Bike Intelligencer » Bike business All bike, all the time Wed, 13 May 2015 21:53:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sea Otter Classic 2015: Orange is the new black Wed, 13 May 2015 21:49:55 +0000 At Sea Otter this year, we couldn’t help but notice the predominance of one color.

It was everywhere. Shoes, helmets, wheels, clothing. Even Brian Lopes was riding it on a bike.







Orange. We used to snicker at orange stuff. The first orange bike we remember seeing was from a British company. Named Orange Bikes.

Yowch, it hurt our eyes. The only good thing we could think was, at least the hunters won’t have an excuse for confusing us with deer.

At Sea Otter, we began to wonder if there was anything new that wasn’t orange. Helmets, grips, shorts, shoes, saddles, stems.

You wouldn’t find this much orange at a prison roll call.

Then, recently our best riding buddy got an orange Rocky Mountain Instinct. And we have to admit, it grew on us.

Kind of like green mold. Only orange.

We’ve evolved to the point where we actually like orange on bikes. In moderation.

We’re not ready to call orange the new black. But maybe it’s the new gold. Suitable for highlights, judicious bi-coloring, whatever. Spacers, pedal caps, hubs.

At least it isn’t as bad as last year’s dominant color: aqua. Now that we just couldn’t take.

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The Art of the Mountain Bike Demo Sun, 12 Apr 2015 04:01:56 +0000

Living in Santa Cruz, you almost don’t have to own a mountain bike. Just about any day of the week, you can demo the best bikes on the planet: Santa Cruz, Ibis, Intense, Yeti, Trek, Specialized.

Which is a good thing. With bikes like these going for $6,000 to $10,000 or more, you kinda wanna get a feel for how they ride before you buy.

But there is an art to the demo. And a respect as well.

The first thing to remember is keep it as short as possible. Others are waiting in line. This obviously doesn’t apply to demos where you’re paying for the privilege, but in most cases you’ll be much appreciated for consideration of the next rider.

Don’t be surprised, though, if demo bikes aren’t all new and shiny. A lot of the time they’re kinda beat up. Face it, there’s not much down time for fixing, refurbing, replacing. When they’re not being ridden, they’re being transported in a truck somewhere.

As a result, over time the bike’s parts and performance really suffer. Shocks lose the butter and become hard to tune. Tires go bald. Pivots start creaking.

Demo'ing a new Instinct 29er

With Tyler at Rocky Mountain demo booth

It’s a shame, because ideally, demo bikes should all be top-of-the-line, brand new, totally pimped out rides.

Think about it: You ride a $10,000 demo bike, you’re going to be blown away no matter what its idiosyncrasies. You’re going to want one. And if that means going for the $3,500 “special blend” instead of the one you rode, then that’s OK. Because it’ll always be in your mind that you can upgrade or tweak the bike to ride like the demo.

Instead, demo bikes often get the cheap builds. I guess I can see why: They’re cheaper if they get trashed or broken. But it’s counterproductive in the long run.

If you demo a TOL carbon frame with cheap components, and it’s been pounded on for a few weeks, my experience is that bike is not going to impress.

I had a sobering reminder of all this when demo’ing Ibis’ new HD3 three times over the space of a few weeks. Yeah, I know: I’m lucky. I live less than two miles from Ibis headquarters.

My first ride just blew me away. Everything was new, of course, and worked the way new stuff does. Wow, I could climb and rail my favorite haunts like never before. The tires were grippy. The shocks were plush. The drivetrain shifted like a Ferrari.

Four or five weeks later, the same bike wasn’t so rockin’. Everything was pretty worn in, or worn out. You can’t make an HD3 ride bad, but compared to a brand new HD3, this bike was a hurtin’ puppy. Put it next to a newly outfitted competitor like the Mach 6, say, or Intense T275c, and it would suffer by comparison.

All I’m saying is that when demo’ing, try to get a well-maintained bike. And if you can’t, take into account the wear factor. Cut the bike some slack if it’s a bit trashed. It’d be a better ride if it was yours.

You’re also going to want a demo to-do list. Because you can’t, or at least I can’t, keep all the pointers in mind when I prep the demo.

I put together the checklist after discovering there’s a big difference between just riding a bike, and riding a bike as if it were your own. In the former instance, you hop on and take off. You might make adjustments during the ride, but probably not. You basically just want to ride! So you ignore things that on your own bike would drive you nuts.

