Dirt Rag Magazine

Spotted in the pits – Windham World Cup tech report

By Karl Rosengarth and Jon Pratt

Fox Racing Shox iCD

It’s been spotted quite a few times already this year, but now we’re getting more details on Fox’s iCD electronically controlled suspension system. Both Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Chix) have been running the iCD on the World Cup circuit this year, but at Windham there were a total of nine riders on the system.

The battery-powered system electronically switches between three modes:

  • Both front and rear shocks fully open
  • Rear locked out
  • Both front and rear locked out

We got a chance to play with it in the pits, and the three-position switch operated smoothly, with a distinct detent for each position. Switching time is on the order of half a second, and the compact design takes up minimal space on the handlebars.

 

The iCD adds about 70g to the fork weight and about 140g to the combined front/rear shock weight when compared to a cable-actuated system.

The motor drive is contained within the upper right fork leg and is housed externally on the shock. Since Fox has partnered with Shimano for projects in the past, it’s no surprise that the system uses Shimano’s Di2 battery from its electronic road groups. Fox told us the system will operate for months on a single charge.

Look for its official launch this fall.

New rim profiles from NoTubes

Tubeless pioneers NoTubes were showing off their latest products, including the Flow EX rim and the IronCross rim.

As with the Arch EX, the Flow EX is an updated version of the popular all-mountain rim with shorter sidewalls and an increased spoke bed thickness. The interior width swells to 25.1mm, and a larger bead hook more securely holds the tire. It is available now as a rim or complete wheelset in 26-inch and 29-inch, with 650b on its way. Claimed weight is 1,800 grams.

The popularity of disc brakes for cyclocross bikes has skyrocketed in the past year, and NoTubes has added a new wheel just for that application. The IronCross wheel – named after the 62-mile “Ultracross” race, has a 20mm internal width and will work with tubeless or traditional cyclocross tires. They are available as built wheels with 24/28-hole drilling or as rims with 32-hole drilling. Claimed weight is 1,520 grams.

Bontrager one-piece carbon stem/handlebar

While cruising the Subaru-Trek team pits, we spied this integrated stem/handlebar combo. The mechanics told us it was only a “case study” at this point, with the few existing samples going out to racers and test-riders. The expected benefits are stronger and lighter cockpit systems.

In the quill stem era, integrated bar/stems were produced in aluminum by Klein and in chromoly by Grove Innovations. Would a carbon incarnation in the threadless headset era have more staying power? Time will tell.

Kenda 650b tires

Kenda told us they have a number of 650b tires in the works, and they had samples of the popular Karma and Slant Six models on display at Windham. Both tires will be available in SCT (sealant compatible tubeless) and tube-only versions.

The SCT tires have a new bead design (non-UST standard) that improves locking to the rim. An updated sidewall design is claimed to hold air better and lessen sealant leakage, while adding only 50-125 grams to the tire (depending on model).

The 650b Karma will be available in 2.0 width in September. Expect the 2.1 Slant Six in January 2013. They’re also working on a new model, dubbed the Honey Badger, which will be available in all three sizes as well.

Wicked Wash

The folks from Wicked Wash were on hand at the Windham bike wash to give riders the VIP treatment. Participants could simply roll up to the bike wash, hand their dirty bike to one of the smiling Wicked Wash guys, and kick back while their bike was being washed and then rinsed clean. How cool is that?

We watched the "spray-on, wash-off" action being repeated in a manner of minutes per bike, as we interviewed Wicked Wash inventor Andy Rodriguez. We learned that the Wicked Wash formulation (which is neither a degreaser nor a citrus-based formula) is safe on petroleum-based products such as seals, and it will not contaminate brake pads. The stuff really cut through the dirt and left bikes squeaky clean. A 32oz. spray bottle retails for around $13, with refills available in various sizes.

The Wicked Wash guys are hoping that their service with a smile approach at Windham will convince the promoters of the UCI Cyclocross World Championships to invite them to Lexington, Kentucky, for an encore performance in February, 2013.

Trek World Racing

In the pits we caught up with Dylan Howes, the director of frame technology at Trek, who was at Windham to get firsthand feedback from racers about how the bikes are handling the course and what, if any, changes could be made to future designs.

He said there are no “planned” changes to the current Session 9.9 (which won its fourth race in a row) but Howes and his team are looking at possible changes to the wheelbase and pivot height. He was naturally uncommitted about saying anything on the record.

What he could talk about was his aim to balance ride quality with plushnes, and high-speed square-edge bump responsiveness. It’s a difficult balance between plushness for big hits while maintaining pedaling efficiency.

He said he learns a lot from the professional downhill racers who can feel things that need tweaking that his own team cannot.

This season the team is running the carbon Trek Session 9.9, a full Shimano Saint group, Gamut chain guides, and Funn bars and stems. He said the biggest change this year was switching to Bontrager tires. The team has been racing on the brand-new G5 tires, of which there are only 17 pairs in the world. The team works very closely with Frank Stacy, the tire guy at Trek, and tires are a huge part of the team’s success, Howes said.

KHS DH650b

KHS Factory Team Manager Quinton Spaulding is totally psyched about 650b wheels for downhill racing. He told us that based on his prototype testing, the tween wheels offer traction advantages with no compromise in handling. “Nothing lost, only gained,” was his executive summary.

KHS is fully committed to the production of an all-new DH650b model, based on the suspension platform used on the company’s current DH300 bike (shown here). The first production bikes are due off the line in about six weeks. Look for KHS rider Logan Binggeli to pilot the DH650b at the upcoming Red Bull Rampage in Virgin River, Utah.

The plan is to have the Factory Team riders thoroughly test the DH650b throughout the end of the 2012 and into 2013, with an anticipated release to the public in late 2013 or early 2014.

Crank Brothers Mallet pedals

Several of the top pros have been running all-new "Mallet DH Race" pedals from Crank Brothers since April 2012. Crank Brothers used racer input to tweak their existing Mallet pedals, to better suit the needs of DH racers. The company gathered feedback from sponsored riders such as Hart, Minnnar, Gwin, and Peat (to name just a few).

With its longer spindle and re-designed, wider platform, the DH Race pedal offer a more secure connection to the bike for riders running wider shoes, and less shoe-rubbing on the crankarm.

No word yet on price or weight, but expect all to be revealed around the time of the 2012 Interbike trade show in September when the company expects to release the DH Race pedals to the public.

The existing Mallet pedals remain unchanged, as they still fit the bill for trail riders who prefer a wider platform for all-around riding. 

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