At Interbike, if you know who to look for, you will see several of the industries “big names”. Chris King himself, or Mr. Shimano. Yes…..the Mr. Shimano! Athletes and luminaries, company owners, and marketing honches abound. But I ran across someone not too many folks would have noticed standing in line for a hot dog in front of Kenda’s Outdoor Demo booth at Interbike this year. The man responsible for the first workable long travel 29″ers- Devin Lenz.
Devin is the “one man show” behind LenzSport Bikes which is a little shop up on Weld Road near Fort Lupton, Colorado. Starting in 1997, he fabricated frames from aluminum, starting with the “concentric link” rear suspension, which featured a swing arm that pivoted around the bottom bracket, Devin built some forward thinking designs with purely 26 inch wheels, and it might have stayed that way forever, but for one man.
“I saw Gary Fisher at Moab early on. He had a 29er, and I thought it was just ridiculous.“, Devin said. He didn’t want anything to do with them. I was shocked to hear him say this, so I asked what had (obviously) changed his mind. He said it was upon the insistence of one man who visited him from Crested Butte and was a part of the early 29″er adopters that included Wes Williams of Willits, and his name was Mike Curiak.
“Mike used to come up and he had all these ideas and was talking about how I should do a 29er. That’s pretty much why I did it.“, said Devin. Eventually, all of Mike’s insistence turned out to become a full suspension 29″er that Devin dubbed the Leviathan. It is still in the line up to this day. But that wasn’t the end of Mike Curiak’s influences. He had more ideas, and Devin worked on more solutions, and by 2007, Devin had created a 5″ travel frame that was named for the famous local trail system in Curiak’s back yard called “The Lunch Loops”. The Lunchbox soon migrated to a 6 inch travel bike and it wasn’t a freakish rig either. This bike was actually pretty dialed for 2008 when I rode it. See this link for my take on it then.
The Lunchbox was a ground breaking bicycle. With six inches of useable travel front and rear, chain stays well under 18 inches, and room for huge rubber, (The rig I rode then had super-secret WTB prototype tires on it), there was nothing out there you could buy right then and there that could compare to it. It was amazing. The thing is, there really still isn’t anything quite like it today, four years down the road!
Devin and Mike still weren’t done though, and a year later, they pulled out the first DH ready 29″er in the “Park Bike Jam”, or “PBJ” for short. a 7X7″ travel bomber, the PBJ put “long travel 29″er” on the map to stay. All that travel with sub-eighteen inch long stays and great performance to boot. Devin and Mike put the myth that you couldn’t design a workable long travel 29″er to bed for good.
Devin isn’t resting on his past accomplishments either. He says his latest project is a longer travel XC rig with 29″er wheels. Chances are it’ll be another great performing rig. Devin may be the “Father of Long Travel 29″ers”, but he is quick to deflect any honors. “It has been a real blessing to hook up with Mike. It’s been really good.” However that may be, when you see that shiny new 4 or 5 inch travel 29 inch wheeled bicycle in the shop, just keep in mind that Devin Lenz had a lot to do with why that idea even was considered possible.
Editor’s Note: I’d like to thank Devin Lenz for taking the time to chat with me at Bootleg Canyon.
Look for more Special Reports from Interbike coming soon…….