Archive for January, 2009

The Future Of 29"ers: 2009 Edition

January 11, 2009

Once in awhile I peer into my greasy crystal ball in the basement of Guitar Ted Laboratories and give you my prognostications on where 29″ers are headed in the future. Here’s my latest thoughts on where the wagon wheelers are going.

WTB Vulpine
The WTB Vulpine will have lots of company come springtime in the racing tread category!

Racing Tires and Wheels: Much like single speed 29″ers were about three years ago, we are about to witness a glut of racing bred rubber and probably a few more weight weenie wheel sets to go along with them. Shoes from Schwalbe, Continental, Bontrager, and Geax are all about to be delivered to the market. By spring time, you should not have any trouble finding a race specific 29″er tire and some wheels to go with them. Remember when they said 29″er wheels and tires were too heavy? Not anymore!

Wanting A Little Meat On That Carcass?: But having said that, the trail/AM crowd should see some developements in 2009 on tires as well. I know that Bontrager is currently testing some tires, one of which is said to be a trail tire with a radical new tread design. I know of the Maxxis Ardent in a wider size, an offering from Geax, and at least two other “behemoth” tires that may see the light of day soon, if not before the end of 2009. Add to this a proliferation of true tubeless ready UST and plain ol’ UST tires in 29 inch sizes and I think you will see at least as many new tires just on the trail/AM side as we saw in 2009 in all categories put together.

Carbon “Fork” Print: There will be a couple of radical new carbon forks coming out that I know about with a possibility of more that I don’t. This is going to be an area of development due to the lack of high end road bike sales. That carbon technology has to go somewhere, and 29″er folks have already shown an affinity for the carbon rigid fork. Look for Niner’s carbon fork to bow soon, maybe as early as this spring. The Soul Cycles carbon fork shouldn’t be long in appearing either.

Carbon fiber will most likely be starting to show up in other places on 29″ers too. Linkages on rear suspensions, suspension forks, and obviously on frames. The economic situation may delay some of this, but it is coming.

Raise The Standard: The Niner W.F.O.9 and the tapered steer tube Marzocchi 44 29″er fork should be showing up in 2009. Niner’s Chris Sugai told me at Interbike that he is sure that all major 29″er fork makers will be on board with the tapered steer tube soon. Fox is already there and Rock Shox, Manitou, and White Brothers are all expected to make the leap to tapered steer tube products for 29″ers. In my opinion, it is a smart move for 29″er front and full suspended bikes.

The BB30 bottom bracket standard, developed by Cannondale, is now a reality on 29″ers with the 2009 Cannondale line. I suspect to see more companies jump on board with this as cranksets become available on the mountain bike side in greater numbers. There also is a BB90 standard with- you guessed it– a 90mm wide bottom bracket shell and “internal external” bearings that is compatible with current two piece cranksets. I do not fore see this becoming widely available though. What I wouldn’t be surprised to see is Shimano coming out with something different along these lines soon to compete with the move to oversize bottom bracket/internal bearing set ups.

The move to this sort of technology will be utilized to market product said to be stiffer and less likely to become contaminated, as outboard bearings are prone to do, with a free spin that outboard bearings can not rival. 29″ers might benefit from a bigger area for down tubes and chain stays to attach to. (Although I’ve been told that this would be a minimal gain for all the trouble.)

Reba with Maxle Lite The Rock Shox Reba with a Maxle Lite: The beginning of the end for QR’s on 29″ers

Stick A Thru-Axle In It! 2009 is the year that the quick release for mountain bikes is going to start to die off. With the widely available Reba with the new Maxle Lite, 29″er freaks are going to shun QR’s like the plague. Especially after they use one of the Maxle Lites on somebody elses rig. Look for this option to spread to the rear on full suspension bikes first, and eventually hard tails. Will it be the 20mm or 15mm through axle that wins out? Well, I don’t think that will matter if hub makers can keep both camps happy with one hub that features swappable end caps. (My vote is for 20mm though, just so you know!)

Stump Pullin’ Gears: I also look for some new cassettes that feature a 36T low gear. 29″er freaks will not be the only ones looking at this option either. 2 X 9 26″er riders will benefit, as will any rider using a 2X9 or 1X9 set up. Additionally, I see more options popping up on the crank side as well.

She’ll Be Comin’ Down The Mountain: I fore see a long travel fork coming out of one of the big three fork makers soon too. White Brothers have had this market all to themselves until now. With bigger rims, tires, and frame sets hitting the market soon and in bigger numbers, it is going to be just a matter of time before one of the bigger companies pulls this off. What will finally turn the tide? A big OEM contract for a long travel fork for a bigger company that will be bringing out a long travel 29″er AM bike, that’s what. Hold on! It is going to happen, and sooner than later!

