Kuat’s NV Core has many of the key features of the Kuat NV in a stripped down, no nonsense package. The NV Core lacks the Trail Doc rack-mounted repair stand and does away with the integrated cable lock. At $439 The Core NV is $110 less than the full-featured NV model.
The Kuat Vagabond X is a burlier version of the standard Vagabond. It has two 9mm quick release mounts and is built with larger guage tubing for increased load carrying capacity. Price is $399 for flat black and $439 for the grey (shown here).
Yakima recently purchased a New Zealand-based auto rack company that produces crossbars with an airfoil profile. Yakima claims the Whispbar has 40 percent less drag than conventional round bars, which should result in less noise and better fuel efficiency.
Yakima’s Rocketbox Pro line has dual-sided entry and the top comes nested with the bottom, meaning it can be shipped via UPS and Fedex. It can be assembled in as little as five minutes. The Rocketbox 11, shown here, retails for $359.
TheApex Swing is a new hitch-mounted rack from Thule. This craddle style rack has a four bike capacity. The curved arms help to minimize frame interference. The Apex Swing retails for $499. A non-swinging version, also with a four bike capacity, retails for $399.
If nothing else, tailgate pads look cool. Thule’s comes in two widths and retails for $99.
If you’ve picked up a copy of issue #159 then you were one of the first to get a sneak peak at Moots’ two new full suspension bikes. The Divide (above) is a 26-inch bike, while the Divide MX (below) is its big-wheeled brother. The Divide and Divide MX will be replacing the aging Zirkel and Cinco in the Moots full suspension line.
Both bikes have 100mm of front and rear travel.
The Divide series feature 44mm headtubes that allow the use of straight or tapered steerers. Other modern features include post-mount disc brakes, and a Press Fit 30 bottom bracket.
Dubbed Fusion Link, the linkage-driven single pivot was designed with input from the Sotto Group, an engineering development firm that also designed the Switch suspension used on the Yeti SB-66 and SB-95. The goal was to create an efficient cross-country suspension platform that worked well with 26 and 29-inch wheels. The Kashima-coated RP23 will come standard on the bikes.
The upper link is carbon. The aluminum chainstays are made by Sapa in Portland, Oregon.
Both bikes will be available in six sizes with custom options as well.
The Divide and Divide MX will be available in spring of 2012. Pricing is yet to be determined.
Yeti unveiled the SB-66 earlier this summer, and now its big-wheeled brother is almost ready for prime time.The SB-95 we rode was a pre-production version. Small changes, like water bottle bosses on the underside of the down tube and routing for a dropper post were absent on this bike but will be included in the production version, which should be available in early 2012.
As noted by a head honcho at a competing brand these two “Super Bikes” proved to be the sweathearts of this year’s Outdoor Demo. We rode both to compare and contrast the personalities of the SB-66 with that of the SB-95.
Tested by Justin Steiner
This bike was first to make an impression on me this year, simply due to the buzz around the show about it, and the shear quantity of SB-66’s out on the trail.
We interviewed Yeti’s president, Chris Conroy [link] about the SB-66 earlier in the year, and there’s certainly been much anticipation about this bike all across the Interwebs.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the SB-66’s Switch Technology and a quick spin in unfamiliar terrain makes judgement quite difficult. Initially, it seems as though the suspension reacts quite differently when pedaling and coasting, firming up while on the gas and eagerly using more of its travel while coasting. Both sensations may be explained by his bike’s rearward initial axle path.
I also perceived a change in suspension character after the eccentric begins rotating the opposite direction (beyond 100mm of travel), where the suspension feels less firm and eager to soak up big hits. In my short spin the SB-66 used full travel, but never bottomed noticeably. During this quick ride I wasn’t able to come to a conclusion about how these changes in suspension character might translate over the long haul. I’ll wait for our long-term test before drawing any conclusions.
Chassis-wise, the SB-66 felt stiff and responsive, within the scope of a trail bike with a 67-degree headtube angle. I’m awfully stoked to put this bike through its paces on familiar terrain.
Tested by Josh Patterson
Much like the SB-66, the SB-95 is a slack bike (68.5-degree tapered head tube). It’s intended to be ridden with a short stem, wide bars, and balls to the wall. Ok, so the last part I made up. But if you decide that’s where you like to keep them the SB-95 will accommodate you.
The SB-95 comes equipped with a Fox 34. I was very impressed with the performance of this fork. It’s stiff, plush and unflappable through rough terrain.This fork is opening up a world of possibilities for longer-travel 29ers. Look for a review of the Fox 34 in an upcoming issue.
I also felt the suspension firmed up while pedaling, but I didn’t notice as abrupt a change in performance as on the SB-66. It could be that the 30mm more of rear travel on the SB-66 resulted in more exaggerated changes to the axle path. It is equally plausible that I was too busy enjoying the outstanding handling characteristics of this bike through rough terrain to also take note of the nuances of the suspension.
Following in the footsteps of the recent introduction of the carbon SB-66, a carbon SB-96 is also in the works. No firm date on the availability of the carbon version.
Like many other companies, Marin dipped their toes in the 29er pool several years ago with the introduction of their 29er hardtails. This year Marin is introducing their first big-wheeled full suspension bike, the Rift Zone 29. The Rift Zone has 100mm of front and rear travel supplied by a Fox RL fork and RP23 shock. There will be two aluminum and two carbon models in the Rift Zone 29er line.
The XC7 (pictured here) is the higher-spec’d aluminum model, retailing for $2,899.
