2001 Interbike International Bicycle Expo

Las Vegas, USA, Sept 29 - Oct 3

Index to all Interbike 2001 reports

Hitting the dirt

By Gerard Knapp and John Stevenson

Model Year 2002 is another year of consolidation and refinement in mountain bikes, rather than a year of dramatic advance, but there's nevertheless always something new in the fat tyre world.

Notable new stuff at Interbike included SRAM's X.0 components; the first '29 inch wheel' bikes from a large manufacturer; Fox suspension forks; and Cannondale's Gemini bike. The strongest trends were the firming up of suspension bike categories and women-specific bike designs

SRAM X.0

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SRAM's X0
Photo: © Cyclingnews

SRAM may finally be set to challenge Shimano XTR's hegemony in cross-country racing with its X.0 rear derailleur and shifter. The X.0 derailleur uses a mix of 7075 aluminium, magnesium and Grilion composite to get the claimed weight of the short-arm version under 200g (the short-arm XTR weighs 207g, according to Shimano's usually accurate weight lists).

The matching 'Shorty' shifter gives the 1: actuation required by the derailleur and has a new grip design; the front shifter uses what SRAM term 'micro-adjust' shifting, which is likely to mean a finely graduated ratchet so you can tune out chain rub, rather than the usual three steps.

X.0 is still very much in development. An impressive roster of riders is involved in the development process, including Thomas Frischknecht, Rune Hoydahl, Bart Brentjens, Ned Overend, Greg Herbold and John Tomac. According to SRAM's Liz Buckingham, X.0 should be in the shops in the late quarter or early third quarter of 2002.

The new 29ers

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26in vs 29in
Photo: © Cyclingnews

'29 inch wheel' mountain bikes have been around for a couple of years now. By fitting fat tyres to 700C wheels and cramming the resulting wheels into custom frames, makers like Willets have been getting the benefits of larger wheels in the dirt. The extra size means the bike rolls better and the wheels are less likely to get swallowed by typical trail potholes.

This year, 29 inch went mainstream with the introduction of two big-wheeled bikes from Gary Fisher, the Supercaliber and Mt Tam. Both use IRC Notos tyres, Marzocchi forks and Bontrager rims to accommodate and assemble the all-important wheels.
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Fisher Supercaliber with 29in wheels
Photo: © Cyclingnews
Fisher claims he's asking the question 'Is 26in the ideal size?' It's a damn good question, and it'll be interesting to see if the answer turns out to be "No, 29in is better" or "Even if it's not, it's so entrenched that nothing is going to make it go away in a hurry."

Foxed

It was inevitable that Fox would one day enter the fork market; it's almost surprising it took them so long. Given the company's rep for quality rear shocks, the forks have been greeted with enthusiasm, but they weren't exactly a common OEM spec; not surprising as they're seriously expensive and supply is currently somewhat limited. Nevertheless, if you want to get Foxed, take a look at the Specialized Stumpjumper M4 Comp, FSRxc Comp and the Klein Adept Pro, among others.

Gemini

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Gemini with annotations
Photo: © Cannondale

Cannondale showed the productarnation of the Gemini downhill bike announced a couple of months ago. However, this bike is a lot simpler than the double-shock, multiple-pivot monster tested by Cannondale's downhillers this season. The final Gemini is a single-pivot freeride bike with a three position shock placement to give 140mm, 150mm or 170mm of rear wheel travel. p> The Gemini's pivot sits behind the big ring, fore of the seat tube, an unusual placing for Cannondale, but a sensible one for a bike that won't get raced uphill by anyone sane. As a side effect, this moves the front derailleur off the rear suspension and back on to the main frame.

Trend #1: suspension classes get sorted

The strongest trend in suspension bikes was the organisation of the industry's thinking into three distinct categories: downhill/chairlift; fradventure/playbike; and lightweight. There's still some blurring at the margins, of course but for the most part these clear divisions have allowed designers to come up with more purposeful bikes than in previous years, and its noticeable that some companies have focused their efforts in the areas they do well, rather than trying to create a huge range of suspension bikes providing something for everyone. The Trek family (Trek, Gary Fisher and Klein) is homed in on lightweight suspension, for example. All three brands use air shocks exclusively (except for Trek's low-end Y26) on their cross-country duallies. None make a serious freeride bike (roughly defined as having over 4 inches of travel at both ends) and their two downhill rigs, Trek's Diesel and Fisher's Repack, are essentially the same frame and available just as frames.

Specialized's FSR bikes, on the other hand, cover all the bases. Cross-country is taken care of by the lightweight Stumpjumpers and Rockhoppers and freeride by the Enduro models, all with air shocks. Chairlift jockeys are serviced by the two BigHit bikes, one a full-on DH sled, the other a triple chainset-equipped machine at the chairlifty end of the freeride spectrum. Oh, and last year's daft mudguards are gone. Hurrah!

Speaking of Specialized, the Morgan Hill boys have been busy developing new materials in conjunction with noted bike tubing manufacturer Columbus. The E5 alloy previously only available on the S-Works Festina team issue road bike is now available further down the line and its mountain bike equivalent, M5, appears on the S-Works hardtail and FSRxc bikes. This is a high strength aluminium alloy containing silicon, copper, manganese, magnesium and zinc. Specialized claims M5 has exceptionally high tensile strength (so you need less for a bike frame) and retains more of that strength after welding. That means you need less metal in the heat-affected zones, traditionally the place where bike tubes are substantially thicker.

Trend #2: Women's bikes

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Specialized's Stumpjumper for women
Photo: © Specialized

Those companies that have traditionally offered bikes specifically for women had larger ranges this year and claimed the female market was growing and increasing in importance for them. Among the bike manufacturers, Trek and Cannondale have been the traditional leaders in this area, and are now joined by Specialized with a women's design version of the Stumpjumper hardtail.

These bikes are no longer just tweaked versions of the men's frames with shorter top tubes. Features include women's saddles (something almost all women say is the most vital feature); shorter cranks; narrower handlebars; thinner grips; shorter stems; and forks tuned for a substantially lighter rider. All we need now are crash-courses in Talking to Women for the bike industry's horde of spotty 18 year old shop lads.

Interbike 2001 trade show reports

Technical hints

Remove and replace tyres without tyre-levers

By Řyvind Aas

To most cyclists tyre-levers are tools of necessity. Tools that could mean the difference between a long stiff-soled walk home and a pleasant ride with a tiny break along the way.

Most tyres are easily removed without tyre-levers or similar shaped utensils. In some instances tyre-levers, either metal or plastic, could do more harm than good. A situation that starts out as a simple puncture might escalate into incidents of broken tyre levers, dented rims, pinched and punctured spare tube.

For this reason some tyre and tube manufacturers say that their tyres should be fitted without the use of tyre levers, quick release skewers or comparable objects.

In a race situation road racers will generally have the opportunity to receive a new spare wheel in the case of a puncture. Mountain bikers are not so privileged. Even world champions and leaders in world cup races will have to change their own inner tube, preferably quick and without damaging their wheels further.

Here's how it's done

Most modern tyres of high quality are made with a foldable Kevlar bead. These are the easy ones. Cheaper and heavier tyres with a wire bead might prove a tad trickier to both remove and put back on the rim. Still the same technique is applicable to most tyres, road, wire-bead, Kevlar-bead, studded snow tyres and tubeless and regular mountainbike tyres.
To remove a tyre without a lever does not require the thumb strength of superman or a worn out soft rag of a tyre. It is all a matter of technique.

Put it back on

With a bit ofce you would never want to use a tyre lever again. Super-light race tyres, or frozen studded snow tyres make no difference.

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