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Interbike show -

Las Vegas, Nevada USA, September 25-29, 2006

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Interbike Part 4 - Interbike On Dirt Demo, day two

By James Huang in Las Vegas, NV

The Virtue One is Felt's new top-end
Photo ©: James Huang
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Felt Equilink design offers another viable rear suspension alternative

Much hype has surrounded Felt Bicycle's intriguing new Equilink rear suspension design. At first glance, the system resembles Giant's Maestro or Dave Weagle's DW-Link system with their corresponding pairs of short upper and lower links connecting the front and rear ends but what distinguishes Felt's Equilink setup is third member that directly couples those links together. The resultant Stephenson-style six-bar linkage is obviously a bit more complicated than the ubiquitous Horst-style or faux bar four-bar linkage, but it does impart an enhanced ability to fine tune the kinematics.

Engineering speak aside, most of Felt's claims about the new system are old hat: 130mm of fully active travel, complete resistance to pedaling inputs, consistent traction, excellent small bump compliance, no need for stable platform valving, yada yada yada. More interestingly, the system is said to practically eliminate rear-end squat due to acceleration forces, regardless of weight transfer or gearing. Conveniently, day two of the Outdoor Demo provided us with an open-ended opportunity to actually test the new top-of-the-line Virtue One's mettle (albeit briefly) on the trails around the venue.

The long red link behind the seat tube
Photo ©: James Huang
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So how'd it do? First impressions were that of deceptively light feel (the top-shelf parts spec supposedly pegs the Virtue One's total weight at under 26lbs) and exceptional pedaling response. True to Felt's word, acceleration was immediate with excellent feedback and was arguably the closest thing to a racing hardtail that I've ridden in recent memory with nearly zero rear shock compression under even the hardest and sloppiest pedaling strokes.

On bumpier terrain, the Virtue offered an efficiently firm XC-like ride. There is little sensation of movement to disrupt your concentration, but multiple visual inspections of the included Fox RP23 shock revealed that we were using all of the available travel. Lateral rigidity of both the front and rear ends was also very good with predictable and nimble handling. The small bump compliance could possibly stand for a little improvement, but we'll reserve final judgment until we've had the opportunity to test things out on our own trails on familiar rubber.

Overall, though, the Equilink system is clearly one of the first truly new rear suspension systems we've seen in some time now, and Felt has already adapted the system into a longer 160mm travel chassis to be shown at the indoor expo. We'll see how things shake out, but the initial experience is quite encouraging.

Tektro goes high-end with TRP line

Tektro's new all carbon fiber cantilever brake
Photo ©: James Huang
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Taiwanese brake powerhouse Tektro has generally been known for its good quality and solid design, as well as its ubiquitous spec on hordes of low and mid-ranged bicycles. No longer content to sit in the middle of the pack, Tektro hopes to add a bit of panache and high-end credibility with its TRP line of performance brake bits.

Cyclocross season is upon us already (where did the summer go?), and a pair of 'cross products were on timely display at Tektro's booth at the Outdoor Demo. A new cantilever brake features a semi-low profile and stout all carbon-fiber (as in not just carbon-wrapped aluminum) arms. Full titanium hardware help Tektro achieve a claimed weight of just 128g per wheel, including cartridge brake pads. MSRP will be approximately US$130 per wheel.

Carbon fiber also graces Tektro's new TRP crosstop levers. While not necessarily much lighter than aluminum, the carbon fiber lever blades are particularly broad and smooth, and should be a bit more comfortable behind your fingers. Barrel adjusters are made from aluminum, and the milled-out lever clamps will be offered in specific 24mm, 26mm, and 31.7mm diameters. Exact weight and pricing was not available at the time of the show.

On the road side, Tektro also introduced a new set of carbon fiber dual-pivot brake calipers. These do use an aluminum skeleton underneath, but company representative Lance Larrabee assures us that the carbon plays a key structural role and isn't just cosmetic. Nonetheless, the new brakes will weigh just 140g per wheel with full titanium hardware and will cost exactly US$1 per gram.

Energy food juggernaut Powerbar
Photo ©: James Huang
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Endless sea of energy drinks keep ODD attendees hydrated

You clearly weren't looking hard enough if you were at either of the Outdoor Demo days and weren't able to get enough fluids into your body. Of the roughly 136 exhibitors out at Bootleg Canyon, there were at least eight that were offering some form of energy or electrolyte replacement drink.

Many of the exhibitors were old regulars that were mostly showing off tried-and-true formulations in new flavors. Energy food icon Powerbar had a particularly tasty new iced tea flavor on hand. I can't say whether or not it did anything useful, but it certainly was true to its labeling. Ok, maybe it tastes more like the powdered kind instead of sun-brewed with a hint of lemon, but I chugged it down gleefully nonetheless. Cytomax also had a rather yummy cranberry grapefruit flavor for sampling.

The folks at Accelerade were the first to incorporate protein directly into an energy drink. To this day, they still claim to offer the only one that is intended to be used during activity, and that may hold true as several protein-enhanced elixirs on display at ODD were specifically aimed at recovery, including hey protein-boosted EMEND. Its Heat Recovery Formula is dubbed as "engine coolant for your body" and is said to replenish electrolytes at the same ratios at which they are lost. I certainly won't claim to be an expert in that arena, but its use at event medical tents at events as the Hotter 'N Hell 100 in Texas certainly doesn't hurt its case.


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

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