The Rift Zone uses the company’s third iteration of their Quad Link suspension design. Gone are the elevated chainstays and rocker links located in the main triangle. The revised suspension design looks very similar to many of the other dual-link bikes on the market.
It’s hard to critique a bike that just works. The geometry is neither steep nor slack. On the trail the Rift Zone is an easy-riding bike with no quirky handling traits. I found the suspension performed best with the RP23’s platform in the "2" position. The only gripes I had with the XC7 on my demo ride were related to component spec: the handlebar was too narrow for my tastes and I would have prefered to have a 15mm thru-axle fork, rather than the 9mm QR. Other than that I had no misgivings with the bike. It does everything a 100mm 29er dually should do.
The new Breezer Lightning looks much like steel the Breezers of years gone by but with the incorporation of modern technologies.
The Lightening Team uses a BB92 bottom bracket. The wider bottom bracket shell allows the use of an offset, and quite large, non-driveside chainstay. This is necessary to provide tire and chainring clearance with the frame’s short, 439mm chainstays.
The top and down tubes are hydroformed. The top tube becomes square near the juntion with the headtube. The down tube is curved for fork crown clearance.
Breezer’s steel 29er will be available this November. Frames will retail for $899 and a complete bike with an X9 build kit will retail for $2,249.
Easton took the lightweight UST rims of their EA90XC wheelset and paired them with the more affordable hubs used on the EA70 wheels to create a performace-oriented wheelset at a price that is within the reach of most weekend warriors. They will be available in 26 and 29-inch versions, weights are 1,620 and 1,750 grams respectively. Price is $725 for the 26-inch wheelset and $750 for the 29-inch version.
The $1,000 Havoc 150 is downhill race wheelset that tips the scales at a mere 1,870 grams. It shares the same 23mm-wide UST-certified rims as the Havoc AM wheelset with 28 straight-guage spokes, instead of the 24 double-butted spokes on used on Havoc AM wheelset, with a 150mm-wide rear hub with larger bearings.
Building on the success of the Sortie line Diamondback is introducing four 29-inch versions of the Sortie in 2012.
The new 29 models will be available at four price points from the $2,600 Deore-equipped Sortie 29 4 to the $6,500 XTR-spec’d Sortie 29 Black pictured here, with XT and SLX bikes in between.
The Sortie 29 sports 120mm of travel up front and 100mm in the rear and uses the same Knucklebox suspension used on Diamondback’s other full suspension models.
All four bikes share the same aluminum frame. The top three models feature 142x12mm thru axles while the entry-level Sortie 29 4 uses the increasingly-rare 135mm quick-release axle.
For 2012, Diamondback will also be offering the Sortie 29 in a frame-only option.
Click here for our complete coverage from Interbike 2011.
It was easy to miss if you we’re looking for it. VP Components is showing off an adjustable angle headset that can be adjusted on the trail with 4mm Allen key in about two minutes. Unlike Cane Creek’s Angleset, which uses gimbals to adjust the orientation of the steerer tube in the head tube, VP’s adjustable angle headset uses conical bearings to change a bike’s head angle by +/- 1.5 degrees.
It is compatible with 1 1/8” straight and 1 1/8” to 1.5” tapered steers. The headset will only work with 1.5” headtubes, limiting it to longer-travel applications.
To adjust the angle, the rider loosens two 4mm Allen bolts holding the conical bearings in place, loosens the bolts on the stem and top cap, then move the ring on top of the headset that changes the head angle in increments of half a degree.
Pricing is yet to be determined but will be competitive with other high-end headsets. Production models are expected to be available in January.
Click here for all of our coverage from Interbike 2011.
The Dragon has been in the Jamis line for 15 years. Although it has undergone many updates the Reynolds 853 steel tubing has always been the frame material of choice. For 2012 the Dragon will be offered in a 650b, as well as the current 29-inch version.
I think it is safe to say that for many riders, and certainly for the vast majority of bicycle manufacturers, the 26-inch cross country hardtail has been supplanted by 29ers in the United States. Aside from DJ/park bikes, I hadn’t ridden a hardtail that wasn’t a 29er in six years. So it was with some trepidation that I swung a leg over the 650b Dragon. Would the Dragon feel squirrely? Would the smaller wheels be a liability through techy terrain?
The answer was a resounding “Hell no.”
The 650b Dragon is nimble but not twitchy, retaining much of the playful nature of 26-inch wheels with a bit more stability. This is not only due to the slightly larger wheels, but also to its well-thought out geometry. The slack, 68-degree head angle and 120mm White Brothers LOOP fork made the Dragon feel right at home plowing through rock gardens and popping of the lip of two and three-foot rock drops.
I even took it for a spin through the pumptrack and did my best to get all agro. The classic ride of a steel hardtail constructed with modern trail geometry really seems to suit this wheelsize.
Jamis is one of the few larger companies supporting 650b, and while it may never find the widespread popularity of their slightly smaller and slightly larger counterparts, there is certainly a place for a bike like this.
The Dragon 650b retails for $2,700 with a Shimano SLX build.
Click here for all of our coverage from Interbike 2011.
Twenty niner trail bikes are proving to be the hot item at Interbike this year. Salsa’s Horsethief sports 120mm of front and rear travel—and the Fox 34 fork is internally adjustable to 140mm. On the surface the Horsethief looks like a Spearfish on steroids, but it actually has a very different personality.