Frugal Frames: Already in early 2009 we are seeing some down right el cheapo frames hitting the market. I predict even more will show up before the year is through. With the current popularity of 29″ers and the down turn of the economy, I see some folks jumping in on this market big time. Even full suspension 29″er frames and/or complete bikes will become available.

Bigger companies will also start to offer more sub-grand 29″ers than before too. These bikes were always good sellers when times were good. Now they will be even more attractive. Look for several new additions in this category by Interbike time next fall.

That’s my take, what is yours? Add your thoughts to the comment section. You never know who is reading, and it might become reality some day!

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Monstercross Defined

January 9, 2009

One of the “fringes” of 29″ers is the “monstercross” bike. Besides its fun, cartoonish moniker, what is behind the name? What does the bike you see in your mind look like when you think “monstercross”? I’m going to delve into this vague, oft discussed, and debated term for a bicycle.

What We Can Agree On: There are so many variables when it comes to this idea of “monstercross” that it is easier to enumerate the things we can identify as commonly held beliefs on the genre. Here are the few points of agreement.

1: It is generally accepted that “monstercross” is based upon 700c wheels.
2: It is generally accepted that “monstercross” is fully rigid- no suspension.
3: It is generally accepted that “monstercross” utilizes drop bars.
4: It is generally accepted that “monstercross” means larger tires will clear the frame. (40mm- ??)

Beyond this there is a lot of debate as to what is meant by the term, “monstercross” Let’s take a look at the main variants.

Surly Travelers Check

The Traditionalists Monstercross Bike: Some hold to a more traditional take on a cyclo-cross bike for their version of monstercross. The example above, the Surly Travelers Check, is based off the popular Cross Check model, arguably one of the defining rigs of monstercross. Able to “Fit Fatties Fine”, (my convenient rearranging of the words here),this rig was tailor made for slamming oversized rubber in and hitting the dirt. Sure, there are a lot of other examples I could cite, but they all have the traditional horizontal top tube, cantlever brakes, and more traditional drop bar set ups. Generally speaking, these rigs are limited to 2 inch and narrower tires.

Salsa La Cruz

Modified Cyclo Crossers: Falling out of the traditional realm, things start to get weird fast. The addition of more mountain bike related parts starts in with bikes like the Salsa La Cruz, shown above. Disc brakes and room for larger-than-ordinary cyclo cross rubber is where the category starts, but it doesn’t stop there! Geometry can start to creep away from the ordinary cyclo cross fare, and forks start to look more “mountain bike-ish”. Still we are generally dealing with a traditional looking frame for the most part. Room for anything bigger than a two inch tire is still pretty rare.

Everything Else!: About a year ago I did a post entitled “Who Does Monstercross?” where a comment was left by “Mike” that stated the following: “When I think monstercross, I think of a bike with clearance for 700×45C tires, drop bars, and cyclocross geometry. Change one of the first two items and it becomes something else. Change the tires to 2.1 and it’s just a mountain bike with drop bars. Change the bars to flat and it’s a hybrid.” Well, this next grouping of “monstercross” rigs defies that notion with fatter tires, mountain bike geometry, and yes, sometimes flat bars, or “alt bars”. Do these bikes belong in the monstercross genre? Some will argue that they should, but there is no doubt that in the continuum from true cyclo cross rigs to the custom Badger bike above, there is alot of variances.

Black Mountain Cycles monster cross

Whatever your definition of “monstercross” is, there is no denying that it has sparked the imaginations of a lot of people. Adventuring, back country exploring on rustic paths, and bombing along fire roads are all possibilities with this versatile category of bike. Plus, it can be a commuter, a touring rig, or just plain ol’ fun on a bike.

And that’s what it really is all about, regardless of how you categorize it!

Specialized Tires: Final Review From The West Coast

January 7, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment from our West Coast cntributor, Grannygear, on the Specialized Captain Controls 2.2, Eskar S-Works 2.3, and Fast Trak LK/S-Works. So check out these final thoughts from the West Coast.

Over the past few months we have been rolling around on various combos of the latest offerings for 29er MTB tires from the Big S and I think I have had enough saddle time to come to conclusions that are reasonably accurate.

Captain Controls

The Captain Controls – It is hard to beat an all around tire like the Captain. In a world where it seems like there are tires for every occasion, the Captain stands out as a fine example of a tire you could leave on all year round, travel with it, and just pretty much forget they are there. They are a great size, and on a Stan’s Flow rim, offer a full and round profile. Are they an all mountain tire? Not really, but it is a very good trail bike tire. They steer very well and roll much better than that size of tire should, likely due to the center ridge of knobs. They even make a very good rear tire, although I did find them wanting to break away and drop into ruts a bit more than I would like, but the side knobs are not that aggressive and that is where I would place the blame. I ran these on the Lev, but I bet that it would make a fine SS tire front and rear.

