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Sea Otter 2008 Confidential – SRAM, Saint, and Intense Shine

DustOh my god, it’s not raining! It’s Sunday here in Monterey -- the sun is out and temperatures rising up into the 60’s. We’ve been checking the forecast religiously for the last week leading up until the event. The clear sunny promises raised anticipation, but we dared not speak a word for fear of jinxing ourselves. Hell, we even knocked on wood after each update. Save for a dust storm of a day Saturday, we’ve been counting our blessings. No doubt, the arrival of the Pope in the states this week is somehow connected to the anomaly. With centuries of spiritual and political influences the Vatican has wielded through the world, controlling the weather is a piece of cake for our pal Benedict XVI.

Our friends at Formula Brake USA tell us there’s nothing wrong with a little chubby loving -- they are working on a new line of single speed and fixed geared specific components called The Hive. The first products to be released are two hubsets that go by the name of Chub. Chub has a massive aluminum flange mated to a comically large carbon tube. First look, reminded us of monstrous internally geared hub, or the latest Power Tap knock off, but after a single hoist having almost floated out of hand, we new were on to something entirely off the beaten path and very cool. The hub is insanely light, and completely hollow. The Chub SS is a single speed, disc hubset that will accept a screw on freewheel, like our beloved White Industries Eno. Chub Fixed is track bike set. The oversized flanges were designed to increase torsional stiffness, longer fatigue life, and minimal spoke wind which provides decreased spoke stress over conventional hubs by 70%. The Chub SS rear hub is claimed to weigh in at 286g (434g/set). Another very slick item from The Hive, gaining many admirers from one-geared fanatics, was a prototype crankset. The billeted aluminum cranks are to be bolted on using an oversized the three sided tapered axle. Right now, the proto set up is engineered around the BB30 bottom bracket standard. There’s no official release date, weight or prices are available yet, but they had some of the coolest damn display cases that housed the cranks and a tasty bottle of bourbon.

The ever growing SRAM empire was in full force at the event to early launch their ’09 product line. The biggest surprise, and a most impressive new offering, was the Avid Elixir brakes. A whole new design completely distinct from the existing Juicy and Code systems. The goal was to build a brake with increased stopping power over the Juicy, with modulation and feel on par or better than Code at a cross country bike approved weight. ElixirSRAM uses a new ‘Taperbore Technology’, which gives less braking power at initial contact and deeper stroke for better modulation. At the bottom end, oversized pistons increase stopping power. The new pads will be top-loading for easier replacement. They mated the Avid Elixir with a new rotor called the G3 that is lighter than the current CleanSweep, and provides smoother initial contact with the pads. Unfortunately the G3 is designed to be used only I conjunction with the Elixir pads. It will be available with 160, 185 and 203 rotors, and the claimed system weight with 160mm Post Mount front is 375g. The lever action and feel was very smooth on their Turner Sultan test bike.

RebasThe main attractions were the ’09 Rock Shox forks. The Rock Shox Reba will now be available in 120mm travel option, and a 20mm thru axle option using their redesigned Maxle Lite that will be 50g lighter than the original. The redesigned lowers share the Power Bulge technology most recently refined with the latest rendition of the Sid. Power Bulges enhance the stiffness of the Reba, and provide longer life for the bushings. For the wagon-wheelers, the Rock Shox Reba 29 will also be offered in 120mm travel and 20mm thru axle options -- great news for many frame manufacturers that have been holding back on longer travel 29er designs due to the lack of fork options available. For the quick release version, SRAM borrowed the hollowed lowers they developed on the SID to reduce weight by a quarter pound. One item not hyped equally by the SRAM camp, but one we’re excited about, is the new re-designed Revelation. The already light and versatile Revelation is bumped up to a full 140mm of travel and matched with the Maxle Lite 20mm system. It provides an ideal selection for the many all-mountain bikes with riders looking for the added stiffness of 20mm Thru axle set-up.

On the TruVativ front, the word is that purple is the new black. Or pink. Or white. Well, we’re not sure which of the latest trends purple is trying to replace, but no doubt it was in full force with on the Argyle fork, stem, and new Stylo OCT crankset. Sure makes us long for that forest green Brodie trimmed with purple ano Ringle bits we had back in the day …

TruVativ wasn’t limited themselves to aluminum offerings though -- a new Noir Carbon bar will it the market this fall.

Speaking of cool carbon, we spotted the new Ergon GX2 Carbon grips at the Ergon booth. They received a handful just before they left for Sea Otter. We expect to fill a few of our backorders in a few days, but we’ll be lucky if we get them all. The rest of the shipment should arrive shortly thereafter. We learned that the delay is largely due to production -- they’re able to lay up just 20 some odd pair per day. The carbon bar end uses absolutely no metal save for the screw that clamps it to the bar -- this includes the area to which it screws. No wonder each bar end tips the scales at around 15 grams.

