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Sea Otter Classic - NE

USA, April 6-9, 2006

In the pits at Sea Otter: Day four

As well as an extended weekend of road and mountain bike racing, the Sea Otter Classic has become the standard venue for bike and component manufacturers to conduct early launches of new equipment that will appear in the shops later in the year. The skies turned a more appropriate shade of grey for Sea Otter on the last day of the event as the sun hid itself away and the rain started to fall again. Conveniently, however, most of the exhibitors had covered tents so there was still plenty of new stuff to be seen (or not seen as the case may be), as James Huang found.

Gary Fisher and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski work closely to develop Race Day platform

Gary Fisher worked closely
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Both single-pass and double-pass welds
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A forged box-section swingarm
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A narrow 68mm bottom bracket
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Hydroforming is used extensively
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Bontrager collaborated
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The new XXX Lite crankset
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JHK’s Race Day
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In addition to the heaps of other product that companies introduced here at Sea Otter, Gary Fisher officially debuted its new Race Day full-suspension cross-country race bike platform to the public. Gary Fisher worked with Subaru-Gary Fisher team rider, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, to develop the new frame much in the same way that its parent company, Trek, designed several of its OCLV carbon road frames in conjunction with Lance Armstrong and the rest of his US Postal Service and Discovery Channel team.

According to Ryan Atkinson, assistant brand manager for Gary Fisher, “we have a really good system at taking athlete requests/test requests and processing that info and designing what they’re looking for. When we decided to develop the next Sugar, [team riders Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Willow Koerber] said they wanted a bike that weighed no more than 23lbs for a large size, and it had to be at least as stiff and fit identically to their hardtails.”

The final product is said to weigh just 4.6lbs for a large frame and offers 76mm of rear wheel travel. Multi-pivot rear suspension arrangements may offer some benefits, but Fisher stuck to a tried-and-true single pivot design that provided the desired combination of light weight, pedaling efficiency, chassis rigidity, and durability. Pivot placement is optimized for pedaling in the large chainring, and the main pivot bearings are widely separated to provide a more rigid connection between the two ends.

JHK also had a few other requirements that were quite specific to his unique desires. Typically, he uses a 2x9 drivetrain setup and generally seeks to narrow his pedaling stance as much as possible. As such, the new Race Day uses a 68mm bottom bracket shell (Trek’s family of MTBs normally use 73mm shells) and also elevated stays to facilitate tucking the two arms and chainrings closer to the centerline of the bike. Even the swingarm pivot placement was adjusted to make room for the chainrings.

When all is said and done, Horgan-Kobelski’s complete Race Day rig weighs in at just 23lbs, complete with pedals and Bontrager’s new carbon crankset and tubeless-ready carbon fiber disc-specific wheels. Fisher will offer three 26in wheeled Race Day models starting in May as well as two 29in wheeled versions the following month. Some production details are still being finalized, but given JHK’s reputation for being a steadfast hardtail devotee and the fact that he raced it here at Sea Otter this weekend, it seems that even the preproduction Race Day is good enough to meet his needs.

FSA to introduce complete road and MTB drivetrains

It has long been speculated that FSA would develop a complete drivetrain, including shifters and derailleurs, but details have been few and far between with little other than rumor and hearsay to go on. However, FSA’s Ric Hjertberg offered Cyclingnews some rare information on what lies in store.

FSA will not only offer a complete 10-speed road drivetrain, but also a 9-speed off-road one as well. The road kit will include FSA’s own integrated shift/brake levers of an as-yet undisclosed configuration, rear derailleur, dual-pivot brake calipers, chain, as well as the front derailleur, crankset, and bottom bracket components that they already offer. Newly-devloped mountain bike components will include front and rear derailleurs, shifters, and chain.

Hjertberg did not offer up much in the way of details, but he did mention that the road brakes will resemble those from Mavic (and now SRAM) with an integrated reinforcing strut. FSA’s new chain design is said to be a “reinvention” of sorts, to the point where FSA will likely have to look outside the typical collection of bicycle chain manufacturers in order to get it produced.

The new drivetrains are a truly international collaboration that involves engineers and designers from five different countries. The development crew comprises a hand-selected group and Hjertberg likens the process to putting something on the big screen. “This group was put together specifically to work on this project," said Hjertberg, "but like a film production, these people may never work together in this arrangement again.”

Details on the new kit would obviously be nice, but at the very least, word that there will now be a fourth road component option and a third mountain bike option is certainly exciting news and we will report more as soon as information becomes available.

Intense Cycles expands lineup with 29er and road frames

Intense Cycles gets into the 29er game
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The new Spider 29
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The gusseted down tube
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Stiff and light dropouts
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The Fenix
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Intense saw fit
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Jeff Steiber had expanded his Intense line of mountain bikes to include a brand-new 29er frame as well as not one, but two new road frames. Intense Cycles has enjoyed a healthy level of success in the off-road marketplace, particularly with the release of their Spider VXP, 6.6 EVP, and M3 frames, all of which use VPP suspension technology licensed from Santa Cruz. Intense decided to explore different markets, however, in order to grow their business.

The new Spider 29er uses the same tubeset and 4in travel VPP system of its 26in wheeled brother but with revised geometry to accommodate the oversized wheels. Steiber devoted a lot of attention to tweaking the handling characteristics of the bike to match that of the original Spider. Short (for a 29er) 18in chainstays retain a reasonably compact wheelbase, and a unusually steep 73° head tube angle not only provides a similar trail figure as the 26in version but also a virtually identical front center. According to Steiber, the unique characteristics of the bigger wheels almost require the steep head tube angle (until 29er fork manufacturers increase the rake of their forks) and the enhanced ability to roll over objects negates the steep front end’s tendency to eject its rider. Target weight for a medium frame is approximately 5.6lbs and suggested retail should mimic the standard Spider XVP at around US$1900. Frames should be available around June or July.

In addition to the new 29er, Steiber has begun to realize his long-standing desire to produce a road bike. To that end, the fall Interbike show will see the official debut of his full carbon fiber Fenix and aluminum and carbon fiber Carbine frames. The Fenix is said to offer neutral handling via a suitably versatile geometry and will allegedly come out of the same factory that produces Pinarello’s F4 carbon frameset. Target weight is a modest 1200g and a frame, fork, and integrated headset will carry suggested retail of approximately US$2200. The Carbine uses the new Easton EA6X aluminum alloy for the main triangle along with an Easton EC90 CNT rear end for US$1500.

Odds and ends

Finally, here's a few things that caught my eye because they were quirky, clever or just downright cool.

Titus rolled out a 6in-travel proto
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Burley showed this crosser
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Vital fuel
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Retrotec's curvy tandem
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