Monday, October 31, 2011

Post Nano 29"er History: The Year 2007

This is the third post in the series "Post Nano 29"er History" which aims to give the reader the sense of how 29'ers have become as popular as they are today. If you missed the first installment, please click here.  Part II is here. If you are looking for more on 29"er history before 1999, please see my page on 29"er history here. 

2007: By this time in the 29"er movement, it has become apparent that big wheeled mountain bikes are more than just a novelty. Several companies introduce new 29"er models during this year. This solidifies the category in mountain biking, yet- two big companies have yet to jump on board- Specialized and Giant- and the European market wants nothing to do with 29"ers at this point.  So, while things seem to be going gangbusters in North America, 29"ers are not a "slam dunk" yet. 

Mid-Level Companies Join The Fray: 

Haro Mary SS
 Mid-level bicycle companies, seeing the 29"er growth, start to jump in with 29"er hard tails like the Haro Mary, seen here. These models were typically steel, single speed, (or multiple set up bikes with capabilities for gears or single speed), and often had a rigid fork. 

Haro was a bit unique in that they brought out a geared version of this bike later. That bike had a Rock Shox Reba on the front. 

While more choices were welcomed as far as hard tail bikes went, the almost universal use of the 38mm offset Rock Shox Reba and the overwhelming introduction of steel single speed, (or sold as single speed), bikes was getting to the point of over-saturation. 

Riders were looking for more, and by that, they meant Fox Shocks and full suspension bikes. (Beyond the meager offerings by Gary Fisher, and the small company offerings like Lenz and Ventana, which were hard to come by)

Raleigh XXIX
Another interesting addition to the 29"er ranks came from left field. Raleigh, who were not known as a mountain bike company at the time, (having not made a "serious" push in high performance mtb since the halcyon days of John Tomac), brought out an unusual bike in the XXIX. A steel single speed, it had a non-suspension corrected fork, which matched up its geometry with the way most bikes were being sold at the time- 72 degree with a slightly longer offset in the steel fork. What then came as a bigger surprise was when Raleigh introduced the geared version of the XXIX, dubbed the XXIX+G

Coming into stock late in 2007, this bike sported a 80mm travel Rock Shox Reba- no surprise there. However; Raleigh did not correct the geometry to match the XXIX, instead they kept the frame exactly the same, (in terms of angles as welded up in the jig), and what resulted was a slack-ish, high trail figure bike so unlike anything else in the market at that time it was shocking. (You could get an XXIX to handle the same way by simply putting a 80mm Rock Shox Reba Gen I on it, by the way)

Fox Forks! Finally!
Fox Forks Become A Reality:

Late in 2006 rumors were running about that said Fox Shocks were working on a "29"er specific" front fork. Well, those rumors turned out to be what has now become probably one of the bigger developments in 29"ers history since the Nanoraptor and the 2005 Rock Shox Reba. Once again, the common thread through all of this is the Gary Fisher Bikes company.

While attending the 2006 Interbike show, I had the opportunity to meet the man himself, Gary Fisher. In our brief conversation at the Fashion Mall on Las Vegas' Strip, Gary uttered the following line....

"Soon we will all be able to tune our rides." 

What Gary was talking about then, only he and a handful of Trek and Gary Fisher engineers knew about. It was the fact that, first of all, Fox shocks would be entering the 29"er market. This was huge in and of itself at that time. However; what was being done in regards to geometry would have a long lasting effect on 29"ers that affects riders right up to the current times. Namely, that we can tune our rides. 

Gary Fisher Bikes, along with parent company, Trek Bicycles, paid for the development and the forgings and molds to produce the Fox shocks, and they also brought it out with an extra long offset. This was part of what they were dubbing as "G2 Geometry", a new thing for 29"ers, and an extension of Fisher's Genesis Geometry introduced in the late 90's for 26"ers.

The offset for the 29"ers was decided upon after much rider testing, where different offsets were blindly tested and riders gave feedback on handling traits. Up to five different offsets were tried, and when the word came down as to what was universally decided was best, Trek/Fisher R&D rider and MTB Hall of Famer Travis Brown said he "couldn't believe it". It turned out to be a radical 51mm.

Fox also did a G2 specific crown for the 26"ers, set at 46mm, and after Gary Fisher's year exclusive, this became the offset for the aftermarket 29"er forks. Some forks from Manitou also were set at this offset, and they became available at about the same time as the Fox Shocks. Manufacturers gravitated to the longer offset in subsequent years, and now this is the prevailing figure for fork offsets for 29"ers that are not "G2 Geometry".

But that doesn't mean other forks use 46-47mm offsets. In a phenomenon that suggests the Fisher experimenting is being used yet today, some Fox and Manitou forks have a 43-44mm offset, and some 2012 Jamis models, for instance, still come with 38mm offset forks. Tune your ride indeed!

Thanks for reading this two-part series. I will be adding this to the 29"er History Page for future reference.

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