Saturday, March 14, 2020

Gravel Grinder News: The Stormchaser Lands, New Zipp Tire

Single speed, but don't worry- you can gear it up too. (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)
Salsa Cycles Introduces A Surprising Bike: 

In this business I am engaged in, I get embargoed press releases from time to time. The deal is that I get to see the info a week to two weeks ahead of "official release". Of course, I don't have to withhold the info, but if I don't, well...... You know what happens next?

You quit getting these embargoed press releases, that's what.

So, I was flabbergasted about two weeks ago when I saw this. A single speed gravel bike? I mean, look..... I'm all about single speed bicycles, as anyone would know if they read this blog. So, from where I sit, this is cool, but in terms of the market place, it's weird. 

The whole undercurrent of single speed action was a big deal in the 90's. Super-rad, cool, awesome mountain bike companies back then did limited releases of single speed mountain bikes. Riders were converting geared rigs to single speed and there started to be a counter-culture movement which maybe never was more cool or subversive as it got in the Minneapolis area, of all places. This spawned the beginnings of Surly.

The whole fixie thing happened in the 00's and alongside that, somewhere it was deemed that every 29"er hardtail had to be a single speed. After 2010, that all died away, and the whole single speed thing seemed, well......dead. And now that this was all out of our systems, we could, you know, move on.

There were still single speed bikes, of course. There would always be single speeds. But the whole "movement" was long since dead. It was, well.....something the oddballs rode. No one in their right mind does single speed as their everyday choice. It wasn't "the cool thing" anymore. And why on earth would anyone make a high end single speed bike? I mean, really. 

New sliders from Salsa fit for flat mount brakes and through axles. (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)
 But here this press release comes. Wow! I cannot remember the last press release I got all about a high end single speed. Maybe it was Spot Brand. Maybe it was somewhere else, but it probably has been close to ten years since I've seen anything in this price bracket come down the pipe for single speeders.

And yeah, the asking price seems a bit dear for an aluminum framed bike, but it is Class 5 VRS. That doesn't come cheap or easily. Those tubes are all special drawn and formed. It's about as custom as it gets for a production frame since nothing on it is "off the shelf" tubing. So, we aren't talking apples to apples here if you are thinking aluminum frames are "inexpensive". They are if they are gas pipe thickness and straight gauge, box-stock tubing from the aluminum factory. But that's the perception, isn't it? The bicycle industry raced to the bottom price-wise and used aluminum frames to do it with. Look at any "box store" bike shaped object and see what the frames are made from. Aluminum. So, the perception is all aluminum is cheap. 

So, it seems hard to see how this frame and the complete are priced what they are priced at, but I think a big problem here is perception. The perception that aluminum is the least of the frame materials. This is probably going to work against this frame somewhat, but the Class 5 VRS thing is real, and if you were going into an event with the knowledge of mud and grit being there, you're better off with a metal frame over carbon, and titanium is very expensive and steel is probably not going to work as a Class 5 VRS design without being a boat anchor.

So, we'll have to see how it goes for Salsa with the Stormchaser. I'm sure it will engender a lot of conversation.

The new Zipp Tangente 40mm gravel tire.
 Zipp Introduces A Gravel Tire:

Another surprise hit my inbox on Friday. The new tire from Zipp is somewhat out of left field here since Zipp is more well known in triathlon and road. But you know, if it is gravel, then it's gonna sell! So it looks like everyone is all in on gravel anything they can make now days.

Zipp has done tires before, but they were ostensibly part of a system of aerodynamic wheel design. Not a stand alone tire so much. This new Tangente tire doesn't seem to be getting marketed as a companion part of an aero system, although Zipp does recommend the 303 wheel model as being an ideal fit for this tire. Just a suggestion though.

But beyond that, what about this tire? Well, a 40mm width is par for the course, so Zipp hit that right on. Tan wall, check! So, they got the fashionista part right. (Although I like skin wall tires, I don't think everyone should.) Now about that tread pattern.......

Immediately after seeing this tire I clicked over to the Donnelly site to check out an MSO. Hmm...... There is a pretty strong resemblance there! So, give Zipp credit for picking a tread pattern that is nigh unto a classic one from Donnelly. If the same company doesn't make both tires, I'd be surprised. If I am right, then this Zipp tire would be a really good gravel/adventure tire. So, okay........why buy the Zipp one? 

Well, let's face facts. If you are a roadie/tri rider, and checking out this new fangled gravel thing, (which is neither "new" or "fangled") you probably have never heard of Donnelly. But you probably have heard about Zipp, and there is a good chance you have Zipp wheels, or know someone that does. So, "Oh! Zipp has this gravel tire, so why not get that? They make good wheels, so...." And there ya go. Marketing 101.


KC said...

I don't get the aversion to modern aluminum frames. They're really not the harsh ride any more.

Ari said...

I rode a caad 10 and it rode really well.