal-X borrows its shape and design from the POC Octal but has been beefed up to make it more suitable for riding off road.
When POC first released the Octal, it’s beefy shape made many question the aesthetics of the helmet but it has become commonplace on the heads of world class cyclists and trendy riders.
When POC first released the Octal, it’s beefy shape made many question the aesthetics of the helmet but it has become commonplace on the heads of world class cyclists and trendy riders. You could say it’s now a cool helmet and POC are leaving the aesthetics unchanged as they gear it for riders tackling rougher roads, gravel and cross-country singletrack.
The Octal-X has the features that make the Octal such a great helmet with generous ventilation, low weight (claimed 250 g for the small I was testing) and a unibody shell construction. With an EPS foam core and the added protection offered by aramid bridge technology, the helmet is more robust and better prepared to spread the forces of an impact.
The Foil takes aim at the big boys in the aero category thanks in large part to its impressive stiffness numbers. Yet it maintains spritely handling and a touch of comfort more indicative of the all-around category, which makes it a successful crossover.
It’s the 73-degree head tube angle and short 405-millimeter chain stays that allow the Foil to bridge the gap between the aero and all-around categories better than most bikes with airfoil tubing. We were especially impressed by how at-home it felt on the climbs, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been, given its 15.17-pound build.
It’s no cobble bike (though Mathew Hayman did win Paris-Roubaix on it in 2016), but the Foil does take some of the sting out of bumpy roads, perhaps due to the lowered seat stays and the relatively thin seatpost. That makes it more than bearable for long days and big miles. Still, we’d stick to smoother tarmac where the aero features allow the Foil to flex its muscles. No need to shy away from the mountains, either.
Testers liked the comfort of the integrated Syncros handlebar, but it lacks any significant adjustability. And Scott has stuck with a rear brake mounted under the bottom bracket shell. This design makes rear brake adjustments more difficult and doesn’t really seem to lend any aero advantage; we would love to see the rear brake relocated to a more traditional position, or better yet, a disc brake-equipped Foil.
Few companies have pushed the boundaries of lightweight bike design over the past two decades like Scott—its sub-900-gram CR1 road bike launched the weight wars in 2003—so it came as no surprise that the new Sparkdebunks the view that plus-size bikes have to be ponderous and sluggish.
At a hair over 26 pounds for a size medium, this 120mm full-suspension carbon trail bike feels unrealistically light with those big 27.5+ tires. In fact, the Spark Plus was lighter than every other mountain bike in the Outside bike test, except for the Norco Optic 7.1, which has standard-size 27.5-inch tires. Scott didn’t fake the weight by spec’ing flimsy parts, either. The 130mm Fox 34 fork is plenty stiff for the task. And unlike the throwaway rubber that many brands resort to for curb appeal, the Spark Plus comes with a pair of meaty Maxxis Rekon+, my favorite tires in this class for their aggressive, confidence-inspiring tread and supportive but supple-feeling sidewalls and casing. (If anything, Scott could have gone a bit lighter with a faster-rolling Maxxis Ikon+ out back, but I’m not complaining.)
The other big news on this bike is the revised suspension, which spans the Spark line. Though Scott kept the single-pivot of previous generations, the old top tube–mounted design is replaced with a rocker link and pivotless swingarm. The setup retains top-end sensitivity but feels much more progressive, even through the length of the travel. Paired with a reasonably slack 66.9-degree head angle and moderate-length chainstays (438mm), the frame is surprisingly plush and capable. (The 29-inch Spark and Spark RC, which also use this new rear suspension, must surely be some of the best-feeling and lightest XC bikes going.)
Scott has been at the forefront of road bike innovation for the last 15 years. Between the super lightweight Addict and the aerodynamic Foil, the Swiss company has consistently offered excellent options for riders looking for any advantage possible.
In 2007, Scott introduced the Addict, claiming it was the lightest weight road bike available at the time at 1,120 grams (frame/fork). Six years later, it launched an even lighter version, the Addict SL, made from a “nano-technology” infused carbon fiber (called HMX-SL); the frame and fork weighed in at a claimed 990 grams.
New for 2017 is a disc-brake equipped Addict. I tested the Addict 20, a well-priced model at under $3,799 with a mix of Shimano Ultegra and 105; Shimano’s high-performing BR-RS805 hydraulic disc brakes with flat-mount interface and thru-axles; and a frame made with the slightly heavier but plenty stiff carbon fiber (called HMF by Scott).
There are lighter bikes in this category (the Focus Izalco Max Disc is a claimed 16.5 pounds), but even kissing 18 pounds, the Addict 20 rides light—it’s lively and fast on climbs and super responsive to pedaling input on the flats. At the same time, the racy geometry sets you up to drill through corners and descents. The frame takes 28c tires (mounted to Syncros RP2.0 Disc alloy rims), which combined with increased compliance in the rear triangle, make riding bad roads or gravel as enjoyable as any bike I’ve ridden that’s built for that purpose.
For the longest time, helmets were built to be rigid cushions to reduce any impact on our skull. By lowering the amount of force applied to our heads, helmets reduce the amount of trauma done to our brains.
Swedish company POC Sports has created a new technology to greater reduce the force from impacts at an angle. These sort of impacts are much more common, so it’s important that helmets are able to counteract them. As simple as it sounds, the innovation lies in building a helmet that can move independently from the head.
“Over the last 10 years, POC has developed a wealth of knowledge around helmet technology, materials, and design,” said CEO Jonas Sjögren. “SPIN, which stands for ‘Shearing Pad INside’, is our brand-new, patent-pending rotational impact protection system.”