A brand new event for 2018, Bike Connection is a relatively small, multi-brand press camp. The first event – the winter edition – was held back in February of this year in Italy. Chipps went along and caught up with brands including Nukeproof, which launched a new wheelset and apparel line, and Fox Head, which unveiled the new Flux helmet.
The summer edition was held in Les Gets during the lead up to the Crankworx World Tour – a huge festival that takes over the French alpine town for a week’s worth of events and races including the dual slalom, whip-off’s, and the slopestyle.
Run over a few days with plenty of opportunities to ride and test out new product, Bike Connection is a more casual affair compared to the big tradeshows. For journo’s like me, it’s a chance for us to get to chat with the product designers, engineers and PR folk behind each brand, so we can delve a bit deeper into a new product and why it’s designed to perform in a particular way. For the brands, it’s an opportunity to better communicate that message, without the hecticness and unpredictability of being at a busy tradeshow like Eurobike. Plus, we actually get to test out the new product and ride the Les Gets bikepark each day. So there’s that.
There were six brands at the summer edition of Bike Connection, including Formula, Hebo, Bell, MET/Bluegrass Eagle, SRAM and Marin. Some of the products I can’t show you just yet, though you’ll read about them in weeks to come when they’re officially launched to market.
However there are plenty of products we can show you now, so here’s a bit of a highlights reel from what we checked out at Bike Connection Summer 2018.
- Price: €29 for set of three
- From: Formula
First announced back in April, the Neopos volume spacers are now available to purchase. Developed and tested in-house by Formula’s own suspension engineer Luca, these are primarily designed to work with Formula’s own Selva and 35 forks. I’m told that they may work in other forks however…
The principle is straightforward. The Neopos spacer is designed to sit inside your fork’s air spring in order to reduce volume for increased progressitivity – just like a RockShox Bottomless Token or a Fox Volume Spacer. But rather than have a rigid plastic volume spacer, the Neopos spacer is made from compressible foam that allows it to deform and shrink as it is put under pressure. According to Formula, the compressible Neopos spacer helps to ‘normalise’ and ‘linearise’ the air spring curve. The result is purportedly more comfort, with more coil-like suspension behaviour.
We’ve got some samples to test out in some of those ‘other’ forks on the market, so I’ll be bringing these back to the UK to try out and see how they perform.
Formula Cura 4
- Price: €174 per end (plus rotors & adapters)
- From: Formula
Answering the market’s demands for a bigger 4-piston disc brake calliper, Formula has responded with the new Cura 4. Building on the steady success of the regular 2-piston Cura (a brake that is already used for downhill racing), the Cura 4 makes use of exactly the same lever, which features mineral oil inside, dual bleed ports, tooled reach adjustment and an ambidextrous flip-flop design. At the calliper end however, a forged and anodized calliper houses four monster 18mm diameter pistons to deliver eyeball-popping power.
I spent a day riding the Cura 4 brakes on an Alutech 29er enduro bike, and once the fresh pads and rotors had bedded in during the first run, the power was insane. Like, really insane, and to be honest, too much for me and the pace that I ride at. There’s a solid feel at the lever, and despite me dragging them all the way down the mountain like the bikepark novice I am, the bite point and the power delivery remained consistent. We’ll be getting a set in for further testing, but for those after an uber-strong downhill brake, these are worth putting to your list.
Hebo Level ¾ Jersey
- Price: €45
- From: Hebo
Hebo wasn’t a brand I’d heard of before prior to Bike Connection, but it turns out the Girona-based company has a long history with producing apparel and protective wear for motorcycling and trials riding. Last year Hebo turned its attention to mountain biking, with a range of helmets, riding kit and shoes designed for the trail and enduro market.
The Level jersey comes in short and long sleeves, as well as this ¾ number. It’s made from polyester and polyamide stretch fabrics, and uses a lightweight rear elastic mesh to provide breathability. Sizes range from Small through to XX-Large, and you can get the jersey in two-tone red, or this rather fetching blue and orange colour.
Hebo Tracker Gloves
- Price: €31
- From: Hebo
Hebo’s glove range didn’t look drastically different from any other mountain bike brand, but I was plenty intrigued after putting on a pair. Using a material called Nanofront, the palm of the Tracker glove is very thin, very flexible, and not dissimilar in appearance to a synthetic leather fabric that you’ll find on other minimalist gloves.
To the touch however, it has a really high friction feel. This is apparently due to the fiber’s increased surface area and uneven profile at a nano-scale (hence the name), which increases frictional force between your hands and the bars.
