sea otter cropA bit of a photo dump of things that caught my lens at this year’s Sea Otter.   It was an interesting event with attendance looking pretty high for a Thurs/Fri.  Either it is of more interest to folks this year, which is good, or everyone is out of work and has nothing better to do except try to sign up for Obamacare.  Not as good.

It was a couple of years ago that I saw 29ers had become ‘just a bike’ and the rush of excitement for every new, big wheel related item had faded.  It was still good, just not anything to get all pumped up over.  That took a few years to happen though.  27.5 did it in one year.  I remember when everything Kirk Pacenti was doing hung on the lips of every forum cruising 27.5 zealot on sites like MTBR.  A new tire was enough to send them into fits and giggles and a real 27.5 fork selection?  Swoon time.  But 2013 and 2014 were a rush of cash investment, engineering, and marketing efforts unlike anything I had ever seen.  27.5 was a wave to be surfed and everyone wanted to hang ten and shoot the curl.

The wave has hit shore and my impression at Sea Otter was that 27.5 is already ‘just a bike’, all in pretty much 2 years.   Crazy stuff.

Another thing I did see were a few products that were ‘inclusive’ of 29ers again, in that they were not being shown in 27.5 only sizing.  Forks, carbon wheels, etc, were on display in max-biggy sizes.  Enve had a 29er in every model of the new series of rims except the truly DH only 90/10.  Shimano’s tubular XTR carbon wheel was 29er only as was the SRAM tubular carbon.  Appropriate and perhaps driven by tire selection, but it makes sense for high level XC racing, that being hard tails and 29ers being like “peas and carrots”.  So 29ers are marching on into 2015 with a bit of refinements and some new goodies, but really there was nothing at Sea Otter in big wheels that was too exciting.  I mean, we are a bit jaded when we see things as ‘just another carbon rim’.  Heck, even full carbon, electric fat bikes barely rate a head turn.

So on with the goods.

Gravity Components, part of FSA…or FSA is part of Gravity…anyway, they had a new line of full carbon bars for you hang on to and rage like there is no tomorrow.  Magura USA had the Elect system on display, but now is including a rear shock that works in tandem with the front system, to do some of that pesky thinking for you so you can rage even more.  Still in a bit of development mode, it looked like it was getting some serious trail time.

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What we used to know as White Brothers suspension, now MRP, had the Stage fork on display, an Enduro/AM fork with 34mm stanchions, Ramp Control, which adjust how fast the spring rate ‘ramps up’ near the end of fork travel, and comes in 130mm/14mm/150mm for 29ers and it can also be set to 120mm if so desired.  They also had improved Loop forks with 32mm stanchions.  Long travel forks are getting all the buzz these days, but there are a metric ton of 29ers out there with 100mm forks on them.  We are on the docket to test a XC faster-than-greased-lightning version of the Loop.

American Classic is moving into carbon MTB wheels to answer the requests by loyal customers.  They already are wizards with aluminum, and we have had nothing but good results with those products, often finding them to be a better value and performer than carbon is.  They will have to work hard to top their own work!  The sample shown here was just a well tested prototype, so no hard specs yet.

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Rocky Mountain was one of the few stunners of the show.  This prototype Sherpa with custom paint was so flipping’ cool that I hope…hope…hope they make it or somebody does.  With a prototype 2.8, 27.5 tire and wheel from WTB, the final diameter is juuust shy of 29″ making a 29er fork and easy fit.  The rear end was custom to get the driveline and tires in there…custom width hub…but this could all be engineered into a 29er frame as well.  Want to run 29er wheels/tires for faster, longer days and then swap to your ‘adventure 27.5+’ (or whatever they will be called) wheels for boonie rides?  Wow.  Super versatile.  Note the front dynamo-type hub that supplies free electrons to the power hub at the stem, keeping your devices running in the outback.  Sweet.

27.5+…650b-Fat…whatever…makes more sense to me than 29+ does and I want one.  By the way, Guitar Ted and I have been talking about this approach for some time now based on hints and rumors we had heard and I think it rocks to see it done.  Oh, they had a full fat bike too, the Blizzard.

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Ibis had the new line of ‘wide is normal and reaaaaaly wide is the new wide’ Ibis wide carbon rims on display.  It will be interesting to see how tire makers respond to this.  How long before we see marketing ads touting tires designed to work with wide rims that will take you to new heights of MTB bliss?  The race to the wide is on. I expect that we will see things go too far, then swing back to an optimum, unless tires change to follow and that will cost a lot of cash for tire makers to adjust.  Will they see it as worth it?  We shall see.