The aluminum frame uses stouter tubing but shares similar lines and the uses same linkage-driven, single-pivot suspension design. It relys on a small amount (5mm) of flex in the shaped seatstays to do the work of a seatstay-mounted pivot, which would rotate less than a degree, increase weight and, potentially, maintenance.
On the trail the Horsethief rides surprisingly quick for a 120mm-travel 29er. Certainly, it is less agile than the XC/endurance-bred Spearfish, but quicker than I expected. The rocky trails of Bootleg Canyon, Nevada, had me wishing for more stability, slower steering, and a slightly higher bottom bracket to minimize pedal strikes. (All of which could be easily solved by running the Fox 34 at its full 140mm of travel.) For smoother terrain the steeper angles and lower bottom bracket could be the ticket.
I rode the custom-valved Fox RP2 rear shock with the Pro Pedal engaged while climbing the gravel road to the first section of singletrack. Once I hit the trail I found the suspension rode better with the platform off, allowing the Horsetheif settle into its travel and reap the benefits of improved traction.
The Horsetheif could prove to be an affordable and very versatile platform. It can be built up as a long-travel cross country bike. (The frame is less than a pound heavier than the Spearfish.) Gravity-oriented riders can take advantage of the ISCG 05 tabs and dropper post cable mounts to create an all-mountain machine.
Click here to read all of our coverage from Interbike 2011.
By Josh Patterson
I’ve always loved Interbike. I may not always be in the market for a new bike but I enjoy seeing the direction the industry is headed and how they are attempting to get there. This year, there are two trends I’m watching with selfish curiosity.
Disc Brakes for Cyclocross
I’ve been a proponent of disc brakes for cyclocross for a long time. While disc-equipped ‘cross bikes have sporadically popped up from several different companies over the past decade, it wasn’t until the UCI recently granted approval of disc brakes in UCI-sanctioned cyclocross races that the impetus for further development this technology existed.
At Sea Otter we saw the early signs of where things are headed. We spied a prototype of Specialized’s disc-specific Crux. In Issue #159 I interviewed Ned Overend; he and fellow Specialized racer Todd Wells are both huge proponents of disc brakes for cyclocross. Specialized is one of the first of the big names to embrace disc-equipped ‘cross bikes. As such, they are setting the agenda for many of the “standards.” Thankfully, the big red S has chosen to use the 135mm rear spacing, rather than the 130mm road standard, which makes finding a compatible wheelset easy; almost any 135mm-spaced 29er wheelset will work just fine. Specialized offer a disc version of the Crux complete or as a frameset.
While hydraulic brake systems fully-integrated with road shifters aren’t available yet, there are many companies working on interim solutions such as external master cylinders, most of which mount underneath the stem or handlebar. TRP has the Parabox, 324 Labs hacks Formula R1 brakes (pictured above), and Hope recently unveiled a system similar to the TRP Parabox at Eurobike.
There were quite a few disc-specific carbon and aluminum cyclocross bikes shown at Eurobike—I’m expecting a similar turnout in Las Vegas.
29er Trail Bikes
I’m calling it now: 2012 will be the year of the 29er trail bike. We’ve already seen the debut of new 120-140mm full suspension 29ers from Banshee (Prime, pictured above), Ibis (Ripley), Kona (Satori), Transition (Bandit Two9), Salsa (Horsetheif), Commencal (Meta AM 29), and Yeti (SB-95). This seems to be the latest niche in need of filling.
Most companies seem to agree that all the pieces are finally here: sturdy wheels, high-volume tires, and the Fox 34, a 140mm-travel 29er suspension fork—which is spec’d on almost all of these new bikes—rounds out trifecta.
I’ll admit, like many others, I was waiting with bated breath for the first glimpse of the Ibis Ripley. Since testing an Ibis Mojo HD early this spring I’ve been impressed not only with the company’s bikes, but also how they do business. Ibis brings bikes to market on their terms, and on their timeline.
Even for readers who have not imbibed the 29er Kool-Aid the Ripley is newsworthy. It’s a step forward not only in the development on lightweight, longer-travel 29ers, but also of suspension technology. Dave Weigle’s dw-link reduced to its most minimal form: two eccentric pivots. Click here to learn more about this suspension design.
What do you want to see?
So there you have it. Disc ‘cross bikes and trail 29ers are the two types of bikes I’m most looking forward to checking out.
But it’s what you want to see that will determine Dirt Rag’s coverage. This year, we’re stepping things up a notch and making sure we cover the things you want to see. We’re harnessing a higher power to help us with our coverage. Yes, you guessed it, Facebook. Use the comments below, or check out our home page all next week, and tell us what you want to see and we’ll do our best to bring you the latest and greatest from Interbike.
By Josh Patterson and Karl Rosengarth
There’s a lot of information flying around out there about disc brakes, some more accurate than others. Here’s a cribsheet of what you need to know from brake experts at SRAM, Magura and Finish Line.
What does breaking, or bedding in, new disc brakes really do?
All new disc brakes—mechanical or hydraulic—have a break-in period where performance will be significantly lower. During this break-in period two things need to happen to achieve full stopping power: the surface of the brake pads needs to be roughened, and material from the pads needs to be embedded in the rotors. Both these things can be accomplished by going for a quick spin around your neighborhood and gently applying the brakes without allowing yourself to come to a complete stop.
Mineral versus DOT fluid
DOT stands for Department of Transportation; this brake fluid is tested and regulated. It must meet or exceed specific requirements for boiling point, consistent viscosity and compressibility under a wide range of conditions. DOT fluids are also readily available at most gas stations and all automotive stores.