Bell Super DH Helmet
- Price: £249
- From: ZyroFisher
After Giro and MET had a crack over a decade ago, Bell reignited the convertible full-face helmet back in 2014 with the innovative Super 2R. That morphed into the Super 3R – a popular helmet that remains in the Bell lineup today. The Super DH is an addition to the range, and it takes the convertible design to the next level by providing full DH-certification and a host of new features.
The biggest of which is the exclusive MIPS Spherical system, which Bell codeveloped together with MIPS. This sees the Super DH equipped with two foam shells (the inner is a softer EPP foam, and the outer is a harder EPS foam) secured together by elastic bands. The shells fit together like a ball and socket, and because the surface between the two shells is polished smooth they can freely slide against each other, creating a slip-plane that allows the helmet to rotate on the rider’s head in the event of a crash.
The Super DH is loaded with other features including a magnetic buckle, a fully adjustable harness system, and a large goggle-compatible visor. And of course, the chin bar is removable to turn the Super DH into a regular open-face trail helmet. I’ve been riding with the Super DH for the past couple of months, so expect a full review to come your way in the near future.
Bluegrass Eagle Skinny D3O Knee Pads
- Price: £90
- From: Bluegrass Eagle
Owned by MET, Bluegrass Eagle specialises in body armour, full-face helmets and open-face trail helmets. The brand recently undertook a complete overhaul of its body armour line, splitting its range of elbow, knee and chest armour into Skinny (thinner and lighter weight) and Solid (thicker and heavier duty) versions. There are then two options for the Skinny knee pads, with these ones being the higher end D3O version.
Using a full tube construction, the Skinny D3O pads slide on like a big sock, with elasticated cuffs at the top and bottom providing a snug fit. Mesh fabric is used on the back for breathability, while Kevlar is found on the front for abrasion resistance. A large, contoured D3O pad covers the knee cap and the top of the shin, providing ease of movement as well as sufficient impact absorption. The Skinny D3O is available in Small, Medium, Large and X-Large sizes.
MET Roam Helmet
- Price: £135 – £155
- From: MET
Italian helmet manufacturer MET had its 2019 helmet line on show, with the Roam getting some fresh colours including this lovely blue and tan number. Featuring additional coverage around the rear of the head and across the temples, the Roam is pitched as a burly trail/all mountain lid with a big ol’ 3-position visor. There are MIPS and non-MIPS versions available in three sizes from 52-62cm. The adjustable Safe-T Orbital harness provides one-handed adjustment for fit, while the two supports at the rear of the harness can be moved laterally too.
MET hasn’t equipped the Roam with any integrated clips for lights or cameras, as the company is not a big fan of fixing hard objects to the outside of the helmet. However, a flat section on top of the helmet allows the rider to fit a strap-mount if they so choose, which is more likely to breakaway in the event of a crash compared to a stick-on bracket.
MET Eldar Youth Helmet
- Price: £45
- From: MET
MET also has two completely new helmets for 2019. The Echo is an adult trail helmet designed as a cheaper alternative to the Roam, while the Eldar is the child’s version of the Echo.
Using a high quality in-mould construction, the Eldar provides more coverage than MET’s existing youth helmets, making it an ideal choice for daring young shredders. There’s a removable visor, goggle compatibility, and a 360° adjustment system for ease of fitting. The Eldar comes in one size only, covering a 52-57cm range.
SRAM e-MTB Components
- Price: Assorted
- From: ZyroFisher
We’ve already ridden and reviewed the new NX Eagle drivetrain from SRAM, though what we haven’t really discussed in detail yet is the new e-MTB options for 2019.
The main talking point for those who ride with electric motors is the new NX Eagle 11-50t cassette, which is the only Eagle cassette that’s approved for e-MTB use. We’re told that the split-cog design is better able to cope with the additional torque going through the drivetrain on an e-MTB, with the full steel construction is built with durability in mind. Because you can pair any Eagle derailleur with this cassette, expect to see it fitted on many complete bikes for 2019.
SRAM has also added to its range of One-Click trigger shifters, which are purpose-built for e-MTBs. There’s an NX, GX, XO1 and XX1 option, with each shifter limiting the downshift to just one click. The idea here is to prevent over-shifting and putting excessive force onto the chain while it’s trying to move across the cassette.
In addition to the shifters and cassette, SRAM also has a cutesy little X-Sync 2 chainring for the Bosch motor system. Available in 14t, 16t and 18t sizes, this steel chainring should offer smoother engagement with the chain, and improved durability over previous narrow-wide chainrings.
And lastly, to match the new chainring, SRAM is widening its choice of crank lengths with the X1 crankset, which now go down to a super-short 150mm length. There’ll be a couple of e-bike brands spec’ing these itty bitty crank arms for 2019, which deliver useful ground clearance on low-slung e-MTBs.
Bike Connection Agency covered flights & accommodation for this trip.