There were lots of cool scuttlebutt going around at Frost Bike this past weekend. Here's a quick recap of all the 29"er related stuff I heard or saw.
Forks: Manitou Minute forks are going to be a reality later this summer. The big deal here is another choice with options, options options! You can get three different travels in two different axle formats. So for instance, you can have 80mm, 100mm, or 120mm in QR or thru axle. You can get two different damping platforms, TPC, or the new Absolute. Color available is white, but OEM's will have some different colors available to them. Of course, you'll have to purchase a complete bike to get those color choices. The coolest thing is that you can get either a 40mm offset or a 48mm offset! I think the best choice would be 48mm for alot of 29"ers with the 40mm offset good for the steeper head angle bikes like the Mamasita and the Intense Spider 29"er. The show sample that was a 100mm travel thru axle model weighed just a smidgen over 4lbs with an uncut steerer.
Also on the rumor side was talk about Fox entering the 29"er market this summer. This is something I have said would happen this year too. Look for an offset suitable to 29"ers from them as well.
Tires: First, the Maxxis Crossmark is very nearly here, probably within a month or two. Reports from rides on prototypes are that it is one of the fastest, best cornering tires in the 29"er format. This rings true with what I've heard about the 26"er version of this tire, as well. Asked about tubeless tires for 29"ers, a Maxxis rep said that it probably won't be happening from them.
I also laid eyes on a prototype Continental 29"er tire that will be offered in a 2.4" and 2.1" version. (Which in "Continental" terms will probably mean a 2.1" and 1.8" tire!) The tread pattern was somewhat open with low, triangular shaped knobs arranged in the typical "helter skelter" Conti pattern. No name on the casing could be discerned, but the tread area was emblazoned with little "King Pin" logos inbetween the knobs. Take that for what it's worth. I have known for awhile that more 29"er tires were coming out of Germany, so this is a confirmation of that.
Finally, there was some vague scuttlebutt about Panaracer developing another 29"er tire in addition to the Rampage and the co-branded Fire XC tire with IRC. No distinct info came my way, and the lips were pretty tight on that one. The Panaracer rep was quite inqusitive about what I thought would be a good addition to the 29"er tire market though. Hmmm.......
I spoke to the Kenda rep too. He mentioned the well known fact that Kenda has invested in a tire mold machine that will be capable of exceeding the currently maxxed out 29"er molds in terms of casing size, and importantly width. This won't come online for at least a year or more, but you can bet that tire designs are waiting in the wings that'll blow peoples minds in terms of size. Kenda is going to have to get their return on investment, so look for a huge 29"er fattie to make an appearance soon after the machine is up and running!
Also, availabilities are going to improve drastically on the currently available Rampage and Smallblock 8 tires with new shipments arriving on these shores within weeks. Panaracer will have 800 units of the Rampage coming in to QBP alone. Good news as the season gets underway!
Trends: Many people I spoke to in the industry agreed that the trend is going to be towards longer travel forks, dual suspension platforms, wider, beefier tires and rims, all with an aim towards developing a freeride/ all mountain 29"er. Interestingly, some folks in the industry bemoan that trend and would rather see a light weight, short travel 29"er fork mated to strong lightweight XC wheels and tires in the belief that the 29"er already has enough bump smoothing ability. They see it as promoting 29"er benefits more instead of masking them behind longer travel suspension, which will also increase the weight of the bikes tremendously. We'll see, as I am quite sure there is no stopping the trend towards the all mountain, long travel 29"er.
Next: Look for some specific bits I picked up at the show for testing and some further commentary in the next couple of posts.