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Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, September 22-26, 2008
Part 9 - September 29, 2008: More ride reports from the Outdoor Demo
By James Huang in Las Vegas, Nevada
Trek Top Fuel gets a dose of nitrous
Trek introduced its revamped Top Fuel to the world two months ago but this year's Outdoor Demo provided the first opportunity to actually throw a leg over one. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait.
We extend our apologies to current Top Fuel owners as the new version is no simple evolutionary step forward. The 2009 Top Fuel's substantially lighter weight is substantial (and noticeable) but we're far more excited about the vastly improved overall feel and suspension performance.
The stiffer chassis accelerates more enthusiastically yet the new carbon frame also provides a far smoother ride quality as opposed to its forebear's occasionally chattery feel; the word 'glide' wafted through our minds more than once during our two-hour ride through Bootleg Canyon.
While it's difficult for us to say whether or not Trek's ABP (Active Brake Pivot) system offers a real-world advantage in this shorter travel application, the new rear end is still clearly better able to keep the wheel firmly planted than before. It's still effectively a single-pivot system but careful tweaks to the suspension rates and Trek's Full Floater dynamic shock mounts seem to be doing their job.
Our Outdoor Demo tester wasn't in full production trim, though: the flat bar was swapped for a wider Bontrager carbon riser and the high-zoot carbon clinchers were traded in for more standard Bontrager Race X Lite wheels with aluminum rims. Both changes were clearly geared towards better survivability amongst Bootleg Canyon's endless minefield of jagged rocks. We expect things to get even racier once we get a hold of a properly outfitted long-term tester but for now, our initial impressions are very favorable.
Up and down (and up and down) on SRAM's new road gear
On paper, SRAM's revised Rival group had already struck us as 2009's performance value leader with its more Red-like function and feel but an unrelentingly undulating one-hour test ride on the roads surrounding the Outdoor Demo venue definitely reinforced our hunch.
The most significant change is to the DoubleTap lever shape which is now a virtual carbon copy of Red. The curvier lever blades (now made of carbon) offer a more natural fit and they're also about 10mm longer for an easier reach while in the drops. The larger Red-like shift paddle shape is also more accessible from all positions.
Rear shift performance remains the same as before but front shifts have quickened with the addition of Red's Zero Loss internals which also now yields an outer trim position.
Not to be overlooked is Rival's new black finish which, at least in our eyes, looks decidedly more upscale than the original's polished silver.
Our late-morning spin also included a set of SRAM's new S60 60mm-deep aluminum-and-carbon clinchers. Though they're not particularly light at a claimed 1750g per set, the weight really isn't all that noticeable once you get moving.
Instead, the S60s mostly struck us as fast and smooth. SRAM borrows the S60 rim's toroidal cross-section from Zipp's analogous Flash Point model and the Sapim stainless steel spokes are deeply bladed. Though it's hard to say how effective the built-in vibration damping features really are, we'd ridden the Scott Addict frame of our test bike enough times in the past to suggest that something might actually be happening here.
Even so, we'll reserve final judgment for when we get a test set of our own and have more control over tire and pressure variables but so far, so good.
Hot laps on BMC's new Trailfox
BMC improves on the promise shown with last year's Trailfox trail bike platform with an all-new version for 2009. BMC continues on with its dw-link-esque APS (Advanced Pivot System) suspension design but travel on the top-end TF01 now grows to 140mm. The revamped rear end also thankfully cuts the chain stay length to a far more reasonable 433mm (17.05"); last year's Trailfox was a rangy 450mm.
Frame weight has dropped, too, and is now down to 2.55g (5.62lb) without the Fox RP23 rear shock. There's extensive use of hydroformed triple-butted 7005 aluminum, the bottom bracket and main pivot are forged in halves and then welded down the middle to yield a hollow shell, the upper link uses similar forged-and-welded construction and the rear brake is now post-mount for use with 185mm rotors. Pivot hardware has also grown in diameter and now uses Loctite to prevent loosening.
Hopefully BMC will use a little more Loctite than what was used on our Ourdoor Demo tester, though, as the main pivot backed out about 10mm during our quick trial. To be fair, Outdoor Demo bikes tends to be the most heavily thrashed of any demo fleet but this raised our eyebrows nonetheless.
Save for some nasty creaking (we didn't notice the loose pivot hardware until nearly finishing the ride), the APS rear end still did a good job of hugging the terrain and it also pedaled pretty well considering our hasty shock setup. The shorter chain stays also make it easier to loft the front end when needed.
Overall handling seemed reasonable enough even with the odd setup of our demo ride: the zero-offset post was paired with a long 120mm stem that yielded a decidedly forward weight orientation. Production units are more likely to come with layback posts but even so, the top tube felt shorter than the 590mm (23.2") figure quoted for our medium size.
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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com
Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com