When it comes to mineral oil—which is NOT the same stuff you can buy at the pharmacy—there are no such standards. So manufacturers produce or purchase fluids to meet standards they set for their products. DOT fluids tend to have a higher boiling point, but will absorb moisture over time, leading to a decrease in performance. Finish Line manufactures lubricants and brake fluids for the bicycle industry. As a company that produces both mineral and DOT brake fluids what’s their take? David Clopton, of Finish Line, feels many riders get to too hung up on the pros and cons of one fluid over another. “There are much more important factors to worry about. I’d recommend picking the brake system you like the best,” says Clopton. One is not necessarily “safer” than the other either. Both should be handled with care—wear nitrile gloves and eye protection when bleeding brakes using either fluid.
Which brake uses what?
DOT 4 or 5.1
- Avid / SRAM
Not all DOT Fluids are the same
DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5.1 Fluids are glycol-based fluids. DOT 5 is a whole ‘nother animal. DOT 5 is a silicone-based fluid. If you find yourself wondering if you can replace the commonly used DOT 4 or 5.1 in your disc brakes with DOT 5 fluid, STOP! “A black jelly-like substance will form where to two fluids mix. At the very least you would need to changes hoses to salvage your brakes,” says SRAM brake engineer Paul Kantor.
You can, however, bleed your DOT 5.1 brakes with DOT 4 fluid and vice versa. The brakes will feel the same; the only change will be the boiling point of the fluid. “Dot 5.1 manages heat better,” says Kantor. While most DOT 5.1 fluids (never to be confused with DOT 5) do have a slightly higher boiling point, DOT 4 is more readily available.
What would happen if I bleed a DOT system with mineral oil…?
There are no stupid questions…just stupid people who should have asked questions. Bleeding a DOT fluid brake system with mineral oil is like overdosing on Viagra—in both cases the result is unwanted swelling. In the case of your brakes, the seals and O-rings will double or triple in size—prepare for an expensive rebuild!
Metallic versus organic pads— what ’s the difference?
“Organic” is something of a misnomer. It’s not like they’re going to sprout leaves when wet. They have less metallic content, and more fiberglass and resin compounds, than their metallic counterparts.
Organic pads run quieter, particularly in wet weather. They have a smoother feel when engaged and have a more consistent feel under a wide range of conditions, but wear quicker and have less overall stopping power. Magura Product Manager Stefan Pahl notes that organic pads transfer less heat to the piston/caliper. “This helps keep the brake fluid cooler, “ says Pahl. Less change in the temperature of the brake fluids means there will be less change in power as the brakes heat up. For the weight weenies among us, another benefit of organic pads is that organic material can be bonded to aluminum, as opposed to steel backplates, for weight savings, this saves about 10 grams per wheel.
Metallic pads generally last longer and have more overall stopping power. They also tend to produce more noise than organic pads. For those who frequently ride in gritty or sandy conditions, metallic pads will significantly outlast their organic counterparts.
My brakes feel fine, why should I bother servicing them?
According Kantor, brakes should be bled once or twice a year. “There is a certain permeability in all brake systems. Outside moisture will creep in. DOT fluids have a wet and a dry boiling point. The wet point is quite a bit lower than dry boiling point,” says Kantor. Finish Line’s David Clopton adds, “The dry numbers are so off the chart who cares? It’s the wet numbers that matter, they approach the temps where you could actually notice brake fade.”
Even the best hydraulic brakes will get contaminated with air and water over time. DOT fluids will absorb moisture from the surrounding climate. The absorption of water into DOT fluid significantly lowers the boiling point of the fluid, leading to decreased braking performance and fade during hard braking and sustained descents.
Mineral oil does not absorb moisture from the air in the same way DOT fluids do, though air can still contaminate brake systems over time, which can result in a similar decrease in performance.
Three easy things you can do at home—in increasing order of mechanical aptitude:
1. Keep contaminates off your brakes. When lubing your chain, drip bottles are a better option than slathering your drivetrain with a spray bottle. When washing your bike try not to wash grit, grime and grease from your frame and tires onto rotors or into the caliper.
2. Clean rotors and pads with isopropyl alcohol. There are a lot of products on the market that claim to eliminate brake squeal, but regular cleaning of the rotors and pads in your best bet. “Some people get hung up on disc brake cleaners, we find these tend to bring on more squeal issues,” says Kantor. If you have frequent squeal or pulsing issues gently sanding the pads and rotors with fine grit sandpaper can also silence them. Pahl recommends also making sure everything on the bike is appropriately tightened: Check the bolts, pivot points, hubs and spokes.
3. Pull a vacuum on the master cylinder. Short of a full bleed, this is the best way to keep your brakes performing at their best. It is not uncommon for new brakes to have some air in the line as well. Pulling a vacuum on the master cylinder is a quick way to remove trapped air bubbles.
By Josh Patterson. Photos by Justin Steiner, Adam Newman and Jon Pratt
I’ve raced a lot of super-D races in time, but full-on downhill is a new and inviting sport for me. I prepared for my first season of racing by watching the first two seasons of the Atherton Project. They make it look so easy. My DH racing comes at a much more sedate pace, with more crashing. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying myself immensely.
Rocky Mountain’s Flatline Pro is the bike that is introducing me to the world of park riding and downhill racing. Despite what the name may lead you to think, it is actually a budget-friendly bike, as far as downhill rigs are concerned. MSRP stands at $3,100.
