Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy

Editor’s Note: This report is filed by chris_geotec from Italy. Enjoy!

Garda Bike Festival – Riva Italy: 

Hi there all you US citizens. Briefly after you have had your Sea Otter Classic we here in Europe are having our own cool bike festival – the Garda BIKE Festival. Situated in Riva at the north shore of the famous Lago de Garda (where all the freeride legends love to ride all out) we had our cool festival with a huge array of activities ranging from marathons, tons of guided tours at all skill levels, and a huge (that is for European standards) expo area with most major players present. They all had large numbers of test bikes for everyones taste from XC racer to DH. To me the most interesting things were the smaller companies, many of which haven´t touched the US market. So if you should find your dream bike within the next lines – you better make some good friends here in Europe real soon. If even you get a chance to bike here in Europe, the north of Lago di Garda sure is one of the most challenging and best riding spots here in Europe.

 garda_scenery13

After a full 5 days of rain just in time for the festival, the weather cleared up and it was gorgeous throughout all the 4 days from 30th of April to 3rd of May.

The first day I went on a guided freeride tour just to see whether I could keep up with those guys and whether I (coming from a rigid ride and with the experience of only short travel bikes) could manage a downhill bike enough to enjoy mayslef. I got equipped with a spanking new Scott Gambler DH and while I never really felt at home I managed quite well never kissing the dirt (unlike many of my freeride riding partners). With a bit of adrenalin circulating in my veins ( and an 10 mile flat ride on my DH bike, ughhh) I took on myself to conquer the expo area and test what I liked the most. Off we go for round two – the expo highlights: 

I stopped by the Geax booth and taking a sneak peek into their van searching for news and prototypes. While I cannot disclose all (and rest assured there are some really cool things coming your way in the seasons to come, 26er and 29er alike), I can say the following: Geax has taken up the ball from Italian standard of slim MTB tires to larger volume and will be offering some current and some new treads in various sizes. Hurray for us who like big tires. I got a spy shot of this new tread which will fall in as a very fast rolling but grippy XC to AM tread, called the AKA. Also they have worked on their largely successful tubular line and will be enlarging it by up to two new tires.  

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The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

 

 

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The GEAX "AKA"

The GEAX "AKA"

 

 

 Another cool, if not spectacular feature, was seen on some Kenda tires mounted at the Trek booth. These tires had a reflective sidewall that looked almost ordinary with just a tad of sparkle at standard conditions but when illuminated (see the picture with flash) were giving a strongly reflective surface. I like things that contribute to my security and don´t look geeky. 
 

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

 

An all time favourite company of mine – Liteville – has just recently received the first production run of the new 901 DH frame that claims to be covering the full range from tourer to competition DH bike. In Europe Liteville already has a very good name for its debut bike the Liteville 301 (a XC to Enduro fully with 130 m travel) and its Liteville 101 hardtail. Both bikes received raving reviews and by my own riding experience are very good bikes.

The Liteville 901

The Liteville 901

The south Germany based company is known for its love of 120 % function, sometimes taking elaborate and unconventional approaches to smaller drawbacks of other designs – their X-12 rear axle, rockguard rear derailleur protection, or unconventional sizing (by length rather than height), or the Tuned Chainstay Length (TCL)  being only a few among many. They are constructed oversized and the 901 is no exception.

The frame looks and feels stiff. With a rear travel from 170 mm to 200 mm (depending on the shock mount) the bike is clearly gravity driven. At a frame weight of only 2700 gm you´d think differently and Liteville even advertises the 901 as a Dh bike that can be toured. After my experience with the Scott Gamberl (that clearly cannot be ridden uphill) I was curious to see and I first took it on a 1 hour climb up Monte Brione. Without lockout or Pro Pedal the bike remained neutral and stable at any cadence and climbed admirably well. Were it not for the broken TALAS feature on the 36 model Fox fork, it would have taken me up even the steepest sections without hesitation. On the downhill the bike certainly shone proving the potent 36 fork to be clearly to faint for the rear. Were it not for the slack head angle of 66° that felt awkward on slow technical sections but delivered confidence on the faster sections – I would crown this bike to be the closest to a do it all frame (only problem there is no fork to match the rear that can be locked out or lowered yet). Much like its smaller brothers the 901 had every detail of the frame thoroughly designed and built to such close specifications that it took close to 3 years before reaching production stage.

