Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Three Coolest Things At Frostbike 2012

Okay, you know the drill. You go to a bike show and the inevitable question for everyone that attends that is going to be asked is the following: "So, did you see anything interesting? Did you see anything you thought was cool?"

Al right, okay........that is actually two questions. But they almost always come in tandem, so I am calling it "one question". Sue me! Anyway......here is my answer. since I cannot/will not winnow it down to one thing, I am going with three. I'm sure that will be more interesting anyway, right? Right then.....

10 speed: Get a grip!
Grip Shift returns in 10 speed: I was tipped off to this by our SRAM rep, and it was a cool find at Frostbike. Ten speed compatible Grip Shifters.

When 10 speed XX and XO came around everyone wanted to know if a Grip Shifter would also be offered. (Well, not everyone, but a lot of folks did want this.) At any rate, the shifters were not offered right away, but apparently there was enough pressure from manufacturers and riders to bring back a ten speed version.

The first hint that something was coming was this past summer when Pro XC Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy, was seen riding a ten speed version of a Grip Shift shifter. Rumors that SRAM was going to offer a ten speed version were hot and heavy, and now here is the proof.

The details are not entirely clear, but here are some solid points I gathered at Frostbike and afterward from SRAM:
  • There will be a XX and XO level 10spd Grip Shift pair offered for now. No lower groups will have this for now. 
  • XX level will have carbon fiber for the outer housing. XO is injection molded plastic. NOT aluminum as some sites are saying. (I asked about this specifically)
  • The internal indexing will be accomplished by ball bearings. I was told that due to the precise requirements necessary for ten speed indexing, a traditional ratchet/spring method was not sufficient for the level of shifting precision SRAM wanted. I was told that the shifter would also feel somewhat smoother due to this different internal design. Apparently, it is not advised to take one apart to look as I was told, "...you'll have all kinds of ball bearings on the floor if you do." (take it apart). 
  • Final pricing and availability will be announced at Sea Otter along with more details on the shifters themselves. 
Manitou Marvel 29"er

 Manitou Marvel and Tower 29"er Forks: For about the last three years plus we have been told that Manitou was going to have a tapered steer tube and 15mm through axle fork options for 29'ers. Prototypes were shown to me three years ago at Interbike, but no production models were being proffered since. Well, now, after a long wait, they are about ready to be unleashed.

Along with this comes Manitou's XC 29"er fork line, the Marvel. The Marvel will be 80-120mm forks and Tower forks will be 80-140mm forks. Both lines will have 15mm through axles and tapered steer tube options along with the traditional 1 1/8th and 9mm quick release options.

Marvel and Tower 15mm through axle forks will use the new Hexlock tapered axle technology where instead of threading into the stanchion, the hex shaped end of the axle fits into a corresponding pocket and this holds the Hex while you rotate the QR lever till you can cam it over to lock down the axle. It looks pretty trick and should be easy to use.

The lowers are all new to reflect the move to the through axle and feature a stiffer chassis with the new crown as well. Of course, the tapered steer tube will be welcomed to those who wanted a Manitou that would be compatible with their frame's tapered head tube.  These aren't quite available yet, but they should be later in the spring. I was also told to expect to see these on 2013 models of 29"ers. (Updated 2/21/12: Note: Due to a miscommunication, I have learned I was mistaken about the Marvel. It will not be a 29"er fork. 26"er only for now. Manitou will only offer the Tower and Dorado as 29"er forks for 2012. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)

The prototype "FBFS" (Fat Bike Full Suspension)
Salsa Cycles Prototype Fat Bike: Of course, everyone was buzzing about this rig. Salsa Cycles is officially saying it is ........well, not  on the radar for production. Really, they just don't have enough figured out yet to know if it will even work right.

Admittedly, the front fork just isn't there. The Maverick SC32 forks, (as shown here), are abysmal as far as flexiness and from a tire clearance standpoint. Yes- insiders have known that Lefty fork clamps have been developed for fat bike usage, and one has to assume that a prototype of this bike exists that is sporting one. Obviously, a better take on the bike will be gotten from that fork, but there are other issues.

The suspension damping and compression is going to be affected by such a voluminous air spring, (I'm talking about the tires), and how the suspension reacts to that and trail input  along with a riders pedaling the whole shebang on top of all of that, well..... It's no wonder that Salsa Cycles can not really say much about the project. There are a lot of data points to be gathered, analyzed,  accounted for in redesign, retested, more data points gathered, etc. It's going to be awhile before Salsa will even know what to do with the project.

Big tires + suspension = "Big If".
Another issue being dealt with is how a tire with better traction affects the suspension, frame structure, and surrounding parts, especially brakes. Lots of considerations here to look over carefully.

Salsa folks were "optimistically guarded" when discussing this proto, but it was easy to tell that everyone was extremely excited about the possibilities. Obviously, it would be a big deal for them to have this work out, so you have to think it is on the front burner, as far as projects go.

One more thing- One person mentioned how the mere existence of this bike will push tire and rim design forward. I'd have to strongly agree with that, especially since almost everything fat bike is in house at QBP when it comes to tires and largely so in the rims department. I look for much to come from this, even though it may be radically different than what we are looking at here.

And those are my top three most interesting, cool things I saw at Frostbike 2012. That isn't to say there weren't more cool things, but I'll be mentioning those in the coming days.


Jon said...

I was hoping to see fat bike fenders from Surly (or Salsa). Any news on that front?

Guitar Ted said...

@Jon: 45NRTH is going to do a fat bike fender. It will be a while before that happens, as they are just into the beginning stages of conceptualizing a design. Planet Bike is "looking at it", which is Industry talk for, "there isn't a big enough market to make it worthwhile yet", most of the time, so don't hold your breath there.

MG said...

I know of a MPLS designer that's doing fenders for many of the popular fatbike designs. I have photos of the fenders that Ben from 22 Cycles sent me during a recent discussion. They look very nice... Unfortunately, the Mukluk is the one bike they have not been able to develop the fenders for, as the designer apparently has not been able to get a bike to do fit-up testing, so Mukluk owners (like myself) are the one group currently out of luck... Bummer. They are nice looking fenders, from the photos I've seen.

hollister said...

Someone should show them what not to do, or something……