The build is also very beginner-friendly. In the world of downhill suspension is king and it doesn’t come cheap.The Rockshox Boxxer RC fork and Vivid R2 shock are both good set-and-forget units. They lack the range of tuning options found on higher-end forks and shocks—this is not necessarily a bad thing; they let new riders dial in the suspension without being overwhelmed. I had my suspension dialed by my third run and was free to focus on developing my skills without worrying about how the bike would perform.
The current trend in downhill—actually, the trend with many longer-travel bikes—is long, low, and slack. Slack head tube angles, low bottom brackets, and longer wheelbases. “Plow bikes” is how I like to describe them. Stable, and able to conquer steep terrain at breakneck speeds. Perfect for World Cup-level racers, but not always the best choice for weekend warriors, and those who also spend a fair amount of time playing around in terrain parks.
The Flatline bucks this trend: It has a low-slung chassis, but a steeper-than-the-norm 65-degree head tube angle, and average wheelbase. It is quite maneuverable when riding in the terrain park, and, at the speeds I’m riding, the Flatline Pro doesn’t give up much in the realm of high-speed stability.
The first race aboard the Flatline was Gravity East Series #4 at Seven Springs Resort. The course was short, with numerous tight turns, and several pedaling sections. This seems like the type of terrain that best suits the Flatline’s nimble handling characteristics. This short video gives you an idea of the terrain.
Here’s how the racecourse looks from top of the mountain to the bottom. If you can stay off the brakes and stick the hairpin turns you can shave precious seconds off your time. Thanks to Dirt Rag’s Justin Steiner for taking the time to shoot this during one of his warm-up runs.
The Flatline’s ability to deftly maneuver though tight terrain should come as no surprise. This bike was born and bread on Canada’s North Shore, where tight, twisty, and technical trails abound.
Here’s the Flatline in its natural environment. Piloted by Rocky Mountain athlete Thomas Vanderham, who is eminently more capable of showcasing this bike’s capabilities than yours truly.
Look for the full review of the Flatline Pro in Issue #160. Order a subscription before October 1 to get the review hot off the press.
By Josh Patterson
The Avita is Kali’s take on an XC/all-mountain helmet. Despite its burly appearance, the Avita is quite breezy—15 forward-facing vents and nine exhaust vents move air through the helmet. A removable, but not adjustable, visor keeps late afternoon glare to a minimum. The shell is constructed from four pieces of in-molded fiberglass.
Two features I immediately appreciated: a cam lock chin buckle for set-and-forget convenience, and forward straps secured to the base of the helmet, rather than internally, meant I didn’t have to remove my eyewear when putting on and taking off this lid. The rear of the Avita does not offer as much coverage as I expected. In fact, it sits quite high.
The retention system uses two ratcheting closures, which can be tightened on the fly, but requires both hands to make precise adjustments. The retention system sits comfortably low, but there is no method to raise/ lower it for personal fit preferences. Furthermore, the rear straps are not secured in the retention system. It didn’t bother me while riding, but I had to make sure the straps were not twisted each time I put it on.
Though the Avita meets both CPSC and EN 1078 standards, the lack of rear coverage (relative to comparable helmets) and the rudimentary strap/fit system (relative to other helmets in this price range) make this a helmet I personally would not buy.
By Josh Patterson
The trails surrounding Sun Valley, Idaho are the stuff of legend. Hundreds of miles of singletrack wind up and down the mountainsides. The lung-searing climbs and scorching descents are the perfect terrain to get acquainted with the completely-redesigned 2012 Scott Spark.
Changes for 2012
The most notable change for 2012 is the addition of 29 inch-wheeled models to the Spark lineup. The 29er Spark has 100mm of front and rear travel. It will be offered in three carbon and three aluminum models. The price range for the Spark 29er series starts at $1,650 for the entry-level aluminum bike, and tops out at $6,500 for the highest spec’d carbon Spark 29. The 29er Spark will also be offered as a frameset.
For 2012, the 26 inch Spark goes from 100mm to 120mm of front and rear travel. This may be a sign of things to come in 26” full suspension race bikes. Since most professional racers now have a 29er hardtail in their quiver; longer-travel 26” bike may be a good choice for those, wanting a bike for rougher courses without the additional weight penalty of 29” wheels. The 26” Spark will be available in seven carbon and four aluminum models. The price range for the Spark 26” series starts at $1,500 for the entry-level aluminum bike and tops out at a wallet-razing $10,500 for the highest spec’d 26” bike.
TwinLoc and suspension integration
Scott’s Twin Lock handlebar-mounted lever simultaneously adjusts the Spark’s front and rear suspension between fully-open, traction and lock-out modes. Open and lockout modes work just like they sound. Traction mode has been updated to limit the fork and rear shock’s useable travel by increasing compression damping. When engaged, traction mode provides a substantially firmer, but not locked out, ride. The 26” Spark’s usable travel goes from 120mm of front and rear to 85mm. The 29er Spark’s go from 100mm to 70mm. The lower-end aluminum models will only feature the ability to switch between open and lock-out.
One click of the black lever engages the traction mode; a second click locks out the suspension. A single click of the silver lever returns the suspension to fully-open operation.
How it works
Front Suspension: Scott collaborated with RockShox to create the DNA 3 system. Exclusive to Scott, DNA 3 uses a three-position damper, based on RockShox motion control system to limit suspension travel by limiting the flow of oil through the forks damping circuit.
