News: More Power and new Computer for Bosch

Of all the drive units I've tried, Bosch have had the most outright power without a doubt and they're about to get more. It was recently announced that all Performance Line Speed and Performance Line CX drive units will be able to get a software update to bump your maximum torque up to 85Nm, from the current 75Nm. It'll make the most noticeable difference at lower cadences when you're grinding up the hills, and is available on all drive units from model year 2020 forwards.


Bosch claim very little impact on battery life, being that most of the time, riders aren't pedalling at a low enough cadence to utilise the maximum torque, and if they are it's not for very long.


The software update also includes a few other changes for the Performance Line CX drive unit. The eMTB mode has been re-tuned to be even more sensitive to riding input, adjusting how much support the motor offers based off how much pressure the rider is putting on the pedals.


There's also a new Extended Boost feature that delivers a sudden thrust of power to help you make it up and over trail obstacles. As your back wheel climbs a root, rock or trail obstacle, a stab at the pedals as you would usually, delivers an boost of power in a fraction of a second to help drive your wheel up and over the obstacle. I've always found eBikes a little tricky to negotiate over little steps or roots in a trail, given you it's harder to hop your back wheel around and that the bike doesn't always respond the way you'd like it to, to a sudden stab at the power, so I'm interested to get my hands on an updated drive unit and put this feature to the test.

Bosch also have an all-new Nyon Computer. Featuring a 3.2 inch high-resolution display, it'll definitely be a bit of a change to what we're used to. Featuring a touch screen, the Nyon will be easy to navigate and is of course will work with touchscreen compatible gloves, or the separate control unit for use while riding. The Nyon is essentially designed to be your ride computer and drive system controller all in one, reporting back live metrics like speed and cadence, as well have having the ability to pair with heart rate sensors. The Nyon also features navigation. We're hoping we'll be able to get our hands on a Nyon equipped bike soon to put the unit to test.


News: Specialized's new Epic & Epic EVO

Specialized have just dropped the latest iteration of their Epic and Epic EVO, with geometry tweaks among other things to suit the more-and-more demanding modern cross country courses we're beginning to see. Get the scoop below!


"The all new Epic


You’re looking at the fastest XC bikes in the world. Building on the legacy of the winningest full suspension XC bike in history, these freshly redesigned Epics deliver an unmatched combination of pedalling efficiency, light weight and control.


“Make the fastest XC bike ever.” That was the Epic development team’s audacious mission. Luckily for them, the starting point was the winningest full suspension XC race bike in history. Building from this, the team delivered an unmatched combination of pedalling efficiency, light weight and control. Mission accomplished.


If winning isn’t everything, we’re doing something wrong. For 20 years, Epics have rocketed more racers to the top of the podium than any other full suspension XC bike. Now with a smarter, tougher, more responsive Brain shock and a stiffer, lighter frame, the new race-focused Epic cuts the time between starting line and victory even shorter.

Brain technology in the Epic fork and shock knows the difference between pedalling force and bump force—it keeps suspension efficiently firm on smooth terrain and automatically switches to active the instant things get rough, boosting control and speed. The new Epic gets a fresh Brain shock, the most durable and control-enhancing that we’ve ever made.


The culmination of two decades of obsessive refinement, the new Epic frames are lighter and stiffer than ever. The S-Works Epic FACT 12m carbon chassis shaves over 100 grams from its predecessor, employs a carbon link, and boasts a15% increase in rear triangle stiffness. The FACT 11m frame found on the rest of the Epic range now matches the stiffness and weight of the previous S-Works chassis.

Dominating today’s technical XC courses demands geometry that borrows from trail bikes while optimizing XC responsiveness. Combining precise handling with improved capability in technical terrain, we relaxed the headtube to 67.5 degrees, stuck with the reduced fork offset that we pioneered in 2018, increased reach, specified shorter stems, shortened chainstays and dropped the bottom bracket by 9mm. Bring it.

Riders all, our team of engineers and technicians toiled to develop every aspect of the Epic suspension into an optimally performing singularity. Chassis design, telemetry, wheel rates, spring curves, custom shim-stacks, oil viscosity—every detail obsessed over, prototyped and tuned until the whole was way faster than the sum of its parts.