If you’re serious about buying the bike, though, you’ll want to take care of the tweaks before leaving the demo pit. Here’s some things to look at:

1. Sizing. Make sure you get the right size. Figuring that out is not as easy as it used to be because the new enduro-influenced breed, with its stretched top tubes, steep seat and slack head angles, and short chain stays all mean a former M may be an L and an L may be XL. You’ll be assigned a certain bike size based on your height, but that’s no longer the best rule of thumb. Instead, you need to sit on the bike and figure out what feels comfortable.

2. Shock sag. They’ll set it by your weight, but again, your preferences may vary. Give it the lean-and-push test to dial the sag where you want it. (This admittedly might take a bit of riding to figure out, though.) Good demo staff will get the sag set up right before you take off.

3. Tire pressure. Again, check to match your preference. Most demo bikes are pumped up way too hard.

4. Saddle fiddling. Height adjustment isn’t a biggie any more because of droppable seat posts. But position and tilt of the saddle is. This again can make a huge difference in the enduro platform. I’ve gotten bikes (especially Pivots, due to laid-back seat angle) where the saddle is slammed all the way forward. Or tilted slightly upward. Other times the saddle is pushed back and the nose tilted down. I myself like a level saddle centered on the post, where possible, because it makes apples-to-apples comparison easier for other bike geometries. This adjustment is especially key because if you get out on the ride without the right wrenches, you won’t be able to make any tweaks and your demo quality will suffer.

The other thing to check is nose alignment with the stem. I’m always amazed at how far out of line the saddle can be on a demo bike. And a few degrees can really throw off the bike’s ride feel.

5. Brakes. Check to make sure they’re adjusted properly, and there’s no rotor drag.

6. A way to record your experience. For referencing, you’ll want to make a record of component brands and stats, like width and style of handlebars, length and rise of stem, brand and model of suspension, etc. etc. I enter them into a list on my iPhone, but speaking them into the phone mic also works, or just use pencil and paper.

7. One additional way of keeping a record is to take along your GoPro or helmet cam and speak into it as you ride, a running real-time record of your impressions. Kinda geeky I know, but I’ve found it useful not only for documenting but also for on-the-bike reviews at my blog.

For all the above reasons, it’s handy to take the following equipment along on a demo:

Allen wrenches
Shock pump
Tire pump
Smart phone
Camera/action cam

Along with your other usual gear of course.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, the most important facet of the demo is the ride itself. Be sure to stretch the bike, take it challenging places, do interesting things. Most of all, have fun! If the demo bike isn’t more fun than riding your own bike, after all, you’ve wasted your and the bike maker’s time.

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Mountain Biking’s Aqua Conspiracy Tue, 23 Dec 2014 07:53:59 +0000
First it was the Santa Cruz Nomad. They rolled out this beautiful new 27.5 bike with radical geometry, sick handling and bottomless suspension in a … what color did they call it? Aqua?
Um er well...

Um er well…

It was a kind of greenish blue. Close to cyan on the digital color chart. Not a bad color for baby pajamas. Or a kitchen bowl set. Come to think of it, Apple had an iMac in the exact same shade. Somehow it didn’t make the transition to the MacBook or iPhone.

But aqua on a mountain bike??

There was lots of snark on the forums at first. Then some guys said oh well, the bike is too good to pass up on the basis of color alone. Santa Cruz quickly added a stealth black option to the Nomad color palette. And it quit calling the color aqua, substituting “turquoise” instead.

OK, we thought. An aberration, whatever you call it. Time to move on.

Then Yeti issued its hot new carbon frames, the SB5 and SB6, in what it called turquoise.

Quoi? No, a-qua...

Quoi? No, a-qua…

Not to be outdone, Ibis came out with its long-awaited Mojo HD3 in turquoise. Only it didn’t call it turquoise. It called it “blue.”

I guess it’s blue. It’s blue like, say, baby poop is green.

Really? Blue?

Really? Blue?

But what exactly is this? Why all these boutique, high-end, custom bikes going for this arguably atrocious color scheme?

Now there is precedent. A color called aquamarine has showed up on Porsches.

An acquired taste

An acquired taste

And Harleys.

Only its owner could love

Only its owner could love

But there’s a reason you don’t see a lot of them around. Or anything else in “aqua.”

It’s just not a great color.

We think maybe the Taiwanese carbon factory where most of these bikes get made scored a great deal on some surplus aqua paint somewhere. Maybe from the US Navy. Or a Japanese toy company.

