Sunday, September 19, 2010

Men on a Mission and other things of national importance.

Guitar Ted is on the right, me on the left.  Pretty sure.
Well pretty soon here Guitar Ted and I will descend on LV-town like two men on a mission, not like a mission from God, but a mission to seek out the goodness of what is new in 29er stuff on display at Interbike.

I doubt we will look as cool as the two righteous dudes in the pic and my Suburban is certainly not the chariot that theirs is.  Regardless of all that, we will do our best to suffer through the few days of bike riding and walking the show, taking pics, talking bike stuff, arranging tests or product, etc.

It is fun and I would not miss it for all the tea in China (which, I take it, is quite a lot...I dunno).  But it is a lot of work.  Relaxing it ain't and it is just part of the job of keeping your finger on the pulse of the 29er world.

This season will see huge interest in Europe for big wheels.  The coverage by c_g on was pretty deluxe and the difference between last year over the pond and this year is stunning.  It seems to be mostly hardtails, as everyone tests the waters with biggy toes dipped in 29" deep pools of water. There is a lot of carbon right off the bat, something that took a while here in North America.  The Euro market seems very, very performance focused, like everything has to be weighed and engineered within a fraction of a nano-gram or it is verboten.  Interesting.  Is everyone over there a hardened (or wanna be hardened) racer?  Maybe.  Don't they just ride for fun?

I wonder if, in order to get around the lingering impressions that 29ers are slow and heavy, that they are overcompensating with euber-stiff and light bikes to get folks looking and riding?  I mean, where are the EU versions of a Vassago Jabberwocky?  I imagine they are there, somewhere, but maybe not getting the press right now.

The boon to 29er riders will be huge from this.  Already there are getting to be a lot of tires that I have only seen at EU-Bike.  Some of them will stay over there, but not all.  More bikes to put parts on means more reasons to invest in new parts and products, things that we will get to buy as well, perhaps even resulting in falling prices, but I would not hold my breath for that.

I am going to I-Bike in waaaay less than prime shape.  My fitness is OK, but my mobility and strength is nowhere near Bootleg Canyon ready.  Shame, that, but it is what it is.  I will do what I can do.  Maybe I will need to be a bit more selective in my riding or take more pics/vid than ride bikes. 

The Rockhopper SL 2011 SS frameset is going back to the mother ship as testing is wrapped up on it.  Even though I had limited time on it, Ed the Tall came in and pinch hit for me, logging multiple hours of trail time.  He had some kind words for this budget frame as he compared it to his much beloved Selma SS.  No, he is not stepping off his Selma for the Rocky, but it was not a huge loss for the $440.00 frame from Specialized.  I wanted to see if I could solve the twisty steering issues the 2010 complete bike had, and I did.  the Recon fork and my own decent quality wheelset made a huge difference in ride performance as far as coloring between the lines with confidence.  I was actually considering making this my primary SS ride to replace the Jabber, but I just have not been able to feel the love from either of the alu SS frames I have spent time on.  There are good things about them, but I just cannot get past the ride and nearly intangible quality of steel over alu.  I guess I am set in my ways.  Until Ti romances me or I give in to carbon, I doubt an alu hardtail is ever going to be my dance partner.

This showed up on the doorstep the other day.  A 140mm Reba RLT Ti 29er fork with 20mm Maxle Light.  Wow.  Surprise, surprise, surprise.  Now I am working on obtaining suitable test platforms.  A Lenz Moth is in the works, but that will take a while.  Not sure what will be up first, but I sure would not mind building up a Speshy FSR frame.

I kinda consider the 140mm Reba a long travel XC/AM fork rather than a real heavy Freeride fork.  Lots of room for forks like this Reba.  I can totally see having a bike like this in the quiver; something at 30 lbs with long legs and the hope of riding to the top of a hill.  Moab, baby.  It would be a killer bike for Burro Down. 

What is interesting to me is the continued interest in bigger duty 29ers.  MC's thoughts on the MTX-33 rim and bikes like the Lenz Lunchbox and especially the PBJ are pushing the limits of 29ers as DH bikes.  If there is a rim now, and perhaps even a tire like the WTB Dissent that will survive, the Manitou Dorado fork converted and the White Bros 150mm are pretty much the only game in town.  I am not sure if that will change at I-Bike.  I bet we will see a longer travel fork from Manitou in some way or another to compete with the Reba 140mm, but anything bigger?  Not sure.  Where is Marzocchi?  They are the AM/Freeride guys, aren't they?  We shall see, now that White Bros is re-doing their forks for 2011.  Maybe there is a surprise there.  I bet this will not hit harder till 2012, but I could be wrong.  I have been a skeptic regarding 29ers and 7+ inches of travel as a good idea.  It looks like I will be eating crow.

Speaking of skeptics, the belt drive is once again seeing improvements and refinements from Gates.  I hope this gets sorted out, even though I take issues with many of the talking points that the belt drive proponents spout, I would like to see it actually work for the masses, should they choose to use it.  Hopefully I can swing a leg over one at Demo Days.  I am not sure that this channeled belt and cog is that much of a change as there still are the issues of tension, racheting, cost, 'cog' selection and sizing, and getting a frame built around the girder like chainstay specs that Gates calls for.  I dunno.  It still sounds like a lot of trouble to just NOT have a chain.

Well, more later from the quest for knowledge, knobbies, and schwag at I-Bike.

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