A week in Vegas is an endurance event of sorts -- ours began with pounding the desert singletrack in Bootleg Canyon and ended with all night drinking sessions. We sleepwalked through the halls of the Venetian Hotel/Casino in the wee hours of the morning, only to rejoin consciousness holding the newspaper outside the door to our room in just a pair of plaid boxer shorts. Locked out. Hmmm.
Despite the monumental excess of the Las Vegas strip, and hordes of useless products being pushed by overweight toupee wearing reps, we always have a good time. Mostly due to the many great friends we have made through the years in the cycling industry, and the few companies who truly seem to ‘get it’ by showing a true passion for the sport.
The Dirt Demo is hands down the best part of the show, but 95 degree desert heat, sometimes limited availability of bikes (at least the ones that we want to ride) and trail bottleneck from novice riders is always our foe. Many companies like Santa Cruz, Ventana and Chris King have chosen to take part only in the Dirt Demo, but not the Expo. Thus we tackled the desert with a list of companies to scope and bikes to ride -- we managed to throw a leg over each one. One of the big highlights of the demo without a doubt was Turner. We were able to ride the new dw-Link-equipped Turner Flux, Turner Spot and Turner Sultan. The new bikes hit the mark better than expected. Climbing efficiency in the saddle was superb. We hacked away at the pedals and the linkage stayed stable, but the small bump sensitivity still active to bumps when rolled over. The great handling characteristics we love about Turner were in play and more dialed than ever. Is it possible for a bike to get more efficient and a more supple suspension? Indeed this was the case, no doubt the reason why Dave chose to go with the new dw-Linkage drive design, and no doubt the reason Turner’s booth was abuzz.
Santa Cruz had a fleet of the new-for-’09 Nomads. We were immediately smitten with the green anodized finish, but the big surprise here was the snappy, responsive feel the bike gave pedaling uphill. Our Santa Cruz Nomad was set up with the RockShox Monarch 3.3 -- even out of the saddle in the medium gate setting, the bike really moved. Of course our descent was pure bliss. It’s truly amazing that we are now at the point that a 6”+ travel bike can mimic a cross country bike when it needs to.
TruVativ HammerSchmidt was all the rage around the demo, and we were fortunate enough to be invited to a test ride and product presentation offered by SRAM. Wow. The system works. You can shift whenever you want. No longer limited by the convention of a front derailleur you can shift in a complete stop, shift while applying maximum torque uphill. We were even able to shift crisply while backpedaling, although our years of conditioning made these tasks awkward. We envisioned a nun slapping our hands with a ruler everytime we attempted to shift in these odd scenarios, but the HammerSchmidt handled them quickly and precisely without feedback.
For a company never quick to join trends or premature in product release, Chris King had several new items to show. First, their Shimano-compatible BB system was on display and operable. The beautiful thing about the King bottom bracket, beside the anodized colors of course, is the easy-to-maintain grease fitting. They showed with a new tool that will allow grease to be injected directly into the bearing and push out the old grease. And, they introduced 15QR compatible hub fittings that will you allow one to adapt both their quick release and 20mm thru axle hubs to 15QR Fox Forks.
The Interbike Expo can be a blur, thousands of booths, running from meeting to meeting trying to keep an eye out for innovative new products and filtering out the many brands and products that we have already seen or have no real interest in. From all this, one marketing approach from the entire show was truly effective -- the bathrooms of the Sands Expo were stocked with toilet paper that had pictures of a tractor and odd character printed on it. It was sectioned out as a color-by-number with each space holding a number 1-5. You’ve seen these things before, below was a key with a color corresponding to each number: 1) Brown 2) Brown 3) Brown 4) Brown 5) Brown. Oh wait, now we get it! Later we saw the booth with the same character, Crumpler, with some really sharp looking messenger bags and accessories.
Formula brakes have been a staff favorite here at Competitive Cyclist. We were elated to see the launch of the new Formula R1 disc brake system. The Brake/Caliper with 160mm rotor is claimed to weigh an astonishing 270g. 50 grams lighter per wheel than the insanely light Oro Puro. Formula went to the drawing board and came up with a completely new design for the R1. A forged lever body intersects the bar and the piston is pushed directly into, this gives the brake a very stiff and solid feel, actually improved over the ORO series. The aftermarket model is shown with a Magnesium lever blade and Ano Black body although we saw some OEM versions in Chrome, Ano Red, Ano Blue and with carbon lever blades. Additionally the R1 gets a one piece forged caliper design borrowed from The One brake and larger pistons. Not only does it set a new bar in terms of weight but the stopping power will be increased as well.
Interestingly the Industry Nine booth was a little off the beaten path this year, no doubt the downplay in their presence is more due to the overwhelming demand for the product and lessening need to market. The wheels sell themselves and Industry Nine is left trying to keep their production on par with their staggering growth. Nonetheless, they had some news and updates. They have finally come up with their own stock rim that will soon be accompanying the wheel builds. A cross country rim, enduro and downhill offering will be available in both black and white. The cross country rim will weigh in a 380g which will reduce the weight of the stock wheel builds and the rims are promised to stiffer and more durable than the present stock options from DT Swiss. Additionally, they have finalized their road wheel line up and these will begin production as we speak. Again due to the overwhelming demand faced and a change in Anodizers their production timeline has lengthened to roughly 12 weeks, but we hope to see the new products in house before the first of the year.
Fox Racing Shox was showing off a limited edition World Champion editions of the 40RC2 and DHX RC4, a new proto-type shock that’s been tested by the pros all season. The limited edition 40RC2 gets firmer coils stock, a CNC crown, the internals are tuned to the same specifications that the big boys run on the World Cup circuit. Most interesting is the DHX RC4 -- this is going to be the direction for the top end coil over shocks in the future. The limited edition shock will only be available in 9.5 x 3.0′. If you are interested in purchasing the limited edition fork or shock, please email or call as we are planning to bring in a few sets.
The Mountain Bike SRM has been in the works for quite some time. Soon-to-be-available, we’re finally glad to see a near finalized product. The unit is being integrated into an FSA K-Force Light Carbon crank -- amazingly the system only adds 40-50g. So for racers seeking the ultimate training system and looking to shave upwards of 150g over the Power Tap SL disc, the SRM crank will be the ticket. The production is in a rigorous final testing phase before release, but will be on the market around the first of the year.
Tyler from Twenty6 Products cleverly packed a mobile booth for his products including a new direct mount stem.
The new Titus El Guapo: The ride is stellar, and it has to be one of the most underrated bikes in its class.
What do Troy Lee Designs, Pinarello, Avia Shoes and Tri-bikes have in common?
2010 Rock Shox Boxxer: It was outside the glass case! Good sign!
Ummm. Las Vegas, City of sin.
This to say that we were a couple years ahead of our time.
A shot of the floating front derailleur on the Pivot Firebird. Did we mention that this bike rips?