The all new Epic Evo


What do you get when you give a crazy-smart, single track-obsessed development team virtually unlimited resources and tell them to make the fastest XC trail bike ever? Epic EVO. Start with the Epic frontend, build an all-new rear end, swap the brain fora custom-tuned metric shock, and tune the geo for technical terrain capability. Ready, set, shred.


The heart of the EVO chassis is the same wicked-light and super-stiff front triangle as the Epic. Next, for stability, we designed a purpose-built rear end. Finally, we boosted control and trail performance by unifying the front and rear end with a stiff shock link optimized for the plush metric damper used on the EVO. Evolved for trail speed.

The EVO’s 66.5-degree head angle and lower bottom bracket keep things calm when the trail turns technical. For pedalling efficiency, the seat angle is 3/4 of a degree steeper than its predecessor. If you want sharper handling and a bit more clearance, just rotate the FlipChip—angles get half a degree steeper and the bottom bracket comes up 6mm.


To conquer rough trails as fast as humanly possible, the Epic EVO maintains ultra-efficient pedalling manners, but trades the Brain in favor of an Rx-tuned metric shock. A purpose-built link yields a2.8:1 leverage ratio, and milks bump-devouring performance from its 110-mm rear travel. 120mm forks with custom Rx-tuned valving complete EVO’s balanced, trail-smart suspension.

News: Bontrager's Updated Line Wheel Range

Today, Bontrager unveiled all-new versions of its popular Line Pro 30 and Line Elite 30 carbon mountain bike wheels that have nearly twice the impact strength of previous Line models. Like all Bontrager carbon wheels, the new Line models are backed by Carbon Care and warrantied for life.


Both Line Pro 30 and Line Elite 30 are available in 27.5 and 29er options. Each model in the newline-up features a new rim design with a shallower 27 mm wheel depth that increases vertical compliance for a smoother ride and a planted, confident feel that isn't overly harsh on the trail.


The new shape also helps the wheel absorb and transfer impact energy to help prevent failure.

Additionally, Bontrager more than doubled the hook wall thickness, increasing it to 4.6 mm for even more strength and durability.


'These wheels set all-time records in our impact test, but we wanted to go even further to ensure every rider could buy and ride with confidence,' said Graham Wilhelm, Bontrager's Director of Product for Wheels & Tyres. 'So we created an all-new impact anvil that deliver seven stronger, more menacing blows that mimic real-world forces of rock strikes. These wheels performed incredibly well.


'The all-new Line Pro 30 and Line Elite 30 are the strongest carbon MTB wheels Bontrager has ever tested–not just from Bontrager, but from any manufacturer.


Line Pro 30 is the ultimate carbon mountain trail and enduro wheel. It’s built with the lightest rims in the Line family, a more refined hub and more compliant, lighter-gauge straight-pull spokes.


Line Elite 30 is the ultimate carbon trail wheel for value and performance. Elite delivers the same strength and durability as the Pro, with just a few more grams in the rim and a J-Bend hub.


All-new rim Design

The 4.6mm hook wall thickness increases strength and durability, while the shallower 27mm depth increases vertical compliance and helps to absorb impacts better.


Fewer Flats

The wider hook bead offers a 300% larger outside hook radius, which means more surface area in contact on a sharp impact to help prevent pinch flats.


OCLV Carbon Line rims are built from proven OCLV Pro Carbon for an optimised blend of weight, strength and durability.


Rapid Drive 108

Each model features Rapid Drive 108 hubs, which have 108 points of engagement for quick accelerations and confident pedaling through even the most demanding terrain.


Carbon Care and Lifetime Warranty

All Bontrager Carbon Wheels are warrantied for life and come with Carbon Care, which offers free repair or replacement to the original owner within the first two years of ownership in the unlikely event of damage from riding.


Bontrager's all-new Line Pro 30 and Line Elite 30 wheels are available immediately online in select markets and through Trek's worldwide network of retail partners.

News: The new Santa Cruz 5010

The 5010 is one of those bikes that's just fun. Enough travel to get you over pretty much anything, with a small enough amount of travel to keep things fun. Santa Cruz have updated the 5010, with longer and slacker being the key themes, as well as a move to their lower-link VPP configuration that's become the norm on their recent releases. Check out their rad launch video below, then read what they have to say about the bike.


"Now more than ever, it’s important to get creative with your surroundings.