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

One of my personal favourites was a small company called PRONGHORN Racing from Denmark (no they do not only have flat lands). Their claim to produce some of the most sophisticated and thoroughly thought out bikes and components had me tempted and so I grabbed their most prestigious Carbon XC-Fully (1,7 kg for the frame) to the test. The CEO and founder of PRONGHORN racing himself Kenneth Daalsgard had the bike set up for me (see picture). The bike features a unique linkage that is supposed to eliminate bobbing but deliver a smooth ride (don´t they all say that?). Another cool design gadget is that all tubes have the exact measurement written on the tube directly, for you to see.

“Remember, this bike is best when ridden all out on a race track” were the words Kenneth sent me out with. Unfortunately my legs don´t take me to such levels but during my 2 hour test ride I put the bike through all imaginable paces and I was surprised. Unlike many race oriented fullies the Pronghorn did really deliver a plushness that was surprising. While the DT-Swiss shock had a lock-out I refused to use it and the bike was working continuously at a minimal level that could only be noticed by looking. But when hitting any obstacle it went through the travel very willingly. Would it bottom out on the rough? I pushed the bike hard on the partly very challenging and technical downhill sections ( that I had ridden on the Liteville 901 before) and was surprised how its progression kept it from bottoming out, while retaining a plushness surprising for the short travel of 115 mm. The frame´s looks can be discussed ( I liked it for its business like appearance) but its function is on par with many full suspension race bike with attributes that make it suitable for a wide range from fast XC-courses to rough endurance races. 

 

The Ibis Tranny

The Ibis Tranny

 

 

One of the cool bikes that I got to throw a leg over was the IBIS Tranny with its extremely sexy carbon frame and adjustable chainstays. This bike to me really put hardtails to a new level by looks and design. The quick ride I had on a bike just previously raced on the Garda marathon made me want to spend more time on the frame. The sale reps were really giving me a full tour of the bikes specifics, which I won´t bother you with; just let me say it really is a one-of-a-kind design. One of the first questions on my mind when seeing the bolted rear triangle of the Tranny was: “What if you could not only adjust the chainstay length (for SS use) but could swap into a 29er?” So I asked and while not confirming anything I was told that this issue head been raised and was not denied up to this point. So folks, if you think this would be cool to have a 29er Tranny or even be able to interchange,  then write to Ibis and tell them about it. I sure will. 

 

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

 Rocky Mountain was also there showing their full line-up, including a new 29er Vertex and a 29er Altitude prototype. Even after multiple requests to ride I was always denied because it was a prototype. When I already had given up I met Randy McGinnis, the Rocky international sales manager, who after some chatting would willingly let me take it for a ride. Later I found out I was the only one on the entire 4 days to ride it – thanks Randy.

Despite it being only a short ride with no real mountainbiking I could feel how capable the bike handled. Unfortunately the front and rear were not set up properly and so the bike felt unbalanced. But the geometry immediately made me feel “at home”, seating me very much in the frame and providing a quick but neutral handling. This bike would be so much fun riding in technical sections or longer rides, not to mention all the cool design features from tapered head tube to, hydroformed tubes and the proprietary “Straight Up Geometry.”. To date it was not decided whether the 29er lineup of Rocky Mountain will ever be for sale here in Europe … bummer. (Anyone in the US want to be my friend?)

Unfortunately here in Europe 29ers are catching on much slower than in the US. Some say it never will but I will remain optimistic telling everyone how great they are to keep momentum and smooth out  a the terrain.

One more good news is that Niner bikes are now available in Europe, too. They have been for a while now in Italy, where I was told some shops were now even selling 29er bikes exclusively (26ers only for trade-ins if you bought a 29er), but since February this year there even is a German distributor (Revolution Sports), who had a lot of Niner and Titus bikes, as well as the Niner carbon fork (in prototype models) on display. 

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?

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One Response to “Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy”

  1. Topics about Italy » Blog Archive » Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy | The Cyclist Says:

    […] Guitar Ted put an intriguing blog post on Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy | The CyclistHere’s a quick excerptEditor’s Note: This report is filed by chri_geotech from Italy. Enjoy! Garda Bike Festival – Riva Italy: Hi there all you US citizens. Briefly after you. […]

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