Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday News And Views

WTB says it is "Plus Road". Others say "Welcome to the party". (Image courtesy of WTB)
Road Plus?!!

Fat, 650B tires and steel frames have been a "thing" since the 1940's or so. In certain times, the style and availability of parts was almost non-existent, but it never went away, and builders and small, niche companies kept the flame going for years up until now. Compass Tires, Velo Orange, Kogswell, and Rawland, amongst others, have spurred on an inetrest in 650B road-ish rigs with fat, 42mm-50mm tires all these years, and now some upstart mtb company has the chutzpah to come around with a similar tire and say it is a new thing.

You can read all about that here, but I find that some of the reactions to the news are very predictable. On the one hand, we have all the rando freaks, bike nerds, and traditionalists saying that this isn't any big deal, but have a variation on "this isn't as cool as "X" brand", or on the other hand say, "welcome to the freak show". I also wonder about some of the reactions since it is a company like WTB and that there is a new marketing twist on the old theme now. It's almost as if some are feeling put out that their niche is now being "exploited" and revealed to the masses. I remember seeing similar reactions when Specialized and finally when Giant came out with 29"ers. Well, whatever the deal there is, I will say I was a bit surprised that WTB did this.

Will it catch on? Look.....WTB introduced the 27.5+ tire to the market and everyone laughed. WTB also introduced 29"er tires first back in 2009 and everybody laughed. Hmm......

Heller Bikes "Shagamaw" 27.5+ bike (Image pinched from Fitzgerald Bikes Facebook page)
The Bike The Teens Will Be Noted For

I had to work on a Diamondback Ascent the other day at the shop. I was explaining to a young co-worker, just out of college, that this was the bike style that defined mountain bikes in the 90's: A steel hard tail, 26" wheels, of course, rigid fork, low head tube, long seat post extension, and a relatively long, flat rise stem with really narrow "broom stick" handle bars. You could argue that the "oughts" were defined by the hard tail 29"er with everything new that the format brought. Now we're solidly into the "teens", and fast ending this decade. I feel that the defining bike of this decade is something like the new Heller Bikes Shagamaw. (Is that a city in Michigan that made sub-par 4 speed manual transmissions? Hmm....) Anyway, this bike features a slack head angle, long front/center dimension, a stubby stem, really wide bars, "plus" sized 27.5 wheels, and a Chinese "catalog" carbon fiber frame.

NOT a carbon Stache. (Pinched from Lamere's Facebook page)
27.5+ sized wheels are really taking off now, and the geometry the hard tails use these days is anything but XC racing. Nope- it's all about enduro/all mountain now, so the geo reflects that- Slack, long, stubby stemmed. The frame reflects the growing trend of "consumer direct purchase" type frames, which has spawned a cottage industry of small brands who have stepped in to broker deals on batches of frames and sell with prices that maybe are not as good as the direct from factory to consumer buys, but not too much higher, plus there is a company Stateside to deal with any issues. Heck, even industry giant QBP sat up and took notice, creating their own Heller Brand to basically do the same thing as the smaller brands have been doing.

So, where will the "standard" mountain bike end up growing next? Hard to say, but I never would have predicted we'd be looking at a bike like the Lamere or Heller back ten years ago. By the way, the Heller bike is brand new, and if you are going to Frostbike, you'll get to see it. I won't, as I am not going to be there, as I said yesterday. I'll be out riding my gravel bike since it will be the best day yet all year to do that.

Okay, so, if you are like me, and are itching to ride in decent weather, by all means, do so! CIRREM riding this weekend? Good luck! Going to NAHBS? Geek out! See ya later and keep the rubber side down!


Rannier Wolfcastle said...

Theyre not Compass cool because compasses are bigger (1mm!), slightly lighter and cheaper (standard version), 102g lighter and 12 bucks more (extra light version), probably more supple, and came out first.

WTB released a tire that is roughly the same size, tread, and appearance as an existing tire. Good thing that bike plagiarism is fine, because that wouldn't end well in another industry.

Daniel Lemke said...

I've got a Niner RLT9 Steel and while I can easily get 40c tires on there now going 650b with the WTB tires would increase comfort and traction over rough terrain. I'm going to have to put some thought into this because it sound intriguing.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rannier Wolfcastle: To be fair, I don't think the Compass offerings have a bead made to UST standards, nor does Compass offer a complete tubeless system, Which includes rims, tape, valves, and sealant- as does WTB with any of their TCS tires and rims, including the Horizon.

So, this is for sure a situation where the products are similar, but the execution of the products design is quite different.

Also, in the case of similarities, or as you call it, "bike plagiarism", Compass is not free from such a label. While the Compass tires you refer to came before the Horizon tire, it can easily be shown that other tires with similar intentions came before the Compass offerings, and that the Compass tires are clearly very similar to their predecessors. In fact, Compass is a brand set up to recreate products from a specific genre which either no longer exist, or were antiquated in some way which Compass has taken the opportunity to modernize. How is what WTB is doing any different?

Imitation? "Bike plagiarism"? Seems to be the lineage of the entire industry, not just in the case of the Horizon tire, wouldn't you agree?

Doug Mayer said...

@Guitar Ted: You're absolutely right, and I'm glad there's a TCS tire like this now! Most Panaracer-made tires I've come across seat well tubeless, but their 'tubeless ready' tires don't seem to be made to any defined spec.

Another comparison/contrast with Compass: they like to hang their hat on superlight, thin, and supple sidewalls for maximum tire compliance and pneumatic suspension. They do feel amazing, but are something of a liability if sharp gravel or stone is in the mix. From the published weights, it would seem the WTBs are aiming for more sidewall cut resistance.

Great to have more options!