The 5010 has always been the bike that turns obstacles into features but now with the fourth generation upon us it expands on the concept of the little bike that has big ideas. Fun-loving 27.5-inch wheels, 130mm of lower-link VPP travel (paired with a 140mm fork) and radically confident-inspiring geometry including, new for any Santa Cruz bicycle, size specific rear stay lengths. It’s the kind of bike that makes any trail feel as familiar as the back of your hand."


News: The new Juliana Furtado

Much like it's brother, the Santa Cruz 5010, the Juliana Furtado is your go-to. Enough travel to take on anything, and not so much travel that you can just point-and-shoot. The latest iteration of the Furtado sees the bike transition to Juliana's lower-link VPP configuration, a slightly slacker head angle, as well as varying chainstay lengths that vary depending on your frame size.


"The Furtado isn’t a bike. It’s the bike.

The Furtado is more than a bike, it’s your partner in grime. From winding singletrack to burly rock gardens, the unmatched maneuverability of the Furtado makes it the perfect dirt-partner for every escape.

Re-designed for 2020, this year’s Furtado bumps up the capability to the do-it-all (then do it again) frame. The 27.5” inch wheels fitted with grippy 2.4” tires turn loose lines into velcro, letting you weave through trails with the confidence of a kid wearing a cape.

The 130mm rear travel and 140mm front travel floats over chunky trails while the lower link suspension keeps the traction high, letting you push the pedals without worrying about slipping or sliding.

Size-specific chainstay lengths coupled with a relaxed 65 degree headtube angle create a bike that twists and turns, letting you tackle the unknown with the confidence to commit. From the lighter-tuned rear suspension that ensures full-use of the travel to the nimble geometry and selection of build kits, the Furtado puts you in control.

Make every second carved from a busy day count. Snake through the tight switchback, then eye up the ledge that’s had your number for far too long. The question was never if you’ll clear it, but when. The Furtado’s balanced design and controlled feel turns to-do lists into just-did-that lists, and questions of when into exclamations of let’s do it again."


News: SRAM Release new 10-52T Eagle Cassette

If Eagle didn't already have a wide enough gear range for you, SRAM have just released a new 10-52T Eagle cassette with a massive 520%, giving you torque you never knew you needed, or the option to go up a chainring size whilst maintaining about the same bail-out as what you had on your 50T cassette. If you want to upgrade to the 50T cassette and you've got an AXS groupset, your derailleur is already compatible with the 52T cassette. If you're on a mechanical Eagle groupset, you'll need to pickup a new rear derailleur (and maybe the new carbon GX Crankset...).


"The new 10-52t cassette gives riders more than ever before, with an unprecedented 520 percent range. For a little extra to avoid the hike-abike, a little more in the “spin to win” game, the XG-1295 cassette also allows stronger riders to increase their chainring size if they want."


The new cassettes are available in black, gold, rainbow and an all-new copper colourway.


Story: Mountains & Music - The Story of earSHOTS

I love a good coming-to-be story, especially when the topic on hand is a Kiwi business. I think it’s something ingrained in all of us New Zealanders – we love seeing our own punching above their weight. I think there’s something especially rad about Kiwi companies trying to make their mark in our mountain biking community – riding is what we all love, and when a company tries to make that experience better for us, it’s hard for me not to get excited about it.


Along with riding, music is a big passion of mine and I spent a decent chunk of my teens playing in janky bars, community halls and houses around New Zealand. It’s tricky to combine riding and music – all the headphones I’ve tried have either been uncomfortable, constantly fall out, or both. There’s the option of strapping a speaker to myself or my bike, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it, knowing that for many, being away from the noise of our modern world is one of the things that draws them to riding. When local company, earSHOTS, reached out asking if I’d like to test out their headphones, I couldn’t say no and whilst waiting for the headphones to arrive, took it upon myself to find out more about earSHOTS and how they came to be.


When you’re designing headphones, there’s a few things you need to consider, especially if you plan on using them mountain biking. You don’t need me to tell you how rough a mountain bike trail is, so obviously retention is a big factor. Along with sweating, we’re also outside and exposed to the elements when we ride, so being durable is key. We go through saddles, shorts, helmets and more ‘til we find the gear that makes us most comfortable, so comfort is a big one and lastly, mountain biking is a dynamic sport made up of a bunch of different movements, so it’s important that our range of motion isn’t affected.


Banded headphones would help with retention but are obviously next to impossible to wear with a helmet so they’re a no go. I’ve had okay luck with in-ear earphones, but they’ve cancelled out any-and-all ambient noise and even then, retention is average. I’ve tried earphones targeted at active markets with the loop around your ear and all that fun stuff, but they’ve all had plastic arms that have been at best, tolerable, but not tolerable enough for me to use them regularly. When all was said and done, I decided riding wind rushing past my ears and sounds of nature would be my go-to.


James Bell-Booth, founder of earSHOTS, found himself in a similar boat. James was training for the T42, an event that requires a fair bit of fitness as I’m sure a few of you know, and was over spending his hours training in silence. Music, or podcasts, can make the monotony of training a lot more bearable particularly for endurance rides, and after trying a ton of headphones that were available, also came to the conclusion that there were no good options available. James wanted to create a set of headphones that were comparable to a watch, in the sense that they’re set-and-forget – once they’re on, you don’t need to worry about them.


Armed with a vision, James re-mortgaged the house, drew together some funds and hired some product designers, a move that didn’t work out in the end and left him empty handed. James wanted to utilise a magnet system to help retain the headphones, and along with co-founder John Grayson, came to the conclusion that they’d need to do a lot more protyping and development to get the headphones made before working on a final design. This started with James buying some moulding plastic and teaching himself how to create moulds by hand on his dining room table, which eventually moved into 3D-printed designs, before finally moving into real prototyping, so to speak.


One of the big hurdles James and John faced was the development of their magnet retention system. The earSHOTS have two magnets: one in the speaker that sits over your ear, and one in the part that loops over and sits behind your ear. These magnets had to be strong enough to keep the earSHOT from falling out, but not so strong that it was uncomfortable and pinching at your ear, which as you can imagine is a pretty fine balance. As well as the magnet strength, it was important to make sure their prototypes were comfortable on a wide range of people and over a long period of time, given that when you’re hurting and trying to push through, the last thing you want to be thinking about is how uncomfortable your headphones are and finally, they had to make sure that the headphones could stand up to the elements, not only did James and John have sweat to contend with, but they also had to consider anything and everything that mother nature could throw their way. When combined with their passion to create a set of headphones unlike anything else the world has seen, it took a total of five years’ worth of development to get to where earSHOTS are today.


earSHOTS now have a team of staff scattered all around the globe, however their roots are still firmly planted in New Zealand with James based in Palmerston North, with the Arapuke Mountain Bike Park pretty much on his doorstep, and their design team are based out of Queenstown. earSHOTS have opted to operate on a direct-to-consumer basis, meaning they charge less for their product as there’s no middleman to feed, and more importantly, they can engage directly with their customers. This benefits us, the consumer, greatly as it means our feedback gets back to the people who can use that feedback to then improve future iterations of earSHOTS, along with cutting out waiting times for warranty issues and giving you the benefit of working with a customer services team that know their product inside out. They’ll be tackling the NZ and Australian markets first and are currently working on getting some pretty rad Kiwis on board as ambassadors, before pushing into areas further afield.


Now that you know a little about earSHOTS and their coming to be, let’s talk about how they perform.


As mentioned earlier, James sent me a pair of earSHOTS about four weeks ago now, and I’ve been using them plenty out on the bike and even around the house instead of my Sonos system. The first thing I noticed was the packaging. In a world that’s becoming overrun with single use plastics, I was stoked to see the box the earSHOTS came in is made of recycled materials and is obviously recyclable itself. Upon opening the box, I was then stoked on the lack of cluttler, presented with nothing more than the earSHOTS case and the charging cable underneath. No instructions, instead they’ve printed a link on the inside of the box that takes you through to a tutorial section on their site , although the headphones are super simple to use and I managed to figure them out and get them paired and running without needing to check ‘em out. Points for simplicity.


The supplied case has two purposes, the obvious purpose of storing your earSHOTS, and a second purpose as acting as the charger, even featuring an internal battery so you can charge on the go. I’m pretty good at losing anything smaller than my phone, so the charging case is perfect.I take it with me whenever I go riding not only because it gives me somewhere safe to leave the earSHOTS once I get back to the car, but also because I know it means my earSHOTS will be charged when I reach for ‘em next. At home I keep the earSHOTS on my desk for those times I need to block out the dog barking or the neighbours kids, so I plug the case into my computer once a week to keep it charged and I’m yet to run the battery on the case, or the earSHOTS completely flat.


