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Interbike Confidential 2005

The overwhelming feeling after Interbike 2005 was the fact that there were no big surprises. It seems that the industry’s biggest advances and most exciting changes were all well-marketed in advance of the show. That is by no means to say that there weren’t any great products — on the contrary, there were plenty. It’s just the fact that we already knew what to anticipate.

Much of the Interbike buzz surrounded the release of the 6 Point 6 by Intense, a 6.75′ travel all-mountain VPP beast. Intense has been refining the concept for three years in R & D, and by all accounts, the result is incredible. It features an ultra-stiff hydroformed aluminum toptube and 1.5′ steerer — the frame is as sexy as it is strong. With its release, Intense introduces three new colors ($100 upcharge) to its entire line: Java, an appropriately named, rich, creamy coffee color; British Racing Green, a personal favorite (I’ve always had a thing for green bikes!); and Ti Gold, a subtle yet powerful color sure to bowl you over in person. Subsequently, this marks the end (with the exception of remaining stock) of Old School Yellow, and the beautiful, but difficult to explain, Black Bronze.

The Intense M3 will have a new shock upgrade option for the model year — the Manitou Revox ISX featuring a titanium coil — it barely tips the scales over a pound (462 grams). The upgrade will run $450, almost a dollar for each gram saved over a standard coil DHX 5.0. The Revox ISX employs Manitou’s well documented Intrinsic Damping System and offers high & low speed compression control, a No Tools Volume Control, Preload, Rebound and Intrinsic Platform Pressure control.

Manitou also applied the Intrinsic damping to a new long travel fork family by the name of Travis. The single crown Travis will be a big hit, as it is lightweight at 6.5 pounds, offered in 180 or 203mm travel versions, and rides oh-so-sweet. The Intrinsic damping lacks the platform feel of the SPV, yet shares the plush feel once the valve had opened.

For the first time we also saw the new XC specialist, Manitou R7 Platinum, in person. The neon green (actually Merida green) fork weighs in at a paltry 2.9 pounds for the 80mm version (with the ‘Clickit’ remote lockout) and is sure to turn some heads — imagine pairing this with the 2005 gold anodized Turner Nitrous — not very pretty, but you’d probably be moving fast enough that nobody would notice.

Speaking of the uber-lightweight Nitrous XC race rig, there are a host of new tire options which fit the build — the first of which is ridden regularly by the man who single-handedly made the Nitrous the most sought after XC bike on the planet. Maxxis introduced the Maxx Lite 310 to the world in the months just prior to the show. At an incredible 310 grams, Maxxis claims the 26 x 1.95 Maxx Lite 310 is “the lightest 26” knobby in the world.” By examining the tread it is evident that it is designed for race use only as it will wear quickly and is best used on hard, dry surfaces. Maxxis expects to release the CrossMark tire in December – the model, which has been designed and tested by World Champion, Cristophe Sauser, has a fitting center tread pattern of Swiss flag knobbies. Because of the signature center ridge, we expect this tire to fly on the hardpack, but an aggressive side knobby design tells us we won’t sacrifice any cornering as a trade-off.

Vredestein also enters the US MTB tire market with a couple of fast-rolling designs: the Killer Bee, a super-fast, low profile, non-quite semi-slick tire which is also available in a Super Lite version (26 x 2.0 only); and, the Tiger Claw, featuring a slightly more pronounced knob, though still not aggressive, is designed for the wet & sloppy conditions.

Shortly before Interbike, Turner Suspension Bicycles announced that they would depart from the Horst-link suspension they’ve employed in favor of TNT (Torque Neutralizing Technology.) While the announcement came as a surprise and seemed somewhat abrupt to most, Dave Turner had clearly been working on this design for some time as he fielded a fleet of better than 50 TNT engineered demo bikes at Interbike’s Dirt Demo. The overwhelming feeling at the demo was that the ride of the new TNT Turners were neither better nor worse than their predecessors — This is great news as we felt that Turner was one of the best riding bikes on the market to begin with, and it frees our good friend, Dave, from the license fees he’d been paying up to now to both Specialized and Ellsworth.

For those of you who want a Horst-style Turner, we’ve got plenty in stock, as does Turner, and with rare exception we should be shipping these consistently through the end of the year. For those of you after the TNT Turners, we won’t see those until after the first of the year, with the exception of the TNT engineered Turner Nitrous demo fleet headed our way. Yes, Competitive Cyclist will be the only place you can demo a Nitrous — and we’ll even ship it to your door!

