c_g would like to call out a few products from his tests of 2014 which were particularly of note, so following Grannygear’s selections, here goes his thoughts and findings from a very busy year.

15-WTB-B+-on-CUBE

INTRODUCTION: 2014 was certainly marked by 650b. The “New Mediocrity” certainly has swallowed much of the development resources, and so the ‘new’ in terms of 29ers were shadowed in the background. In any case, we have arrived at a point where you can no longer hold your breath when a new 29er tire comes out, or a new fork … 29ers are just bikes and even if this means 29″ers have lost of bit of uniqueness, we are pleased we about this because we fought for it at Twenty Nine Inches for years.

Unlike Grannygear, who had slightly fewer test items this year, I had my hands full trying to do my test workload for each product. As well, for me there were a few products that I particularly remembered – one of them, like Grannygear found,  were the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning wheels which currently do not have any direct competition in my opinion, and in 2015, for me, they are THE reference other wheels have to be measured by.

21.-WTB-B+-530x448But to stay on topic with wheels and tires, Guitar Ted and I were quite unexpectedly surprised by the new ‘+’ sizes. First it was Guitar Ted, who had a lot of fun with the retrofitted to 29+ BOREALIS echo and then I with B +, in the form of WTB Trail Blazer 2.8 tires which I ran on the CUBE Stereo and thereafter the Rocky Mountain Instinct.

And even if I could certainly find weaknesses in the special tread of the Trail Blazers, the basic idea of having an extra wheel set in 27.5 format with a really fat-tish tire that fits in almost every 29er frame…what’s not to love?  The comfort and traction increase with these slippers at 1.0 to 1.2  bar (14.5-17PSI)  is just awesome and tells me that potential exists for future development on mountain bikes and in an area where I would least expect it. Confidentially, I have already learned from various manufacturers that there will be soon many more such B + tires and I already am pleased by this. It remains to be seen which bike manufacturers immediately jump on the train and which ones are still waiting for one season or so. As far as I dare now to predict, B + will be the sensible Fatbike format for everyone.

16-DT-SWISS-OPM

9-SCHWALBE-ProcoreThe only one that I believe it has the potential to surpass the positive impact of 2.8 to 3.0″ tires is the tech presented at the recent Euro Bike: A dual-chamber system, Procore SCHWALBE, that if I have correctly understood it, will dissolve more current problems offering puncture protection and emergency running-flat with an unprecedented level of traction and probably the comforts of a Fatbike (because of extremely low operating pressures) and as a side effect, the prospect of an absolutely foolproof tubeless conversion no matter what tire and what rims.

And then there are two special test bikes that are stuck in my memory – the Niner Bikes ROS9 and Nicolai Helius TB.

Why these two? Probably because both bikes are outside the ‘norm’ and both have a strong character of their own . At this point I would also like to stress once more that this year a lot of good 29er full suspension bikes were made.  As was already mentioned in the intro, the times of rough experiments are over.  There were no real losers… only bikes with a preference in one or other direction.

The NINER ROS9 is actually a dinosaur – the heavy steel frame and solid design can only with great effort and expense result in a really lightweight bike and yet it ascends long climbs without great effort. Downhill, it requires a lot of rugged qualities of the driver but still it is one of the bikes that I enjoyed in the technical downhill at Garda Bike Festival like no other. Ah yes…the EBB Biocentric II bottom bracket also allows the ROS9 to run single speed.

30-NINER-ROS9-Demo

The NINER ROS9’s brought out the child in me, and just made every moment fun. Maximum simplicity without rear suspension, yet still a stunner in the downhill. Granted, the bike was never ridden in a real test, but over multiple short test runs, every time had the same result: maximum fun factor!

The Nicolai Helius TB is a trail bandit beyond compare and a very special bike. As for the handling and geometry, it is more than a Enduro Race-rounder and requires quite a practiced hand and good techniques to make it move out. Yet the timeless alloy chassis provides an unusually lean and tight 120 mm travel. In view of the suspension travel’s relative ‘shortness’  a firmer and more progressive tune is required to balance out the abilities of the Helius when it is ridden aggressively over rougher terrain.

28-NICOLAI-Helius-TB

As written in the test Conclusion: The Nicolai Helius TB is a short-Travel Enduro bike and thus shatters existing definitions of an enduro full suspension bikes. It is a bike for gourmets and connoisseurs.

2-FOX-36-G

The last 29er product that has particularly impressed me was the FOX 36 Talas fork. While I have a clear understanding of the ROCK SHOX Pike we rode this summer as a pioneer in the field of suspension performance, the new FOX 36 has shown me that it is still better.

Above all, a property that impressed me was this: At any speed and in any terrain the FOX36 rides very high in the travel. Even in trail sections with much more weight on the front, it tends to not nose dive. Nevertheless, it allows one to exploit the full travel very well. Thus, the FOX 36 combines two characteristics that previously seemed incompatible to me.

While I find myself constantly switching back and forth on the PIKE between the two damping levels (open and platform damping), with the FOX 36 you spend very little time doing that.  Instead you adjust the low-speed and high-speed compression which then achieves a setting for almost any driving situation.

10-FOX-36-Talas

The only complaint I had was that the FOX, despite all the sensitivity, for my tastes was a little too direct, and, especially on long journeys, more impacts are transmitted to the rider leaving you more tired than other forks might. But I know of no other fork that works so well in specifically rough terrain.

Designed as a true-Enduro Race fork, the FOX 36 definitely a hit the bull’s eye and as for my impression, FOX has closed the gap opened up by ROCK SHOX.

And now we wish all of you a …BEAUTIFUL NEW YEAR’S EVE and a good start to your New Year!

RIDE ON,

c_g

Note: These  products were provided for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches-DE. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.