Titus was pedaling some hardcore bike porn with a hardtail Titus Isogrid 29 frame. The Isogrid technology is one they have kept specifically for the road side but are testing its use on the mountain bike side to compliment the extremely sought after Exogrid frames. This frame also featured an integrated titanium seat mast to reduce weight and add rigidity to the frame. No detail was left undone, as they engineered the prototype using the BB30 standard, of which we hope to see more. The Titus guys will be taking this rig back to Tempe for some on the trail testing. Lucky dogs! Very sexy, very elegant, and thus we’re left dreaming of a ti Christmas. Titus also has been thinking Cyclo Cross -- they showed two Exogrid Cross frames, the first in their usual titanium format, and another in more price conscious True Temper OX Platinum steel.

We kept waiting for the Pope to stop by the Shimano booth to ordain the new Saint 810 line up, but he never showed. Thankfully for us, Shimano had full press releases, photos etc. for the product launch. The story here is, Saint has streamlined and become more easily compatible with their other mountain components. Since we have a good deal of the tech specs discussed in our recent ‘What’s New’ article on Shimano Saint 810, we’ll now fill you in on a few new details and scraps we picked up:

The cranks having gone on a Jan Ullrich worthy diet: shedding 150 grams over its predecessor. Shimano also claims the cranks are twice as stiff as the XT crank. This was accomplished by using their exotic Duraluminum that until now was only manufactured in Dura Ace and XTR cranks. The Saint crankset will be offered in both single and wider range double ring formats. The double will feature a 22/36/Bash combo.

With such a big jump in ring size (22 to 36) they designed the new front derailleur to work specifically with this dual ring set up. The Saint front derailleur also dramatically shortens the cage to provide ample tire and frame clearance.

Saint Hydraulic brake levers will use the Servo Wave levers with a ‘Free Stroke’ adjustment to custom tune the amount of lever free stroke before pad engagement. This is complimented with a tool free reach adjustment.

The all new Saint disc brake caliper is an asymmetric four piston design, providing increased stopping power and will more even pad wear. The caliper uses a larger oil volume to manage temperatures and decrease brake fade. The hubs have also lost weight and now use the standard size center lock used with XTR, XT, etc. These changes and a handsome aesthetic highlited by tastefully placed gold ano highlights will breed some new enthusiasm to the line, and offer less head-scratching when trying to determine component compatibility.

The Magura booth was drawing a big crowd with a 16 year old motorcycle stunt riding phenom. Between the nose wheelies, and tire burning sessions we were able to spy some looks at then new Magura Marta Magnesium, said to tip the scales at 299g including 160mm rotor. It will feature Magura’s new easy bleed system, and we expect to see the first availability on this feather weight Marta by September. Magura will also be offering a new all mountain fork called the Magura Thor -- adjustable travel between 100-140mm with a Maxle 20mm Thru Axle. At 3.9lbs this will be an excellent option for those trying to bridge that gap between light weight cross country and beefy all mountain.

Santa Cruz has been creating a big buzz with the release of their ‘New VPP’ Blur LT. Meanwhile, Intense has also been busy with this new lower link and showed two prototypes of their soon-to-be-newest model which still remains nameless. While they are still finalizing details of the design, the prototypes showed were versatile all-mountain machines convertible between 5.5-5.75′ of travel. The new lower link refines and improves upon the VPP design, by first lowering long term maintenance. The link uses angular contact bearings, and will have grease ports where the system can be easily lubricated with a grease gun included with each frame. This design promises to be less apt to wear over the long haul, so bearing replacement will be less of an issue. Performance wise, the new length helps control chain growth by some 15-20%. Jeff Steber told us the new system is more plush, especially in climbing situations such a ascending up rock ledge stair steps. The frame boasts a 1.5 head tube, and a dead-to-rights sexy Hyrdoformed top tube. Intense had the two frames set up with two different builds to demonstrate the possibilities. One was built on the burly side with a Fox 36 TALAS up front. The other was kitted with full XTR -- a more cross country oriented build. Intense expects that the frame should weigh in the neighborhood of 6.25 pounds -- like their work horse Intense 5.5 EVP. They hope the versatility and performance of this frame will make it the go-to bike for customers on the fence between the efficiency of the 5.5 and the ruggedness of the 6.6. We’ll have our hands on a prototype soon, and we’ll report back on our experiences.

Here’s a pictorial account of some of our other highlights from the show: