Thursday, April 16, 2015

News Season 2015: Titanium & Weirdness With Big Wheels

Wait.....what the....!! Half an elevated stay?!!
Elevating The Species:

Trek has had the Stache model in the lineup for a couple years now and while it was well received, I thought they kind of missed the boat by using too long a chain stay length when everyone else was clamoring for sub 17" stays and was getting it from other companies. I stayed away and got a Singular Buzzard instead.

Then Trek came out with a 29+ tire in late '14 dubbed the Chupacabra. Of course, they did not have a bike for it. Well, it was no secret that they would do a bike for this tire, the question was what it would be. Waiting for the frame geometry to be dialed in and for a fork to be produced specific to the design, Trek was biding their time.....until now. 

There is a lot going on here, and Trek has been doing work on this idea for three years now. The testing showed that the design needed to have shorter chain stays than the original Stache and that the then new 29+ idea was perfect for a trail hard tail design. In fact, Trek is claiming this redefines the trail hard tail. Being that the Manitou decided to jump in and do a 29+ and 27.5+ specific fork, Trek could push this idea to fruition. The fork comes in at two levels and is dubbed the "Magnum Pro" and "Magnum Comp", by the way. It takes its design cues and internal workings ideas from Manitou's previous Dorado and Mattoc forks and features the new front spacing standard of 110mm, called "Boost110". This makes for a more laterally stiff wheel which is smart. (I think they should have just gone to 135mm, but hey! Whadda I know?) Clearances for 3.25" tires on the fork, by the way.

So, 420mm stays when the through axle is pushed all the way back in the sliding drop out, (Stranglehold drop out is actually an ovalized slot type drop out that is fully enclosed.) , and it is single speed compatible. Compatible with 29, 29+, and 27.5+ type rubber, so its really versatile. Three versions, (Trek says more are coming, and I'll bet some are 27.5+), plus a frame set.

Obviously, with all the elevated this, squished seat tube that, you aren't going to run anything but a 1X system here. This is what makes a frame like this possible though, and in many ways, this is the culmination of an idea Gary Fisher and Mark Slate worked on back in 1999/2000 where Gary wanted short chain stays, longer front center, and a suspension fork, which ironically was a modded Manitou back then! Looks like things have come full circle, eh?
Stache 5 with rigid 100mmOD fork

Stache 9 with dropper post and Manitou Magnum Pro

The return of a classic gravel bike.
 Vaya Titanium v2: 

Ever since the Vaya came out in a titanium version, I have wanted one, because they make killer gravel road bikes. The geometry of these rigs is darn near perfection, and with the frame done up in smooth titanium, it makes the perfect gravel travel rig. However; the titanium Vaya was always hard to come by, even when they did make it at first, and then they switched to stainless steel with couplers. Not a bad idea, but not exactly titanium either. Plus, that steel frame came with a titanium price tag, which was vastly misunderstood by most riders. May as well buy a titanium bike, right? So, I decided to stay on the sidelines again....

Then yesterday, in a surprise announcement, Salsa Cycles comes back with a Titanium Vaya, and it has a modernized head tube, fantastic geometry again, and big tire clearances. WooHoo! But, it isn't all perfection here.

I still am not a huge fan of an adventure bike having paint on it if it is a titanium frame. Frame bags, dust, and the rough and tumble nature of gravel riding means that stuff isn't going to look good after a while. Titanium always looks good if it is bare, and maintenance of the finish is simple. I like the "purposeful" look and when you slather on the frame bags, who cares what color the tubes are?

The other thing is that while the rear drop out is replaceable, it isn't single speed compatible. While SRAM thinks we need 1X for gravel to simplify our gravel adventures, they and Salsa didn't think about what usually happens out there- rear derailleur carnage, that's what. Give me a solution to that and keep yer durned 1X gruppo and replaceable hangar to yerself! But, yeah......I am digging this new Vaya.

Deore XT 11 speed
SRAM Says 1X, Shimano Says "Whatevs!"

Shimano is killing it, in my opinion, and the new Deore XT is another step in the right direction. Offering everyone an option, and not forcing the front derailleur-less group on the masses, Shimano has come out with such a wide range gearing set up it is crazy. 3 X 11? Are you kidding me? 11-40 and 11-42 cassettes without a weird driver? Nice.

Now don't get me wrong, I like 1X stuff and I see where it makes sense, but when you deny me triple, and even double ring, crank sets, that's not cool. I rode a Deore level triple on a test bike last Fall/early Winter and it was eye opening. The cadence and momentum advantages were very evident. The shifting was super smooth, quiet, and not an issue at all. The range was spectacular. This was a 3 X 10. Imagine a wide range 11 speed cassette and a triple that was efficient in shifting performance with a bike packing set up. I mean really, when was the last time anyone blew up a front derailleur on a tour? Rear derailleurs and cassette bodies? Yeah, those get roached all the time, but you rarely hear about a front derailleur issue, only that it wouldn't shift. And Shimano has that sussed out now. The front derailleur isn't evil, (Anymore. At one time, yes- maybe), and I feel many would benefit from using them if they understood how. Because some people do not is not a reason to dumb down the drive train to 1X, but again- maybe it will make for a great entry point for non-cyclists until they learn the skills necessary to operate a triple. You know, gaining a skill set should be seen as something worth doing, not something to avoid, or made a negative.

Okay.....rant mode off!


Brian McEntire said...

Can I get an amen?!? I have triples on both of my steeds and wouldn't have it any other way. Once I garnered the skill for the original adjustments, it has been set it and forget it. Zero problems and lots of benefits IMO. Long live the triple! GT rocks! \m/

MG said...

That Stache is the first Trek I have truly wanted in the past 10 years, at least. Awesome...