Rear Suspension: The new, 220-gram, DT Swiss Nude 2 shock does away with the previous version’s piggyback air chamber, which could cause interference with full-sized water bottles on small and medium frames. The redesigned shock is still a dual chamber model—the secondary air chamber is now integrated into the main shock body. The secondary chamber is used to adjust the spring rate between the open and traction modes. The smaller, secondary air chamber is closed off when the rider switches from open to traction mode. The air pressure in the main chamber remains the same, but since the shock’s air volume has been decreased, the spring rate is greatly increased, firming up the ride and decreasing the shock’s usable travel.
Other notable changes to the 2012 Spark
New Forged Link
Previous versions of the Spark used a link made of multiple pieces. For 2012 the Spark gets a one-piece, forged link, the size of the pivots has been increased and the width of the link, which caused knee interference issues for some riders, has been decreased.
The redesigned suspension linkage now features a chip that adjusts the bike’s geometry. When switching chip from the “high” to “low” position, the Spark’s head angle decreases by .5° and the bottom bracket is lowered by 7mm—these numbers are consistent between the 26 and 29 inch bikes.
Taking a cue from last year’s Scale (see our review of the 2011 Scott Scale here) te Spark’s rear brake is now post-mount. The brake’s mounting position has been moved from the seatstay to the chainstay, allowing the use of lighter weight seatstays and decreasing the effect of braking on the suspension.
The Spark now features replaceable dropouts that to accommodate 139x9mm quick release, and 135×12 or 142×12 thru-axle standards. Unfortunately, the forks used throughout the Spark line still use a 9mm quick-release, as opposed to the increasingly common, and significantly stiffer, 15mm thru-axle.
Not counting grams this go ‘round
A size medium 26 inch carbon Spark weights 1,790 grams, including the rear shock and TwinLoc. “Saving weight was not our goal,” said Adrian Montgomery, Scott’s director of marketing. “Increasing stiffness was out goal,” he continued. Montgomery claims the 2012 Spark’s frame is 60 percent stiffer than the 2011 model. New for 2012 are a tapered headtube and BB92 bottom bracket, both of which were incorporated in the new frame to bolster frame stiffness.
The trails we rode were a cross country rider’s paradise. We traversed scree fields littered with fist-sized rocks, rode sketchy kitty litter-over-hardpack swtichbacks, and blasted down truly buff singletrack descents. Our Western Spirit guides lead our merry band of journalists on five days of epic riding. Plenty of time to become acquainted with the redesigned Spark.
The geometry numbers of both the 26 inch and 29 inch Spark are on the slack end of the XC race spectrum. As such, they are best suited to high speed, steer-from-the-hips riding; both wheel sizes favor stability over outright agility.
Despite the fork and rear suspension’s differing approaches to limiting suspension travel when traction mode is engaged—the fork uses hydraulic compression damping, while the rear uses pneumatic compression damping to limit suspension travel—both the fork and rear shock work well together and provide a balanced feel. The Spark’s suspension is very progressive. So much so that the traction mode firms up the Spark’s suspension to the point that it is best suited to extended climbs without significant technical sections. When climbing rougher terrain with the traction mode engaged the rear end ramped up quickly and did little to keep the rear wheel tracking smoothly over rough terrain. As a result, I left the bike in the open mode for loose and rocky ascents.
Both the aluminum 26 inch and 29 inch models rode extremely well. The 26 inch aluminum Spark could be the perfect bike for the trail rider who occasionally toes the start line at his or her local race series. I preferred to ride the 26 inch Spark in the “low” position. The slacker head angle, longer front center and lower bottom bracket contributed to confidence-inspiring high speed handling. On the flipside, the 29” Spark rode better in the “high” position—it climbed noticeably better and gave up nothing on the descents.
While I was impressed with the handling of the 26 inch and 29 inch aluminum Sparks, there was a noticeable amount of flex in the carbon 29er. It was glaringly apparent while navigating the apex of downhill switchbacks. I could push the aluminum bike through corners without complaint (The aluminum 29er Spark was a hell of a lot of fun!), but the carbon bike needed significantly more steering input and finesse to keep both wheels on the same line.
Montgomery confirmed my impressions: He claims the the production bikes—slated to arrive early this fall—are constructed with a significantly different carbon layup, resulting in frames that met the company’s goals of a 60 percent increase in stiffness over the previous version. We plan to test a production model to see if the claims of increased stiffness ring true on the trail. Look for a full review of the Scott Spark 29 in an upcoming issue.
By Josh Patterson
Today was my first day at the Scott Bicycles press camp, in Sun Valley, Idaho. Accompanying our merry band of journalists was none other than Mountain Bike Hall of Fame’er, frame builder, and founder/component designer of Ritchey Designs, Tom Ritchey.
For most of the day’s ride I attempted (and failed) to hold Ritchey’s wheel as he grinded out the climbs, and quite literally ate his dust as he sped down the dusty, kitty-litter-over-hardpack Sun Valley trails.
You would think Ritchey, whose company has a strong partnership with Scott Bicycles, would be riding the latest and greatest in bicycle technology. Think again. He’s still proudly riding a first generation Scott Spark. And the components? Some of them date back much further, but are just as functional today as the day they were manufactured.
Much like the man himself, Ritchey’s bike is one of a kind.
Old school meets new school. Ritchey introduced these 2×9 cranks in 1996. These low Q-factor Ritchey cranks with 42-28 tooth chainrings are paired to a modern SRAM XX drivetrain.
