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Product Reviews

Cycling gear reviewed and test by Norco John Henry

Norco John Henry Ambassador Martin Newman Reviews the Norco Optic C9.2

I have to say I'm not much of a pedaller, so when I secured an entry into the 2017 BC Bike Race I began to worry. Seven days of 50km a day is a lot in anyone's book so I immediately began thinking about the bike that I would need and what I wanted from it. My daily driver is a Norco Range, which would be awesome for the downhills, but less efficient than I wanted for everything else. I wanted something that would be as light, as possible, super efficient to pedal, yet still, retain some playfulness for the descents where I'd get my enjoyment.

It didn't take long to realize that the Optic C9.2 was the bike I was looking for. I'd never ridden a 29er before but wagon wheels seemed like the way to go for such a long distance event. The carbon (main) frame would help keep the weight down, along with a really great spec of Shimano XT drive and brakes, Fox Suspension, Reverb Seatpost, and RaceFace rims, bar, and stem and cranks all making for a race ready machine. To hedge my bet, I changed the gearing to give myself an "emergency gear" but I don't think I'd need it for everyday riding.

So how did it ride? Well, I have to say I was really impressed. I expected the bike to climb well on open climbs, fire roads etc which it did without hesitation; being light and with 2.25 tires that wasn't surprising. But, it was also an amazing technical climber; many times during the race I'd be feeling tired and trying to push through to finish the stage only to be faced with a steep technical climb. I'd assume I'd soon be off and walking the bike as I didn't have the energy to ride it properly, but time and again the Optic dragged my lazy butt up over the top. It was great. I found it best to set the rear shock to the middle (trail?) setting on technical climbs as this allowed the suspension to work more in my favor when I didn't have the energy myself, and I used the slowest (climb?) setting for fire roads and the like. Perfect!

But how did it descend? Well, that's the big revelation for me. I'd always assumed 29ers to be slow to turn, long and ungainly to ride, and I'd constantly graze my backside on that huge tire, but, I was totally wrong! The Optic is fun, nimble, and every bit as playful as my Range. So much so that the day after BC Bike Race was finished, I took the Optic for a few laps in the Whistler Bike Park! It's no squishy downhill bike, but it was great fun and it loves to get airborne!

If you're looking for a bike that's a true all-rounder to do some serious KMs on, look no further then the Optic. It will surprise you.

Norco John Henry Ambassador Martin Newman Reviews the Norco Optic C9.2

Review of EVOC '18 Hip Pack Race

The EVOC HIP PACK RACE shows some of the company’s distinctive trademark design features that we’re familiar with from their popular backpacks. Taking cues from the CONTACT FLOW SYSTEM found in the STAGE range of backpacks, the contact points are designed to guarantee ventilation with a robust mesh covering the air channels. Other familiar sights are the closable compartment for tools and the 3 litre drinking bladder, which comes as part of the standard delivery. The drinking hose can run along the waistbelt with magnets to secure it or clipped higher up on your jacket or jersey.

The contact points use the ventilation design as found in the STAGE range of backpacks. There’s easy access to the most important tools thanks to the full opening of this compartment. The magnetic clip for the hose can also be fixed onto your jacket.

The hip pack features one entirely new feature that EVOC have dubbed the VENTI FLAP, and it pretty much does exactly what the name suggests: on climbs or more leisurely rides when you don’t want to work up a sweat, you can ‘flap’ the waistbelt away from your body to get more airflow on your back. Once the trail goes downhill again, just give the straps a little tug and it’ll return to fit snugly against your lower back.

Give the two straps a little tug and the HIP PACK RACE will sit tighter to your back once more.
Weighing in at 375 g, the HIP PACK RACE has a 3 litre volume in the main compartment, but once you’ve filled the bladder you’ll realize that space is limited. There’s an interior pocket too, as well as the tool compartment and side pockets, so tools, energy bars, phone and a spare tube can be fitted in alongside your fluid. Super handy, the HIP PACK RACE gives you virtually immediate access to the most important mid-ride essentials, allowing you to leave the backpack at home. Coming in two colours and retailing at $129.99, the HIP PACK RACE is available in Norco John Henry Now!

EVOC '18 Hip Pack Race

Review of Osprey Zealot Pack

I’ve owned a lot of packs over the years and the Zealot ticks all the boxes that I find important. It is very comfortable to wear and fits a ton of stuff.

