Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 41

The Lenz Lunchbox I got to ride at Interbike in 2007 thanks to Mike Curiak
Ten years ago this week on the blog I shared an image of the Lenz Lunchbox belonging to Mike Curiak that he brought for me to ride at Interbike. This was the bike with the "super-secret" tires on it that Niner Bikes mistakenly showed on the floor of Interbike that year when they were not supposed to.

In a fitting irony, the testers of the then unnamed tire decided that this design wasn't cutting it and a new design was worked out instead. Unfortunately, by the time the eleventh hour decision was made to change directions, the first design was tooled up and ready to go. This first tire was known as the "Kodiak 2.5"" tire.

The second design, deemed much better by nearly all who ever had ridden both designs, was called the "Descent 2.5"" tire. So, what about the Kodiak was it that became ironic? Well, the very company that exposed the design too early ended up buying the entire production run of the Kodiaks. Niner sold them on their long travel 29"er. They also sold them separately.

I remember asking Curiak why the first design was panned and he said something to the effect that the Kodiak was too much of a "one trick pony". It was only really an effective design in one specific condition and area where the Descent was a much more versatile tire. In the end, the Kodiak and the Descent were too far ahead of their time. Only now, ten years down the road, are we finally seeing a push to make big, tough, voluminous 29"er tires for trail riding on long travel 29"ers.

The Trek Slash 9.7 29"er. See any similarities to the Lenz?
That Lenz bike was also ten years ahead of its time. Of course, we now have better wheels, tires, and forks to make the idea work. The "geometry du jour" is different, yes, but this Trek Slash owes a lot of its DNA to the groundbreaking work of Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Lenz and Curiak were doing stuff in '07 that many in the industry were saying was impossible to do. Yet there they were, largely ignored, and yet making a fully capable, high performing platform which was doing the job with big wheels that others could only pull off at the time with 26" wheels.

Looking back on that day I got to ride that bike, I had little idea that I was riding something from the future. The tires, the deep travel, the capable geometry which, by the way, was so different from the then current thinking on geometry that it could be thought of as being from another planet. Curiak purposefully held back any specific geometry information from me until well after I had ridden the bike, because he knew that had I known the numbers up front it would have colored my impressions of the bike. He was right, because those geo numbers, which would be considered tame by today's standards, were so outside of the box, circa 2007, that I would have laughed at him had I known what they were ahead of time.

It is no small feat then, and in no way hyperbole to say that the Lenz Lunchbox was a game changer. Devin Lenz went on to make a 7" travel bike dubbed the "PBJ" and it further pushed the boundaries of 29"ers. Now everyone is being taken aback by all this big wheeled intrusion into DH and enduro territory, but the mold was cast ten years ago, and I got to ride the prototype.

Thanks Mr. Lenz and Mr. Curiak! I never would have believed it then, but you two helped usher in an era of big wheelers that is nothing short of amazing.

1 comment:

Warren Kurtz said...

Always loved the Lenz designs and still hope to score a Milk Money SS someday.