It's not often a bike arrrives, gets test-ridden a couple of times then gets smashed head first into one of the hardest races on the planet, having to carry my sizeable bulk over 890km in 7 days, but this is exactly what happened to my Velocite Flux 29er.
I'm going to have to state my usual disclaimer here which is that Velocite sponsor me with bikes, both road and MTB. Having said that, if the bikes were pants I wouldn't be riding them in the first place, and I've been in this game long enough to now how dull and annoying sycophantic 'pre-paid' reviews can be - so you won't get one here.
To get used to the bike and its geometry, I took it out on the local roads (almost zero trails here) and went for a bash up some favorite hills, very steep and slippery in places. On one I smashed my PB by 30 seconds. Rather shocked, I went out again next day and managed to get just 5 seconds off another hard hill that was not quite as steep. Considering my best times had been set on my road bike I was a bit surprised.
However I do think that the riding position on a 29er, in the hills, is closer to optimal compared to a road bike. It just feels, to me, way more natural and like I am getting more power from my body as a result of being able to make better use of my core, back and abductor muscles. Anyway, the proof is in the pudding as they say, and I was fast on my Flux, so things augured well.
So, on to Mongolia and the Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge and to some real trail riding.
"That is one solid looking bike!" said one of the other competitors as we were building up out steeds in the car park of the race hotel.
"Yup," I replied. "Last year my carbon bike broke, pretty sure this one isn't going to do that!"
Made from two-pass welded, triple butted, cold worked 7005-T6 alloy, the Flux 29er is just about unbreakable. I whacked hidden rocks with the chainstays, slammed into ditches with the BB area taking the brunt of the force, and went careening off-track so many times I was pretty sure I was going to break, never mind the bike. But she held firm, as did I. At 1500g for the frame it isn't the lightest around, but when you consider durability, stiffness and if you're not doing ridiculous technical riding, the Flux 29er more than faces up to the task to deliver you to the other side fast and in one piece.
Where the bike suprised me most was in terms of handling. Whilst cruising over the flat sections of the Mongolian steppe, of which there was a lot, I could roll along at close to 30km/hr with a very loose grip and trust the bike to almost pick its own line over the small embedded rocks that littered the trail, leaving me to focus on pedaling. The handling is lively but not at all skittish, something I noticed was a problem for my fellow participants.
The Magura TS8 forks and the hard-tail offered a very smooth ride, one that was manageable even over the difficult to deal with corrugated sand that is a feature of some areas of the MBC route.
On the descents though the bike really showed its true colors. On just about every descent of any decent length, I was putting up to 20 seconds into the other riders. Part of this was due to my weight (84kg) but the real force behind it was the pitch-perfect front end geometry, allowing me to ride the bumpy downhills with a flow that I've only ever felt on very good dual suspension bikes. Hitting over 65km/hr on curving downhills was a great feeling, thiough on more than a couple of occasions my lack of MTB skills saw me miss a corner by miles, flying through yak herds and sending grazing horses scattering.
On the uphills the bike was nimble, making up for its weight by the high degree of power it returned with each pedal stroke, thanks to the high torsional stiffness of the frame itself. Velocite put this down to a 1.5" tapered head tube, "the most over-engineered chainstays and bottom bracket area of any cross country mountain bike, carbon or alloy", and chainstays that are 40mm tall and composed of a single cold worked tube. Whatever the facts, it is stiff. You get back what you put in for sure.
Finally, a word on the wheels. I was riding the Velocite Venn REV 35 TCD tubeless clincher carbon filament wound wheels.
These are ROAD wheels, that come with Velocite's uber-nice Syn aero road bike.
Road wheels! Surviving Mongolia!
Again, I am not a techie by any stretch of the imagination but that is pretty cool. The wheels are called 'revolutionary' by Velocite because of the unique manufacturing process involved, utilising a computer controlled filament winding process, not a traditional manual layup for the contrsuction of the main rim body. The result, they say, is "more uniform performance and reduced cost whilst delivering superb performance.
How did they feel? LIke any great wheelset, I totally forgot about them. In this sense, they were perfect. No dings, no cracks, no loose spokes, no hub trouble, they did exactly what they were supposed to do. I'd really need to ride more MTB wheels to be able to comment more knowledgeably, so am hoping to try their road version soon.
Exciting stuff though from Velocite. Not all great bikes and wheels come from the big companies. It is difficult to know what is what and what is quality from the smaller producers, but I can vouch for Velocite. Every bike of theirs I've ridden so far has been excellent.
Downsides? Bit too heavy for truly nimble riding over tree roots up 15% inclines, though a single chainring, lighter gruppo and components than I had would help shave weight considerably. Also, the Sram rear mech, I just don't like it, to jumpy for my liking.
Other than that, killer bike!
Head to the Velocite website here or contact me for pricing.