Muddy eskars

The Eskar – I ran these on the SS Monkey. I never needed more traction than these tires offered. They loved the loose, rocky trails we have around here and they even hung pretty well on one very muddy ride. I was slightly dismayed in the non-2.3 size, but they are easily a good 2.2 and the large tread lugs felt like cushions in the rocks. I did not care for the way they steered in hardpack conditions as they seemed to wander when they were in between the center rows of knobs and the edgy, aggressive side knobs. The biggest hit against them is the slow rolling that they impart on any ride on a hard surface. Not a go-fast tire for that, but if you ride in loose, chewed up terrain or sandy, gravelly soil, they are a good choice.

Fast Trak

The Fast Traks – I ran the non-S versions on the SS Monkey. Before I installed them, I had been running some Continental Mtn King 2.4s, so the 2.0 Fast Traks looked like a cyclocross tire compared to them. However, the tires are more than meets the eye. They are a fast rolling, quick turning tire. If speed is a priority and you are not a Clydesdale rider, these babies will get it down the trail. They actually have more grip than I expected and on smooth harder surface trails they are very agile and fun. They are much less fun if the surface is deep and loose, like sandy soil and rocky, rubbly stuff. There they let you know you are not rolling on fatties. I also found it challenging keeping them from spinning on kitty litter over hardpack when I was really pulling hard on the SS in steep pitches. I bet they would rock on gravel roads and they were a huge advantage on long, extended fireroad climbs.

NOTE: I leant the Fast Traks out to a friend who was competing in his first 12 solo endurance race. He trained a bit on the K versions and raced on the S-Works tires. He expected them to roll well, but was skeptical that the tires would hang in there on the fast, hardpacked and sometimes sketchy course. However he was more than happy with the tires performance overall and commented on the good cornering and grip in those conditions.

More final thoughts: I ran the Captains and the Eskars tubeless on the Flow rims and they installed easily and inflated with a floor pump no muss, no fuss. The Fast Traks were run with tubes.

Currently I am running a Captain front and an Eskar rear on the Lev. So far that has been a super combo, although I would run another rear tire if I was trying to be fast on a long ride with lots of climbing. The flip side is tons of braking and driving grip from the rear tire. The Eskar barely fits in the chainstays of the Lev and a muddy day would be a challenge. I have no present use for the Fast Traks, so I will shelve them for now, but if I ever feel the need for speed above all, they are just an arms reach away.

Thanks to Specialized for providing us the tires in this review!

Top Ten 29"er Products Of 2008: Final Thoughts And A List!

January 3, 2009

The new year has started and the Number One product of 2008 has been named: The Salsa Cycles Gordo Disc 29″er rim. With 2008’s Top Ten List now complete, I now will present all the links to the separate posts here in one place for ease of access. I also have a few final thoughts on the year’s gear with a peek at the coming months as well.

The Top Ten List Posts:
#1: Salsa Cycles Gordo Rim
#2: Continental Mountain King 2.4″ Tire
#3: OS Bikes Blackbuck Frame
#4: Gary Fisher Hi Fi Deluxe/ G2 Geometry
#5: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4″ Tire
#6: Diamondback Overdrive Pro
#7: Origin 8 Black Ops Fork
#8: Edge Composites XC Rim
#9: Siren Song 29″er
#10: WTB Tires: Vulpine, Stout, Prowler SL

Congratulations to all that made the list!

And Now, Some Final Thoughts: Looking back on the year that was, I can say that it seemed that not a whole lot of exciting new product came out, but in reality, there was a lot going on. Some things that we didn’t test or review bear mentioning here. There was the Fox F-29, the Pivot Cycles 429, Turner’s redesign of the Sultan model, and the Fisher Superfly.

I think that taken in as a group, the products and bicycles introduced that were 29″er related in 2008 were actually a pretty impressive grouping. It’s just that products and bicycles were released all throughout the season, and not just at Interbike or Sea Otter. Many companies are rolling out product intros on their own stage, much like Salsa cycles “Sol Sessions” this year, or another example being Trek’s dealer show in August. I expect the same thing to happen for 2010 products, but perhaps on a smaller scale.

Speaking of the future of 29″er product, which is going to be heavily influenced by the recent down turn in the world economy, I don’t expect to see a big change right away. This is because the 2009 product is already here, or in the hopper. When the 2010 product rolls out, then we may see some effects of the times. Whatever happens with the economy, 2009 will be an interesting year regardless.

There is some mighty interesting things on the horizon, not to mention the products we are continuing to test like the Salsa Cycles Fargo, Easton’s XC- One single speed wheels, and our wrap up on the Specialized 29″er tires.

We hope you will check back in with us often in 2009, but most of all, we hope you have the greatest year of riding bicycles- whatever type they are– ever!