Now onto the important part: the earSHOTS. The earSHOTS are designed as earbud, meaning the speaker sits at the entrance of your ear canal, versus in it, as in-ear headphones would, and feature a rubberised loop that goes over your ear and sits behind it. The speaker and the backing both feature magnets, which are strong enough to be attracted to one another through your ear, but not so strong that you can feel it. The magnet system is earSHOTS solution to the retention problem, and I can confirm it works a treat. Each earSHOT features a small button for pairing and powering-on, along with a small LED to give you the status of your unit.


In terms of performance, the earSHOTS are awesome. The earSHOTS are thin and flexible through the middle, so they’ll conform to the top of your ears and the rubber outer doesn’t feel uncomfortable against your skin. As the earSHOTS are an earbud design, there’s no pressure inside your ear and they don’t feel intrusive whatsoever. In terms of sound quality, the earSHOTS deliver a good, balanced sound. Out of the box, I found they sounded a little ‘hollow’ through the mid-range, with highs that were a little bit more pronounced then I’d like, but after a quick tweak of Spotify’s EQ I got them dialled in to a setting that I was stoked with. It is probably worth noting that I’m lucky enough to have owned some really nice guitar amps and speakers over my time, so I’m pretty picky when it comes to sound. If you were to compare them to a set of standard headphones that sell for the same price, the standard heaphones would win out in a battle of sound quality but that’s not to say the earSHOTS are bad by any stretch of the imagination, and ultimately the earSHOTS are designed to provide you with trouble-free listening in environments where other headphones would provide you with nothing but trouble, and that’s exactly what they do.


I wouldn’t say you forget the headphones are there once they’re in, but they don’t move around at all and are uncomfortable in any sense. It took me a minute to wrap my head around how to put them on the first time round, although as admitted earlier I oh-so-confidently skipped the tutorial videos, but once you’ve figured it out they’re a piece of cake to put on and despite my hardest efforts, I couldn’t get them to budge. They don’t interfere with my helmet or helmet straps at all, and because each earSHOT is a standalone unit, meaning no cable or bar to connect them like some wireless headphones, you’re free to move your head however you like without fear of earSHOT ejection. The magnetic retention system works perfectly, and you don’t feel the magnets attraction to one-another at all. After a little bro-science, I concluded that the magnets are strong enough to hang the headphones off your earlobe like a pair of over-priced, mildly deformed hoops, but not so strong that you could do much more than just sit there questioning why you’ve got two headphones hanging from your ears.


The question I’ve had the most with the earSHOTS is do they have a microphone to pick up noise from the environment around you. The answer is no, but the earSHOTS aren’t an in-ear headphone and they aren’t noise cancelling either, so you can still hear what’s going on around you, unless of course your music is cranked up so loud that you should be worrying about your hearing before anything else. Probably also worth noting that if you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you, chances are you probably shouldn’t be listening to music. After chatting with James, it is something they’re considering in the future and I think that’s one of the rad things about direct-to-consumer companies – the fact that us consumers can have these conversations with the people behind the product knowing that our feedback will get through to someone who can actually utilise it.


When all is said and done, if you’re wanting to ride and listen to music, I’m not aware of anything on the market that will do a better job than the earSHOTS. They’re comfy, they sound great and they’re easy to setup. It’s really cool to see a business establish purely around designing headphones for mountain biking and outdoor sports, as opposed to being an after thought on someone else’s product line, so if you want to keep your money within our sport, consider picking up a pair of earSHOTS.


I’ve said it a bunch of times and I’ll say it again; getting to showcase local businesses that are bringing something new to our sport is one of my favourite parts of this job. earSHOTS are a great example of this, and I look forward to following their journey over years to come.


Want to win your own pair of earSHOTS? Head over to our Instagram, find our post sharing this story on June 10th, comment your favourite riding song and go in the drawer to win! You can comment as many times as you like, make sure you're following us and @ride_earshots though! Winner will be drawn at random on 23rd June. Competition open to people residing in New Zealand only.


Words: Cam Baker

Images: Cam Baker with production photos supplied by earSHOTS

Story: Heli's & eBikes?

