A Slice of Australia with Steak Sauce
March 01, 2011
The digital world may be shrinking but when traveling to the other side of the earth, it remains really big! 13,500km away and more than 24hrs from home, it is hard not to get exhausted heading from Canada all the way to Australia. The 19hr time change doesn't help much either. The trip started off in Vancouver BC and stopped over in Sydney Australia before making the hop to Hobart Tasmania. Norco Factory Team members Ryan Leech and Jay hoots joined myself Down Under to film an episode of Ride Guide Television.
As a soft intro to Tasmania and Australia, we started off our trip with a bit of a riding teaser. Cruising the streets of Hobart while Ryan rode some fabulous trials lines around the city this was a great way to see the sights while recovering from the long trip South. The day of rest was short though as in the morning we would travel to the interior of Tasmania start our Mountain Biking trip in earnest.
The riding in central Tasmania totally different than back home. We first rode an All Mountain trail called North-South. It was a gravel topped, zig-zaggy, slightly downhill trail through a Eucalyptus forest. From here we moved onto a local mountain bike park where there was a steep, fast DH track. Jay Hoots and our guide Simon were both on big bikes (as in 7"+ travel) with full face helmets etc., Ryan and I were wearing our open face XC lids and riding shorter travel bikes. This made it a bit sketchy when there were drops or rougher steep sections in the middle of the track. The diversity of the trails in Tasmania along with the fantastic views, nature and culture blew away my expectations, and we hadn't even been to mainland Australia yet.
Leaving Tasmania, our first day in Melbourne was another big one. Up at the crack of dawn and off to the airport, we got to Melbourne in the late morning where we were joined by a representative from Tourism Victoria (the area we would be traveling in) and taken to see all the great sights of this beautiful city. We then checked in to our hotel and re-built up our bikes in a hurry then went down to a funky bike shop/cafe for lunch. Following this we rolled on down to the Yarra River to shoot some urban trials with Ryan and Hoots.
These guys are superheroes. Ryan rode a balance line that was about 3" wide with NO ROOM for error (12-15' drop)! Then, Hoots rode the railing of a bridge over the Yarra River. It was about 10" wide, but again had zero room for error. About 40'; down to the water. Luckily the cameraman didn’t need multiple riders for that line, so I stayed safe and dry off the railing.
After hitting some of the classic Australia sights (the Great Ocean Road, the 12 Apostles, surfing in Torquay, more trail riding in Forest) we then got our trail fix for more singletrack by heading up to Mt. Buller Ski Resort outside of Mansfield. With the lifts shut down for the season we shuttled up the mountain in a 4x4 pick up to around 5000' where we parked and cut through the forest to a brand new trailed called Stonefly.
This trail was recently voted #1 trail by AMB (Australian Mountain Biking) magazine and I can see why! The trail was built following the contour slope and wound in and out of strikingly beautiful but dead Snowgum trees. Seems a vicious fire passed through this area about 8 years ago, burning the tops off all the trees and killing them. Now everywhere you look there was stark white tree trunks, but beautiful lush grass and greenery down low where mother nature is regenerating and starting over. Between scattered clouds overhead, these amazing trees, the green carpet flooring and a really sweet trail swooping through the forest, we all quickly agreed that this was the true “icing on the cake” to all the riding we had done so far on our trip. Plus, it was Ryan’s birthday – what a way to spend a birthday!
These are just a few of the fantastic riding adventures we had Down Under. You really have to make the trip for yourself to get a true taste of the mountain biking. Whether you are on an XC bike, an All Mountain rig or looking to race some DH, there really is something here for everyone. Wrapping up more than two weeks of filming we couldn't help but reminisce about the riding, people and experiences we've had. Finishing off the trip in Melbourne visiting some local shops and saying hi to the Australian Norco distributor - Pacific Brands it was time to start packing. I am sad to be leaving but at the same time, there is no place like home. Plus, once back, the Seattle Bike Expo is just around the corner and The Sea Otter Classic is shortly there after.
Time to get the Riding Season going, oh yeah, and I better get back to my training for the upcoming 1/2 Ironman too - Yikes!
Get the 7mm Upgrade - Syntace Demystified
March 01, 2011
If you have been reading about new technologies being integrated into mountain bikes in recent months, you have likely heard about the Syntace X-12 or another 142mm axle system in some form or another. There seems to be a cloud of mystery surrounding this new product in what it is, how it works and why it is better than the alternatives.
The hubs pictured above illustrate the two most common styles of hubs on the market today. The far left is a traditional 135mm width with a 9mm axle. This is the style of hub that a standard quick release wheel uses and is used on Cross Country and some All mountain bikes. The middle option is still a 135mm width but uses a 12mm axle. This increased diameter allows for the use of a stiffer, stronger and more secure axle. This style of hub is used in All Mountain and some Freeride bikes. Once we arrive at the far right image, this is the new 142mm x 12mm hub. This hub is 7mm wider than the other two hubs while sharing the 12mm axle with the middle option.
This image is comparing the 135mm to the 142mm axle. The first thing you will notice is that the latter is wider by 3.5mm on each side. The freehub body and hub shells however will line up identically between the two options. In some cases, the only different between these two hub sizes is a set of end caps. As a result, depending out which hub you are using, it may just be a matter of purchasing an adapter kit to make your existing wheels work in a 142mm dropout.
This 3.5mm that has been added to each side of the axle does not actually affect the spacing of the cassette or brake rotor in the frame. Instead, hub caps are inset into the frame. This inset acts as a guide for installing the rear wheel while increasing the contact patch of the hub to the frame. While a traditional clamping style pinches the axle between the dropouts, this new system allows for a much stronger, stiffer and lighter clamping mechanism. It should also be mentioned that not all 142mm systems are created equal. While 142mm is stiffer than a standard 135mm axle, many of the real benefits come out of the Syntace X-12 conical clamping mechanism. This gets fairly technical so for full details on how Syntace improves axial and radial clamping, head over to syntace.com.
The second aspect of the Syntace system that offers great improvement over other styles is a the utilization of a new type of derailleur hanger. In this system the frame's rear axle pinch-bolt serves a second purpose as the derailleur hanger fixing bolt.
The derailleur hanger fixing bolt mounts downward through the frame and into the derailleur hanger. In this design, an impact which would break a traditional hanger, will instead sheer the bolt leaving the hanger intact. This is accomplished by designing a breaking point in the bolt (between the threaded sections) which breaks at a calculated force which is less than that of your expensive derailleur.
To make a repair in such a circumstance one must simply remove the broken bolt using a 3mm allen key and replace the bolt with the spare that comes on every Syntace equipped Norco mountain bike. It is important to note that although this is the frame's axle pinch bolt as well - upon breaking, the integrity of the rear wheel will not be affected in any way. The rear wheel will remain secure.
The result of Syntace is a stiffer, stronger, lighter and more reliable rear wheel and drivetrain. Utilizing the Syntace X-12 system offers a number of benefits with nearly no downfall. The fact that many traditional 135x12 hubs can be converted to 142mm means that expenditure is minimal but all the benefits of the system can be realized. When you are out shopping for your next bike, keep Syntace in mind; it is here to stay.
Winter Riding Inspiration on the Truax
March 01, 2011
The Norco Truax was launched last month as a 2011.5 freeride bike. The new frame design is the replacement for the iconic Shore model that has evolved the Norco freeride bike platform into what it is today. While the Truax is designed to take on every situation that the Shore excelled, it also takes a card from its little brother the Range in its versatility and functionality. It isn't that we need all that much convincing to get out for a Winter mountain bike ride but the Truax seemed like the perfect excuse to illustrate why we are so excited about this bike.
Being located at the doorstep of the birth of freeride, Vancouver's North Shore, this is a natural place to test out the Truax. Mt Fromme is one of the classic riding areas made famous through the North Shore Extreme videos running back to the early 1990's. Trails like Ladies Only, Flying Circus and Pink Starfish are world renowned with mountain bike fanatics everywhere. A decade ago, riding Mt. Fromme involved pushing 50lb DH rigs up the mountain, today though, we are riding a 36lb, 180mm travel freeride machine. The arduous task of ascending Mt Fromme is a distant memory.
The climb up may be a lot easier than in the past, but the primary function of this bike is still pointing down. The Truax is designed to take hits, roll over anything and feel as comfortable off a 10 ft drop as it is off a roadside curb. Through the incorporation of a Syntace rear end, A.R.T Suspension and numerous other technological advancements this is the strongest, lightest and most advanced freeride bike Norco has ever made.
The biggest noticable change besides looks between the Shore and the Truax is the addition of A.R.T. Suspension. The addition of this optimised FSR system improves the pedaling efficiency, square-edge bump compliance, leverage ratio and braking performance over non-A.R.T predecessors. This makes for a quicker trip to the top and a smoother, faster ride on the way down. Riding this bike on the shore, it was amazing how light and nimble the bike felt while still inspiring confidence in less-than-optimal riding conditions. While this article may have a bias towards the bike, you have to take my word for it that it really is spectacular. Looking at the other options in the 2011 lineup, there is no bike I would have rather had for this Winter ride. The Truax pedaled like a Range, dropped like a shore and accelerated like a Team DH.
With Vancouver forest floor still blanketed in white, it can seem a motivational impossibility to get out and go for a ride. While the Truax is my excuse to get out and enjoy the trails, there is no reason for you not to as well. With a little bit of preparation and a sense of caution on the slippery bits, it is as good of day as any to head out for a ride. Spring is just about here and it seems wrong to leave a bike couped up inside. With an extra jacket, a toque, thick gloves and some riding pants, it is a great day to ride anywhere!