Here are some of the features where I found this pack excel:

  • Comfort while loaded – weight is well distributed and the pack doesn’t shift around while loaded up and on the trail.
  • Water bladder stays put – due to a single hard plastic side on the water bladder the pack sits flat on your back. This is a great feature as I’ve had other packs that roll from side to side when the bladder was full.
  • Adjustable carrying capacity - I’ve had the pack loaded up with 3L of water, knee pads, large first aid kit, rain jacket, random energy bars, sandwich, flask (with water of course) and all the required tools and spare parts to deal with most emergency repairs needed. Lots of adjustment straps (chest, waist and 3 sets for cinching down) to keep the pack tight when needed and allows it to grow in size when excessive carrying capacity is required for that epic day.
  • Slick tool pouch - open the lower zipper on the pack, release the clip and roll out the pouch. Super handy for quick access when needed, and everything is tucked away nicely in zippered pockets so it doesn’t fall out when opened up.

Overall the pack is very well thought out and is the most comfortable and versatile pack I have owned.

This pack and many other great Osprey biking backpacks are available now at Norco John Henry Bikes.

Osprey Zealot at John Henry

Review of Endura MT-500 Jacket

When the weather gets tough, Endura get going. The MT500 is a jacket for the worst conditions when it could be argued that you should really be sat at home with a nice cup of tea.
The hard single shell Cordura Nylon construction is very waterproof and adequately breathable and uses a PTFE coating that can be reactivated with an iron after washing.

Inside, the lining is comfy against the skin and stretchy cuffs hug your wrists to stop wind howling into the jacket. Waterproof zips, taped seams throughout, hook-and-loop cuffs and a lengthy drop tail complete the wet weather defence. There’s a 3point adjustable helmet hood; huge underarm vents; chest and side pockets and enough reflective detailing to make sure you’re seen a mile off. The cut is roomy to allow for layers but has drawcords in the right places to stop it flapping around.

Offering a huge 18,000m waterproof rating and an enormous 64,000mm breathable rating, it’s the nearest to expensive Gore-Tex that you can get in terms of fabric performance. This fully seam sealed jacket from Endura is one of the best MTB Waterproof Jackets available. With an exceptionally breathable and waterproof fabric, the MT500 MK2 really is an excellent jacket. It’s robust enough for constant use, light enough for faster rides and very waterproof. This is the most breathable of the MTB Waterproof Jackets we’ve used that isn’t Gore-Tex – the ExoShell 60 fabric really is excellent. It’s nice to see that Endura has used a fully helmet compatible hood too – for those trailside stops when it’s thumping it down you can keep heat in, and the elements out.

A truly excellent bit of kit, and worth every penny.

Endura Jacket at John Henry

Review of Endura MT-500 Short

Endura’s MT500 Spray Baggy Short has been around for a while and features a more conventional front, combined with a waterproof rear – to keep your backside dry out on the trails.

Even if the sun is shining whilst you read this, conditions always change –  especially here in the BC. For out and out foul weather, you can’t beat waterproof shorts for extended hammer time out in the slop – but they can feel like wearing a carrier bag at times, especially as the seasons change and it’s getting warmer.

The MT500 Spray Baggy Short has a lightweight 4-way stretch material on the front, and a fully waterproof and seam sealed rear – pretty much an all-year combination for the Scottish conditions that Endura are local to, and equally useful for most BC riders during Winter, Fall and Spring.

The waistband is a stretchy material, and features a built-in webbing belt with adjustable buckle – this combines well with a button closure and zippered fly. There are also additional belt loops should you need them and a stretch panel on the rear for comfort whilst pedaling. Zippered hand pockets are covered with a flap to keep the elements out – they open to the front which means when riding they tend to flap open, though they do a great job of keeping spray from the rear wheel away from the pockets. Detailing is nice – the MT500 uses a grippy rubber toggle for easy use without removing gloves.

There are also twin zippered thigh vents, with a fly mesh to keep debris out, and the bottom of the shorts feature a hook and loop adjustment so you can keep them close to your knees. The cut is fairly loose, and the short is longer at the front of the knee for good coverage in the saddle – I found the shorts sat right on my knee, which I like. If you prefer a longer short, Endura also makes the MT500 Spray Baggy in a 3/4 cut.

Unlike waterproof shorts that have that distinct functional feel to them, the MT500 Spray Baggy Short feels like a normal short. The stretchy Cordura material on the front of the short feels really lightweight, and actually does a pretty good job of keeping rain and spray off – but it’s the waterproof back that sets the short apart from all the rest. They work brilliantly, and the tough waterproof material withstands constant grinding in the saddle. I’ve worn our sample pair on most rides recently, and they’re not showing signs of abrasion yet.

In the middle of winter I love getting out there in the mud and have no issues getting filthy, but for some reason when the trails are drying out the slightest sign of a sloppy patch normally means evasive action! Normally some kind of wild line through all sorts of thorny shrubbery, just to avoid getting a wet arse – but with the MT500’s I just keep on chugging. Gotta love that!

A simple idea really well executed by the Scottish clothing specialists. The MT500 Spray Baggy Short is well made from high-quality fabrics and is an essential addition to any mountain biker’s wardrobe.

Highly recommended.

Endura shorts at John Henry