I can see how this headline might raise a few eyebrows, but please, bear with me.


In November of 2019 I met up with two old friends from the Southern Hemisphere in Queenstown, New Zealand, where Henry van Ash lives. He is one of the people that invented/commercialized Bungy Jumping and made it a global thing and one of New Zealand biggest tourist attractions. He has also been a long time and passionate mountain biker with one of the most impressive bike collections he’s built up over the years. Recently he started a heli-bike company that transports adventurous mountain bikers to the remote back country.

Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, Glen Jacobs, was the other bloke who joined myself and my wife Carmen on this visit. Glen is from Australia and one of the most influential people in the world of mountain biking. His trail design company, ‘World Trail’ has over 60 employees and has built and developed some of the best bike destinations in the world, including Blue Derby amongst countless others. All three of us were equipped with pedal assist eBikes, not so much because we are lazy or old, but because of the fun factor, because of the different ways of riding and experiencing adventure, and new possibilities like riding longer, further, steeper terrain that’s hard to do or simply impossible on pedal bikes.

So why using a helicopter, you may ask? Well, because we had the opportunity and invitation, and to explore the remote backcountry that would be hard to access on regular bikes or eBikes unless dropped off. Outings like this, would normally require multi-days, which would mean we had to bring tents, sleeping bags, food, etc. We have all done traditional multi-day adventures before and they are always lots of fun, but the helicopter allowed us to be dropped off at pretty much any point and then pedal back home, especially in the alpine environment with overgrown and rocky terrain. The harsh alpine grass, rock fields and snow field would hardly be ridable or fun on a regular bike, but on an eBike it is possible to keep momentum in the rough terrain.

A workout was guaranteed, despite the category 1 electric pedal assist bikes; one was wise to conserve battery power along the way, especially when riding a route that hasn’t been ridden before or with the danger of getting lost and having to backtrack which could deplete valuable power from the battery and could leave you in a sticky situation if your battery runs out before the trail does. Full suspension bikes are a must in such technical terrain and the big tyres allow for better traction, not only because they have a bigger footprint/contact area on the ground, but also because they can be run with lower air pressure. One of the most underrated facts about eBike set up is the perfect tyre pressure, which depends on many factors, 1 or 2 psi can make all the difference. I can only encourage riders to experiment with their tyre pressures to find their own sweet spot, which will vary from terrain to terrain and riding style. Highspeed bike park berms and jumps require more pressure than slow and bumpy back country outings.

Queenstown is the adventure sports capital of New Zealand. The town, with its population of 42,000, sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu. Set amongst the dramatic Southern Alps, it’s surrounded by pure nature and wild mountains. Many tourists come here every year, to enjoy the thrills of extreme and adventure activities. They also have a renowned bike park and nearby mountain resorts with world class bike trails. We went on three different outings with the helicopter while we were there. One can preview the route and pick lines as we fly over it. We would scout the terrain from the air, to find the best trails or valley’s that wouldn’t lead to a dead end or unpassable river. I have to say sometimes it’s nice to have ‘friends with benefits, and it felt pretty amazing to have a helicopter at your private service without time restrains - “can we first fly over there and look at the other options” or “can you pick us up half way down the ridge and meet us with lunch” or “how about a quick detour to fly over the famous Milford Sound Fiord”. Trust me these are not regular occurrences or options on any of my normal trips or rides. Travelling this way opened the doors for possibilities that I had not experienced before. My favourite day was when we were accompanied by Henry’s dog, Alfi, who joined us and loved running alongside us, always minding and respecting the bikes. He was a very tired dog at the end of that day.

Riding along endless ridges with breathtaking views with hardly any signs of civilization in sight. We came across some old mining sites and ghost towns, from the days of the gold and copper rush. Some of the old mining trails make great biking trails some 140 years later. On another day we were dropped off on top of an alpine mountain with no trails in sight, we had to navigate and pick our lines through rough rock sections and spree fields, patches of snow and endless ridges that would eventually join some old dirt roads or trails.

On day 3 Henry called the operators at Coronet Ski Resorts, since the bike park and gondola hadn’t opened for the summer season yet, we got permission to fly to the top and put first tracks on the freshly groomed flow trails. These trails are eye-candy and snake down the mountain side with one roller, jump or berm after the other.

Definitely an extravagant experience to get to participate in such a special trip and a great way to catch up with some good old mates.