Dave told us that he has another surprise up his sleeve for the spring, but wouldn’t elaborate …. We did find out that it is likely that each model will be available in two stock colors for 2006, and, of course, Turner will continue to offer the five custom colors for the $150 upcharge.

Fox Racing Shox has been shipping 2006 product for months now, but they recently unveiled a few new forks and shocks sure to make a splash. Growing the ever popular 36 fork family, Fox released a 36 Van. The ’36′ demonstrates membership to Fox’s exclusive 36mm stanchion club, and the ‘Van’ refers to the Fox Vanilla coil housed within. If you’re trying to build a sub-32 pound beast, don’t write the Fox 36 Van off just yet, the super plush 160mm fork with a position sensitive damper weighs in at just 5.5 pounds. Thus far, this certainly has been the choice with those purchasing the Intense 6 Point 6. The 36 Van’s sister fork, the 36 TALAS, merges the Fox TALAS technology with the 36 platform providing three travel settings at 100mm, 130mm and 160mm.

Those of you that prefer a simpler cockpit, or just don’t like to fool with a lockout lever, will be pleased to know that Fox has perfected a new technology they’ve deemed Trailtune. In a nutshell, Fox took their Terralogic system found in the F100 X and F80 X forks and gave it a bit more low speed compression, making Trailtune forks a perfect fit for most trail bikes — thus far, there are two Trailtuned forks: the Float XTT and the TALAS XTT. The Trailtune fork family and every disc specific Fox fork received one excellent modification this year — a disc brake cable guide located on the front of the arch — a small detail, but a great one!

In the rear, Fox has introduced a new air version of their wildly successful DHX 5.0 with the DHX Air, featured as the stock shock on both the Intense 6 Point 6 and 2006 Turner 5 Spot frames. The DHX Air saves roughly a pound on the coil version and rides great, kitted out with the same 15 click pro pedal system.

Ventana showcased two new 29er frames — El Commandante, a single speed, and El Padrino, a hardtail. The introduction of these two frames is evident of the success and superb ride quality of the 4′ travel 29er, El Capitan, which Ventana introduced in mid-2005. If you’ve been debating the benefits of a 29er, take this as a testimonial — Sherwood Gibson, Ventana’s mastermind, has converted his entire personal stable of bikes to 29er’s after falling in love with his El Capitan. Ventana has also recently released a 5′ rocker for the El Capitan. Further, the entire Ventana line receives, in our opinion, a perfect finishing touch for their frames — a handcrafted, stainless steel headbadge. The retrofittable headbadge ($30) displays the Ventana ‘V’ with the year of their establishment, 1988. Ventana also announced that most models will experience a $100 decrease in price by virtue of the fact that they will be painted in two ‘stock’ colors: a high gloss black or white (I must say the white El Salt on display was stunning with the black decals.) The beautiful array of luscious Ventana powdercoats will still be offered on all the respective frames at an ‘upcharge’ of $100 — effectively the same exact price they have been for the last year.

A brand we’ve always held in high esteem, is Titus. For 2006, Titus has refined an industry classic, the Racer-X. By replacing the machined aluminum linkage and seat stays with carbon, and providing a stock Fox RP3 shock, Titus has shaved better than 1/4 pound from the 100mm travel frame, allowing it to weigh in at just 5 pounds! The aluminum Racer-X will come in two standard colors: a hard-anodized, laser etched satin black, or the traditional Titus blue. The smaller two sizes of the Racer-X, XXS and XS, will be finished with a special powder blue, with the Titus blue decals. The 5′ travel aluminum Moto-Lite was easily one of the best received bikes of the show, both in the booth and on the dirt. This will be offered in the Titus blue for 2006.

In the past, however, the bulk of our business with Titus has been done in the titanium department, namely the Racer-X and Exogrid technology, both in a standard 26′ version, and the 29′ version. With the addition of Pat Hus (formerly of American Bicycle Group, parent company of Litespeed) as CEO earlier this year, we feel they have better strengthened themselves in this department. Titus’ ability to customize their legendary frame to any rider has sold many-a-bike for us, including a custom 29′ Racer-X Titanium for a local 6’6′ giant, who openly states it’s the best ride he’s ever experienced — of course we all realize that this is the first bike that’s really and truly fit him (Thanks Chris!), and who better benefits from 29′ wheels than a rider of his size? We’ve been a dealer on a local level for some time, but the big news from Interbike is our new arrangement to be an authorized online Titus dealer. Hopefully we’ll be able to rock your world, no matter where you live, with a Titus as well!