Tom Ritchey likes to spin 180mm cranks, and these were manufactured to Ritchey’s specifications by Japanese component manufacturer Sugino. Note the material removed from the end of the crank arm in order for the low Q-factor cranks to clear the Spark’s chainstays.
The autograph of Ritchey-sponsored racer, multiple world champion, and Olympian, Thomas “Frischi“ Frischknecht’s autograph graces the top tube.
That’s one way to carry your multi-tool… Ritchey’s CPR-9 is held attacked to his fork with a cut section of an old inner tube. And you won’t see any saddle bag here. Good old electrical tape keeps his tube in place. Ritchey’s pump is held in place by a zip-tie electrical tape combo.
Ritchey is famous for riding without a helmet. On today’s ride he was sporting a very old-school “hairnet.”
While Tom Ritchey may be content to ride an older, and obviously very functional, version of the Scale, Scott Bicycles has devoted extensive resources to develop updated carbon and alloy versions of their XC race full suspension bike, in both 26” and 29” platforms. Stay tuned for Dirt Rag’s coverage of the 2012 Scott Spark, hairnets not included.
By Josh Patterson
Images courtesy of Cane Creek
Air shocks are steadily gaining acceptance for gravity applications. Many riders are weight weenies too. Swapping a coil-sprung shock for an air shock is an easy way to drop almost a pound from the weight of a bike. Cane Creek’s soon-to-be-released Double Barrel Air looks like it will be giving RockShok’s Vivid Air a run for its money.
The coil-spring version of the Öhlins-desgiend Double Barrel provides independent adjustments of high speed compression, low speed compression, high speed rebound, and low speed rebound. It appears all these features have been carried over to the DB Air.
Cane Creek was not ready to talk about the specifics of the new shock just yet. The company plans to debut the final version of the DB Air next month at Euro Bike.
Look for a Made in North America feature on Cane Creek in our next issue!
By Josh Patterson
Hurl is many things, a fixture in the Minneapolis cycling scene, a singlespeeder, an industry insider quick to call B.S. when he sees it, and a tireless promoter of all things bike. Many readers may know Hurl better as the man behind the Cars-R-Coffins brand, which started life as a ‘zine and went on to gain notoriety for CRC’s evocative logo—a casket on wheels, featuring an inverted cross and the number of the beast emblazoned across the front—printed on apparel and other merchandise. Recently, Hurl’s coffee bar-cum-bike shop, the CRC Coffee Bar & Cykel Garage, closed its doors for the last time. Where one story ends, another begins…
What led you to close the CRC Coffee Bar?
The CRC Coffee Bar was open for five years, and in that time I learned a bunch, met some great people—many customers have become friends. In 2009, a major reconstruction of Lyndale Avenue more or less torpedoed us for that year. I was working 75-80 hours a week, both as barista and bicycle sales + service. It was not sustainable, neither professionally nor personally. In January, after negotiations with a local group to take over the café while I’d stay on as the bike guy fell through, I decided it was time to move on to other things, and to focus solely on Cars-R-Coffins as the brand that it is.
So what’s next for you and the Cars-R-Coffins brand?
Cars-R-Coffins is getting a major website overhaul and will focus more on the editorial side of things, as well as more fresh apparel and product offerings—recent collaborations with Mission Workshop, TwinSix and others. Bicycles and punk rock, why the connection? Bicycles ARE punk rock! Bicycles are most kids’ first taste of freedom, and punk rock—at least what was known as punk rock before the co-opting of the title by malls, movies and morons—is very much about freedom. Freedom of musical styling, mood, style, attitude.
On carsrcoffins.com, you mentioned while growing up you felt like “…if you ride a bicycle beyond the age of 14, you are considered an anomaly at best, a freak by most.” Do you think this mindset still prevails?
The mindset may be changing somewhat, with the recent surge of cycling as a popular lifestyle for young urban citizens. But overall, in America, the car is still king. For most kids, as soon as they get a driver’s license their bike gathers dust. And Urban Outfitters will move on to the next youthful trend. Do I sound like a geezer!?
What does ‘Bike Culture’ mean to you?
Bike Culture? Like a Petri dish? I don’t know anymore. It used to loosely mean any and all things associated with a bike lifestyle. Now it seems like a watered down buzzword for urban fixed-gear riding and commuting. Not bad things, mind you, more like a catchall term that is too generic to really be defined.
About that nickname, who bestowed the moniker ‘Hurl’ on you, and why?
During college I was working at 2nd Nature Bicycles in Eugene, OR. The owner’s name was also Tom. My middle name is Earl, so I was ‘Earl’ on the schedule. Eugene is the ‘herb’ capitol of the Northwest, and our shop was a converted old bungalow. The mechanic station was at the back, and the sliding glass door to what once must have been the home’s patio was now our parking lot. One of the local ‘herb dealers’ would usually flip us a doobie when we fixed a flat or whatever. Herb is pronounced “erb.” So my pal Jeff thought “Earl” should be spelled “Hurl” with a silent ‘H’. Then I got hooked on phonics….
Bicycle-related advancement you love?
Suspension. Suspension isn’t a necessary feature in order to enjoy a mountain bike ride. Lord knows I’ve ridden my share of rigid singlespeeds. But you can undoubtedly ride faster, and farther without getting beat up.
Bicycle-related advancement you loathe?
31.8mm handlebars. While they may be slightly “stiffer” and give the perception of “greater control,” most people don’t need stiffer bars, in fact, they probably need the opposite, and aesthetically they look horrible. I think it was/is just a ruse by the industry to simplify stem sku’s.