Words: Hans Rey

Images: Carmen Rey

Arrival: 100% Altec Helmet and Sling Gloves

I won't lie, I'm a sucker for anything 100%, and so I was stoked to have their Altec Trail helmet and Sling gloves show up in the post.

The Altec features 100%'s Smartshock System, which is essentially their take on MIPS. The helmet feels lightweight when it's one, and fits nicely too. From looks alone, I'd say it's fairly safe to assume the helmet will vent well, but I haven't put in a big enough ride with it yet to confirm. Stay tuned for a review...


The Sling gloves are a minimal glove, featuring a perforated top and palm, with mesh finger gussets for maximum airflow. Whilst they don't offer any padding, they'll keep your hands from getting cut up if you crash and I'd say with the amount of vents they'd be perfect for summer if you're hunting for a little extra grip. Will also have a review on these coming soon.


Locking Down Pt. 2 | YUM Granola

The people behind YUM Granola are as good as any, and they're a business I'm stoked we're friendly with not only because they make delicious granola and mountain bike, but because Sarah, Mike and their team do so much to give back, whether that be by operating a certified Climate-Positive business or by donating granola to local food banks. We caught up with Sarah to get an insight into YUM, and to find out how Covid-19 has affected them.


Tell us a little bit about YUM Granola, what you do and your ties to mountain biking.

We make YUM Granola here in Nelson, which includes everything from creating our own recipes, sourcing the ingredients, baking the product, photos, website and online content creation, packaging design, and distribution across the country. Mike and I started YUM down in Wanaka about 5 years ago when we were living there, and it really took off at the local market. Watching it grow on its own at the beginning was quite impressive. I've always believed when you do something you love and that fires you up, the finished product is noticeably different, and that’s one of the main reasons I believe YUM tastes as good as it does. We take it one step further and are conscious on every level of how what we do is affecting our footprint and how we can make it better.


While we are a small company, we punch above our weight on so many fronts - sustainability, contributions/donations, minimising packaging waste, paying living wage, eliminating the use of plastics. For us, it is the right way to do business and the only way to do business. We see other companies receiving awards for just being in business and it's always a bit disappointing because it would be nice to see how (or if) they are giving back to their community and the planet, not just looking after their own image and bottom line. So, we focus on what we do best and stick to our values, which is thoughtful to the whole process and keeps us tracking in a (somewhat) straight line.


YUM and mountain biking go hand and hand for us! We both are addicted to riding in our own ways. YUM was created initially to fuel our own adventures. Then, more and more people wanted it and we wanted to share its goodness. Funnily enough, the first delivery of YUM was on my Yeti SB95 from Lake Hawea to Wanaka. We are lucky in that YUM provides us a lifestyle now where we ride pretty consistently. We moved to Nelson a few years ago because of the riding. We knew the move would be good for YUM too but at the end of the day it is the getting out on the trails that brings balance (and breathing) to our lives. We've also just been able to ride together again. I had forgotten how much fun Mike is to ride with, so we have been getting out weekly again which feels like a treat. There have been times when YUM needs every minute of our waking days, and in the beginning there were no free weekends and little free time, but we now work pretty normal hours with the ability to go ride Nelson's amazing trails when the sun is out. YUM HQ is right in downtown Nelson, so just a few minutes ride to all the trails which we are stoked on.


What challenges have you faced over the past couple of months? From our entry into level four, to our move to level three and where we sit now, in level 2.

The night before lockdown I had a huge meltdown! It wasn't about the unknown of what was going to happen, it was more the fact we felt spread thin already and I couldn't imagine that on top of having Rai home from kindy all day every day. I knew it would be bonus quality time to be with her but having less time to drive YUM scared me to be honest. The irony was that Mike seemed happier and more relaxed than ever! This is why we are a good team😊 I asked him why and he said that he is always stressed about YUM and now it felt a little better because everyone was in it together. I guess for me, I feel that if you’ve started your own company , you find yourself in the red sometimes, but if you do it right, you learn how to be lean, agile, and smart. We know other companies who work with a lot of capital and because of that they just throw ideas and money in the air to see what will stick. We've never been able to afford to have that mentality and because of that I believe we have good general resilience.