One of our favorite stops during Interbike the last few years has overwhelmingly been the SRAM booth, and not just for the ‘Suicide’ SRAM girls that don the fire-engine red ‘page-boy’ wigs. SRAM is a company consistently pushing the bar higher and higher, and it kind up makes you wonder why Shimano has been so quiet of late — granted XTR and Saint are still top-notch groups, but how can you let someone gain on you in leaps and bounds like this — it’s like riding looking over your shoulder. Soon you’re going to hit a tree.

We’ve shipped many a bike in the last 5 weeks with at least portions of the new SRAM X.0, and it puts a smile on our service staff’s face every time (just like the SRAM girls). Unite the pinpoint shifting and adjustability of the X.0 triggers, with a set of Juicy Carbon brakes and a SRAM X.0 Rear Derailleur, and chances are you’ll have one smooth, sexy (albeit expensive) build. But that’s not news here at Interbike — we knew that already. What is news is the prototype freeride rig that SRAM has been working on — makes one realize that they are far from done after the release of the amazing X.O group. Further, it is clear that SRAM is assaulting the industry one component at a time as they currently own Rock Shox, TruVativ, and Avid and will release what is sure to be a special road gruppo in 2007.

SRAM’s Rock Shox division has expanded the World Cup fork family to include the Reba. Rock Shox will slowly release the World Cup series of 2006 ‘Shox’ over the next few months beginning with the SID next month and finishing with the Reba early next year. Both the XC staple SID (80mm) and the Reba (100mm) feature the BlackBox high modulus carbon fiber crown and Pop Loc remote, whilst despite the lack of carbon, the Boxxer tips the scales at just over 6 pounds. All three feature Rock Shox Motion Control damping.

Salsa gave two bikes a facelift: the Dos Niner and the El Santo, each of which was introduced in 2005. The Dos Niner received both structural and aesthetic modifications. To accommodate a wider range of riders by improving standover clearance, the Dos Niner’s top tube was dropped and braced at the seat tube/top tube juncture. Likewise to accommodate larger tires, the tire clearance was improved to allow for the largest 29′ tire currently on the market (2.3 WTB Exiwolf) by the creating a shock mount tab located just below the seat clamp, angling upward. This allows the arch of the seat stays to sit higher above the tire, creating the newfound clearance. The Dos Niner will again use Salsa’s proprietary Relish shock to provide the 1′ of travel that enhances its ride. Lastly, the Dos Niner is the beneficiary of the gorgeous ‘Very Verde’ finish, almost a deep (and very fitting) Jalapeno Green. We expect the first crop of 2006 Dos Niners in February — in the meantime, you’ll find our remaining few 2005 Dos Niner frames on sale at $400 off!

To complement their successful Dos Niner, Salsa announced plans to release a 29er rim, available in both disc and rim brake, and should be available sometime in the spring. We’re expecting it to run in the $55-60 price range.

The Salsa El Santo also received the same standover makeover as the Dos Niner, accommodating riders with shorter legs, solving many fit issues in the process. El Santo received possibly the most noticible change to its appearance, by virtue of the luscious Rojo-A-Gogo Red, almost a burgundy by our standards and a stark contrast to 2005′s Dynowhite! We expect to see these beauties in March.

Also, Salsa previewed a super-cool rigid steel fork, specially designed to mate with the Ala Carte (in Tang Orange of course) — no further details as of yet.

Easily one of the most exciting bikes of the show was the Ellsworth Epiphany. The revolutionary 5.25′ travel, 5.8 pound Epiphany is a trail bike with XC geometry. Engineered with all the Ellsworthian attributes you’d expect of a pedal-efficient trail bike — Horst link suspension, Instant Center Tracking, and a special ICT-tuned Fox Float R — the Epiphany will be an incredible ride. The Epiphany answers a call for a longer travel version of the Truth, Ellsworth’s wildly popular XC/endurance 4′ travel bike. The Epiphany achieves its purpose largely by using a beautifully machined magnesium rocker and US produced, proprietary drawn, internally taper butted, externally shaped tubing. You’ll be able to pre-order one soon right here at Competitive Cyclist — their newest online dealer! We’re expecting our first delivery in just a couple months.