Heard any good music lately?
I try to only listen to good music, but recent “new” music I’ve enjoyed are Tame Impala (from Australia) and True Widow (Texas). Both are guitar-heavy. Tame Impala more psychedelic, True Widow more downtuned, slow, but LOUD!
This interview originally appeared back in Issue #156. To make sure you get to read them as soon as they’re available, order a subscription today for just $19.95 a year.
By Josh Patterson
The Zaskar 100
The Zaskar 100 is new for 2012 and replaces the Marathon in the GT lineup. GT designed this bike as a race-ready bike for the weekend warrior looking for a performance-oriented ride with that requires a minimum of maintenance.
GT’s engineers were able to reduce the frame weight by 25 percent while maintaining the same level of stiffness. The rear triangle was completely redesigned, simplifying the swingarm—the entire rear end is one piece.
The iDrive suspension was also adjusted. Gone are the old suspension pivot fasteners, which used the once common Shimano-splined 20-tooth bottom bracket interface. This was a convenient method for securing the bearings at home or in a shop—when cartridge style bottom brackets were more common—but the system relied on a tool few riders carry with them on the trail. GT has replaced this with pinch bolt pivot clamps that use common 4mm bolts that thread into replaceable inserts.
GT’s suspension system used a flexing link, connected to the front and rear triangles to manage the bottom bracket’s motion through the suspension’s travel—this was necessary because the bottom bracket is attached to the rear, rather than the front triangle.
The new carbon I-Link is designed to pivot, rather than flex. GT claims the new pivoting I-Link is more durable and improves frame stiffness.
GT will only be importing the $4,200 Zaskar Expert, one of three 26-inch Zaskar 100 models, to the United States. One of the reasons cited for introducing one of three bikes in the line was the growing popularity of 29-inch bikes in the XC-race category in the States.
GT is also introducing a “budget” DH racer. Downhill racing is not a cheap sport, and the Fury Alloy retails for $3,150 but includes as much bang for the buck as GT was able squeeze into a bike. The frame is constructed of hydroformed 6061 aluminum with a monocoque front triangle. Suspension duties are handled by a Marzocchi 888 RV fork paired with a Marzocchi Roco R coil shock.
The alloy version of GT’s carbon World Cup DH race bike shares identical geometry and is designed to meet the needs of weekend warriors and resorts looking for a reliable, low-maintenance bike for their rental fleets.
Zaskar 9r Pro
Much like GT’s new Zaskar 100, the Zaskar 9r Pro was designed to meet the needs of privateer racers: riders looking for the performance of a race bike and need it and the components to hold up to the rigors of daily riding. The fork is a 100mm Rockshox Sid 29 RLT with 15mm Maxle. The 9r Pro’s drivetrain uses the updated Shimano XT. Learn more about the new XT group here.
The Zaskar 9r Pro’s monocoque carbon-fiber frame carries over signature triple triangle design which aids in tire clearance, and it should have no problems clearing 2.3 tires. It will be offered as a frameset as well.
Another nice feature is the modular dropouts, allowing riders to switch between geared or singlespeed use.
Last but not least, a bike that harkens back to GT’s roots in BMX.
A modern take on GT’s ‘80s BMX freestyle bikes. The frame is constructed of high-tensile straight gauge steel and retains the classic Performer design with relaxed 26” BMX cruiser geometry. The Performer will be available in chrome with gold components or white with blue components. Pegs are included for homie-hauling duties. At $479 I have a feeling GT is going to sell a lot of these.
By Josh Patterson
Fox is introducing two changes for 2012: one that makes their suspension forks even smoother, and one that makes their shocks more adjustable.
Up front, Fox forks will be using new low friction wiper seals manufactured by SKF. Aftermarket seals are now available to for your fork.
The kit includes SKF low friction wipers seals, foam rings, O-rings and crush washer. The kit is available for 32, 34, 36 and 40 series forks. Retail is $25 for 32mm forks, $30 for 34 and 36mm forks, and $35 for 40mm forks.
Swapping out seals is an easy process but the SKF seal installation differes from the standard process by requiring the wipers to be lubricated both inside and out before being seated with a special driver tool. The driver tool is specific to each seal diameter and retails for $35, or $140 for the 32-40mm driver kit.
In back, Fox is now giving riders the ability to tune their own shocks.
Why would a rider want to do this? Air shocks are very adjustable, but some riders fall outside of the bell curve that most stock shocks are tuned for. Clydesdales in particular stand to benefit from this aftermarket adjustment. Riding style or local terrain can also necessitate changes to the stock spring rate.
To change the spring rate of an air-sprung shock one must increase or decrease the volume of the air chamber. Increasing the air volume will result in a more linear spring rate. Conversely, decreasing the volume of the air chamber will result in a more progressive spring rate., the shock will “ramp-up” quicker.
The $25 Air Spring Volume Tuning Tit includes three spacers which decrease the volume of the air chamber by .2 .4 and .6 cubic inches. Installation is straightforward, and can be done with the shock still mounted on the bike. With all the air pressure released from the shock, unscrew the air sleeve from the shock body and snap spacer onto the air canister’s shaft.
Safety note: There are combinations of air spacers and shock volumes Fox does not recommend due to the resulting compression ratios being either too high, or too low for safe riding. Visit Fox Racing Shox’s service website before making these adjustments.
Service instructions for seal installation and air volume adjustments can be found online.