Friday, March 01, 2019

Salsa's New FS Models Portend A Change In Standards

Anyone notice the new logo too?
If you pay any attention at all to mountain biking, and to Salsa Cycles in particular, you know that their full suspension line up was due for an overhaul soon. In the fast paced world of mountain biking, anything a few years old or older stands a fair chance at becoming "antique". Suspension systems and geometries for bikes ten years ago are so woefully poor and out of fashion now that if you were to walk into a repair shop to ask about fixing one, you'd likely get a weird look and a long story about why you shouldn't do it. Not that you couldn't, but with the advancements in technology and geometry, it wouldn't make sense to, most likely.

And with Salsa's latest full suspension offerings out now, there is something here of note that portends a sea change in "standards" which is going to, most likely, render every full suspension 29"er out now an antique in five years. That new "standard" is called "Super Boost". But before we get into that, let's have a look at the Salsa FS line up, shall we?

The "Rustler" 27.5"er
Horsethief 29"er
Spearfish 29"er
Note: All Imagery Courtesy Of Salsa Cycles.

Okay, those are the bikes, and there are more colors and specs and all of that. I'm not going to rehash those things, as you have likely been subjected to enough of that media blitz anyway. If not- GO HERE.  

Pivot Cycles was the first to champion "Super Boost" in 2016
I'm going to focus on why this debut signals the end of what you know for rear wheels for full suspension bikes going forward. It's not Boost, it is Super Boost. (Although, notably, the Rustler 27.5"er is Boost rear end)

When someone decided to try a full suspension 29"er trail bike in the "oughties", one of the biggest negatives was wheel flex. Laterally, 29"ers pretty much sucked compared to the rigidity that 26"ers had in terms of wheel stiffness. This is one of the reasons why many said 29"ers would never be for anything beyond XC bikes. Another issue was the longer chain stays. Shorter chain stays were valued for their ability to lend a more playful feel to the rider on a trail bike. Lofting the front end was easier, and getting your weight behind the rear wheel was next to impossible with many 29'ers of those days.

A few things came along which made 29"ers a viable choice for big country, and eventually, even down hill bikes. First was the 1X system from SRAM which eliminated the need for a front derailleur. This allowed the designers of mountain bikes to shorten chain stays, make room for bigger tires, and move suspension pivot points to locations that were off limits previously. This was an advantage to those wanting to use 29"er wheels in their FS designs. Secondly, Boost rear end spacing incrementally increased the spacing between the rear flanges of the rear hub, triangulating the rear wheel spokes in a more rigid fashion than before. This allowed designers to utilize 29"er wheels in longer travel applications. So, if a little was good, more could be better. This is essentially what "Super Boost" does. Refer to the chart above/left and click the image to embiggen to see what the differences are between Boost and Super Boost.

But why will Super Boost become the de-facto rear spacing for full suspension bikes? Well, think about this for a minute. If Salsa is making Super Boost full suspension available on a mass scale, then they needed to have partners to supply certain bits to accommodate this change. Hubs are the lynchpin of this standard. Without Super Boost hubs, this idea is not getting off the ground. Salsa is, at best, a "mid-tier" brand, not a company with enough economic "horsepower" to effect a change on the scale of industry-wide acceptance of a new standard without other companies joining in. WTB is listed as the brand for the new hubs.WTB is also not going to start branding Super Boost hubs without a larger OE order than what Salsa can muster. So, it stands to reason that other brands will be debuting Super Boost rear suspension models. My best guess is that around Sea Otter time, we will see these new bikes being trotted out.

Pivot Cycles was actually the first brand I ever saw promoting Super Boost, back in 2016, (see here), but other small brands have championed the size since then. Now some companies in the boutique world actually support Super Boost, like Industry 9. So, this didn't come from left field. This has been bubbling to the surface, and now it is poised to become the rear spacing/hub standard going forward.

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