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Enve had the new line of nearly completely new, as in much improved over the old design, M Series carbon hoops on display (and the old ones were pretty awesome to begin with).  The new 50/50, 60/40, 82.675/23.134 (just kidding) etc. naming lets you know the intent of the rim.  For instance 50/50 means you value climbing prowess as much as trail worthiness.  90/10 is full on DH (no 29er rim in that rating).  Very cool thinking and they have a video talking about it that is worth a viewing.  Great riding scenes.

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DT Swiss has not been resting on their Swiss laurels either.  When they brought out the Spline 1 line of wheels, which we reviewed with great results, they omitted the burliest rim extrusion for 29ers.  No more as the EX-1501, a 25mm internal, 30mm external rim is ready to take on heavier duty trail rides.  Expect about a 1750g wheel.  The OPM fork (no, it’s not Other People’s Money) will be ready for 29ers in a 100mm/120mm/130mm travel setting, not internally adjustable.  At 1630g/3.6 lbs with the axle, it is quite light.  32mm stanchions make it more attractive in the lower ranges of travel, but for $829.99 MSRP (beer is extra…not included), and at that weight, it should be a solid XC/Trail fork.  By the way, that front hub is a compatible version for the new Rockshox RS-1 fork.  Basically a 20mm shell and bearings with a 15mm axle hole, all kept snug with 27mm end caps.  Cool hub.  Nice pic too, huh?

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Formula had the ’33′ fork there, a smaller sibling to the one c_g is writing about here.  I imagine technology cross pollinates, so see the link to his article for techy details, done like only a German engineer can do.  Thanks, c_g.

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Salsa Cycles was hanging out at the SRAM tent with the new Salsa Bucksaw, a bonafide, production FS fatty. With 100mm of front and rear travel, using the new Bluto Rockshox fatty fork (love the name…takes me back to my childhood), the Bucksaw will be, IMO, the number one polarizing bike of 2015.  It will be lauded as the messiah by some and crucified  by others.  That has been done before to someone and He won in the end, so the Bucksaw might just rise above the noise and win over skeptics.  I rode a prototype version…full production frame with non spec parts, like carbon rims, etc…of the Bucksaw 2 and it was almost indescribable.  But look for a break out article soon where I will endeavor to find the words.  In the meantime, say high to Mike Reimer of Salsa cycles and jeffj, who came back from his ride with a Bucksaw perm-a-grin installed.

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Say hello to Polygon Bikes, the Big Kahuna of bike manufacturing and production in Indonesia.  New to the US of A market, they are coming in with a good pedigree and an internet direct to consumer sales approach that should be an attractive mix.  Just pics for now, so look for more details on the carbon hard tail shown here at a later date.

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We have already done the press releases for SRAM, but it was good to see the RS-1 inverted XC fork up close as well as the new Guide brakes.  I did get a chance to take a quick ride on a set of Guides that were on the Salsa Bucksaw and they felt quite good.  After the Avid debacle, these really better hit the mark.  They are a complete re-design and if they are reliable, the good impression I got from the ones I rode portend good tidings.  The RS-1 looks like a fork I would covet to have on an XC rig.  Proprietary hub and all that (but already there are others like DT Swiss), but it looked stiff, was light, and is expensive.  It will be interesting to see if there is an RS-2, done in magnesium instead of carbon and priced for mere mortals.

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Kitsbow MTB clothing caught my eye with understated colors and nice fabric and design features.  Coming from the road side of things lately, where ‘bright makes right’, these look a bit odd.  But I like muted shades for off road riding and this gear pulled me in the booth even in my ‘two days of Sea Otter 1000 yard stare mode’.  Check them out.

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Novatec had some carbon hoops, the Factor 23, as in 23mm internal, and new hubs to see.  The hubs were some fast engaging bits of aluminum and steel, they were with a 3 degrees of engagement on a 60T ratchet using 6 bi-tooth pawls.  Tool less end cap swaps, XX1 ready, etc.  Quite nice.  The rim will sell for $600.00, is tubeless ready, no price on the complete wheels that I took note of, but the hubs are $509.00 a set.

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I end where this all began for me, with a steel 29er single speed.  In fact, it was so odd to see one amidst all the carbon bikes that it stood out like…well, a simple steel bike.  Tyson Hart is the president, designer, and rider of the graceful beast shown here, named the Luddite.  Indeed.  Check them out at Civilian Bikes.

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