We were super grateful to be an essential supplier to supermarkets and to be able to continue producing YUM through the entire lockdown. I remember the first day going to work in Level 4, riding my bike to YUM downtown and it was eerie. It felt like every person and every business had vanished in a way, virtually overnight. There was no one on the streets and it really left me feeling sad for all the people who had lost their jobs and the business owners that didn't know how or if their businesses were going to be able to continue. After a couple weeks at Level 4 while our supermarket sales had dropped a bit, our online sales were through the roof. We were essentially doing more production with half the staff in a fraction the time. I had to reprioritize and condense my role down to what was essential and only do a couple hours of work a day while Rai was sleeping. Mike was wrapping his days up by mid-afternoon, to come home and relieve me a bit with Rai. The irony was that because we weren't allowed to ride our mountain bikes during lockdown here in Nelson, we were forced to relax and breathe in different ways, and it felt pretty good to not feel guilty about not getting out. We just changed gears and did more hikes with Rai and found other ways to get out into the bush.


At Level 2, I came back to work at YUM HQ along with Rachel who helps us with all our store support. It felt really good to have the team back under one roof! Rai was probably equally happy to be back in kindy playing with other little people again.


Has/how has COVID-19 affected your plans for the year?

It's really interesting because just this week I went back to our Strategy Plan that we were working off pre-Covid. It was only a couple months ago and I have little memory of it. The world is a different place now, with shopping habits changing overnight as well. I am hopeful that some of the good habits we had over lockdown will continue. We've always commuted to and from work on our bikes and the amount of smelly cars on the road again are kind of a bummer. We've been asking ourselves what worked for us over lockdown and then taking that forward into planning for the rest of the year.


Tell us about how you’ve been supporting food banks around the country over the past few months

I remember getting to YUM the first day Level 4 was being discussed on the radio and Mike said, "I've worked the numbers and I think we can donate 1 x 400g retail bag for every 1kg purchased on our website". "What… Really?!" Our margins are already really slim compared to our competitors because of the organic ingredients we use, so I was pretty shocked at this coming from the guy who is pretty stressed on a daily basis around YUM's finances. He went on to explain that a lot of people were going to be out of jobs and not be able to afford the basics and it would be good for us to think of those people and help them. We had no idea how our business turnover would be through lockdown, but we knew this would help us maintain our focus and feel good about being able to continue baking YUM. So, that day we launched YUM's Breaky Drive and now we’ve donated over 500 bags to local and national food banks which is over 4,000 YUM servings to keep people going, and still growing. It has been pretty awesome to see how well received it has been from people and it makes us even more proud of YUM.


A lot of businesses, including us, have been able to put energy into projects that had been sitting on the backburner before Covid hit. Have you been working on anything over the lock down period, or has it been business as usual?

There was a lot of business as usual but one of the other silver linings to lockdown was that my creativity really kicked into gear and I came up with a couple new YUM recipes, as well as finishing a couple more. So, those are now new products in the queue for moving ahead which is pretty exciting in our world. We still get very excited for new YUM products as they are our own unique creations. Over lockdown we finished our audit with EKOS and received our certification for being Carbon Zero + Climate Positive, which really feels great as we don't know of anyone else in our category that has a similar commitment to sustainability. It also offsets our carbon by 120% with regenerative native plantings in Takaka, just over the hill from us.


Finally, what’s in store for YUM over the rest of 2020?

So much goodness! We have just started working with a group on the North Island who are going to help us grow YUM into more supermarkets which will grow our market share. This combined with our plan to switch over our entire retail line of YUM into home compostable packaging will mean that the more market share we have, the more packaging waste we will be eliminating, which is something we feel pretty strong about. We have switched all our 1kg bags already to home compostable packaging, but it is a large project for the retail line. We have wanted to do it for some time, but it was cost prohibitive. However, now it is looking more like a reality. We are going to roll our newest flavour, The Mighty Fig, out into retail packages as well as it really took off with our trial of it in 1kg bags. One of the recipes I came up with over the lockdown, will come out in the next couple weeks on our website and it is unlike anything out there as it will be from 100% NZ grown ingredients. It was a bit of a scavenger hunt to see what NZ grows and how we could create a granola with it. In a way the rest of the year will be continuing to get YUM out into the world while ensuring we are leaving the best footprint as its legacy.


Words: Cam Baker & Sarah Hedger

Images: Sarah Hedger & Mike Cowlin