Ellsworth’s line-up is as strong as any for 2006, with the aforementioned Truth and Epiphany, the versatile 6′ travel all-mountain, Moment, and the aggressive freeride offering, Rougue, boasting either 7 or 8′ of plush travel. ATLAS engineered frames, Distance (5′, $1195) and Chaos (7′, $1595), provide Ellsworth quality at a savings. And, a trio of hardtail frames: Enlightenment (XC), One (Single Speed), and Specialist (Urban Assault/Dirt Jumper), round things out. Needless to say, we’re extremely excited to welcome them to the Competitive Cyclist family.

Ellsworth continues to innovate, giving us a peak at a prototype Dare. Ellsworth has partnered with Hayes, the disc brake folks from Wisconsin who have a few tricks up their sleeve as well. The prototype incorporates the Hayes Gear Box into the proven design of the Dare, finished with one of Ellsworth’s snazzy new anodized finishes. Though no production is planned as of yet, it certainly reminds us that the future of downhill is that much closer.

We’ve already begun shipping our 2006 Litespeed frames, so there we’re no surprises in store for us at Interbike. However, the entire line received a new look with redesigned decals that really round the bikes out nicely. The flagship frames, Niota Ti and Sewanee, received no engineered changes, though rumours were rampant of the possibility of seeing an option for the DHX Air on the Niota Ti. This is as of yet unconfirmed, though we imagine we’ll know something soon (stay tuned!). The Tanasi also received a much needed decal overhaul, and now boasts a downtube as wide as the bottom bracket shell at the weld. Paired with its 6/4 Titanium construction, this should arguably be the stiffest race-ready hardtail on the market. The Pisgah received the most attention, both by the Litespeed engineers and those at the show. The completely re-engineered 3/2.5 titanium hardtail, Pisgah, is an incredible value for 2006 at $1,499. It now features the traditional bright brushed finish we all expect of Litespeed, disc cable routing and tabs (and cantilever bosses), making for a much smoother, durable build and look than last year.

BMC introduces its 6′ travel, EVP inspired Superstroke to the US market. Weighing in at $1,895 retail, the Superstroke impressed all who rode it. We’ll start shipping Superstrokes in January. BMC will also welcome the Fourstroke Trail, an XC inspired 5′ travel trail bike, to the market in early ’06. Though we didn’t get to see one in person, we’re certainly excited for its arrival, based on our past BMC experiences. For those of you with a Fourstroke 03, there will be a retrofittable conversion kit, when the Trail is introduced. The kit is not recommended for the Fourstroke 01 due to the additional stress on the carbon rear triangle.

With the exception of the Dirt Jumper, Drop Off and 888 models, all Marzocchi forks will sport a post disc brake mount for 2006. In doing so, Marzocchi felt they were providing a more stable braking platform. They gave their entire line a unified look, with a consistent and gorgeous Marzocchi-esque red, gloss white and satin black theme. The forks always ride great, and are easy to maintain — just keep your oil clean!

Marzocchi’s popular 66 family sees the addition of two new forks for 2006 – the 170mm 66 Light and the 150-170mm 66 SL. Despite the names that imply they are light, there are no weight specs available – to the touch, they are definitely lighter than last year we suspect largely by virtue of new Magnesium lowers and a new crown.

Easton unveiled a few new goodies worth a look. One that caught our eye was the Havoc AM wheelset – designed for the all-mountain bordering on freerider. This heavy-duty 28mm, but functionally lightweight (1875g) wheelset, features a convertible (QR or 20mm Thru), self-contained front 6-Bolt, ISO disc hub. By doing so, it gives one the ultimate freedom to swap the wheels between bikes. The Havoc line also features a new AM seatpost and two stem models (AM or DH/FR) designed to take abuse – providing yet another option to Easton’s ever-popular Vice components.

On the heels of the success of its EC90 family, Easton introduced an EC70 Zero Setback Seatpost, that is a few grams heavier and a few dollars less expensive.

The always progressive and fashionable Fi’zi:k had a few tricks up their sleeve as well. Fi’zi:k makes a powerful entry into the freeride market with the Free:k saddle, one which conjures memories of both the Uni seat from my GT Pro Performer and Star Wars Stormtroopers. Function certainly preceeds form here though, as Fi’zi:k has seemingly addressed every freeriders’ needs at once – thigh grippers, a hand-shaped nose for stunt grabs, oversized 8mm tubular cromoly rails, and a durable co-injected shell – all in a 380 gram package. New color options for the incredible Gobi were also a favorite of ours, especially the Scottish Fur. Fi’zi:k also introduced the Gobi in Meatl Blue/Dark Grey, Red/Dark Grey and Titanium/Dark Grey.