So what the hey, Ibis and Santa Cruz and Yeti and who knows how many other suckers to come said OK — no doubt in order to keep their $2,999 bike frames “affordable.” (Actually, the Yetis are in the $3,400 range. But still a bargain!)

Fair enough.

We’re patient. We can wait till next year’s models come out.

We bet they won’t be offered in aqua.

The only problem is, as a result they’ll probably cost more.

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The Coming Warranty Gap? Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:49:05 +0000

The presumed demise of the 26er makes me wonder about bikes still under warranty. What happens if your 26er fails?

Most manufacturers today offer replacement warranties in some form or other on bikes they sell. For example: I have a 26-inch Trek Remedy 9.8 carbon I purchased Red Shield (extended warranty) coverage for. It has my back on pretty much everything for the next 3 years (I’ve used up 2 already).

But if my bike breaks, I won’t want Trek to replace it with a 26er. I’ll want a 27.5, or a 29. Something that can support component upgrades and new technology as it comes along.

Lovely dead meat

Old School: Ibis Mojo HD

While 26ers aren’t extinct, they’re pretty much dead meat. Breakthroughs in performance, geometry, accessories and just about everything aren’t being offered on the 26” platform. New forks… new tires… new shocks… new wheels like the fat-width carbons. They’re all 27.5 and 29.

Tires are a real key here.
If 26-inch versions aren’t being manufactured, riders are SOL. Tire material has a pretty short half-life. Legacy 26-inch tires, even brand new, sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf will dry and degrade, losing their resiliency.

If you can’t get 26-inch tires, you can’t ride your 26-inch bike even if you love it — which the bike industry is making harder to do.

So what can be done about the warranty gap?

The logical thing seems to be: Offer the warranty claimant the platform of his or her choice.

Now, there might be an upcharge for the latest and greatest. That seems reasonable: Something to cover the manufacturer’s margins, while still being well under retail.

It would be a win all around: The manufacturer keeps the customer loyal to its brand. The manufacturer gets another rolling ad. The customer gets a great deal on the current state of art.

Everybody’s happy.

It seems like a no-brainer. But a friend just tested this scenario with less-than-desired results.

My friend’s Ibis Mojo — the original carbon-weave model — gave up the ghost after several years of faithful service. He contacted Ibis and was given the choice of an SL-R under warranty replacement.

My friend, figuring 26 is dead, asked if he could get a Ripley or Mojo HDR instead. (This was just before release of Ibis’ hot new HD makeover, the HD3.)

He told Ibis he’d be happy to pay a fair upgrade price to cover Ibis’ bottom line.

Surprisingly, Ibis — a small much-loved company with great customer support — told my friend no. Through several back-and-forths all the way to top management (i.e., Chuck), Ibis’ position stayed firm: The only bike my friend could get was a 26-incher.

We’ve told this story to a couple dozen mtb friends and associates, and the response is always the same: Whaaa???

It would make so much more sense
from a customer-relations standpoint to offer more choice.

Not doing so not only ticks off a fan, it removes an easy on-the-trail commercial for Ibis. Customer loyalty is how boutique bikes get sold. My friend had converted 5 riders (he knew of) to Mojos (including me) over the years. He was like an unpaid evangelist for the company!

When Microsoft was a young company, Bill Gates liked to say if it didn’t make a deal, it lost twice. Not only did Microsoft not get the customer, it gifted a sale to a competitor.

Ibis’ explanation is that up-selling on warranty compromises its local dealer relationships. That would make sense if dealers knew the origin of every bike sale. In reality, a bike can be purchased so many ways these days — including online and used — a dealer is hardly going to know its sales origin.

No matter what you think of Ibis’ decision, it seems moving forward that the 26er warranty gap is going to be an increasing problem for manufacturers backing their brand. I’m wondering if my friend’s timing wasn’t just a little too early. A couple of years from now, manufacturers may not think twice about offering multi-platform warranty upgrades. The way things are going, they’ll have to. There won’t be any new 26ers left to offer up.

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Why GoPro Will Rock the Show at Sea Otter 2014 Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:19:21 +0000

A lot of us have been using GoPro Hero action cams since they first appeared on the scene nearly a decade ago.

Those of us who suffered with GoPro’s predecessors — huge, heavy, lo-res, bulky camcorders, either jerry-rigged onto our helmets or wired to an anchor weight fanny pack of batteries and controls — knew right away GoPro was onto something big.

They are, after all, the ultimate “selfie.”

One emerging application for cyclists: Loop video of commutes and road rides for safety purposes. If you get in an accident, the GoPro’s record will help document what happened.

For the same reason, we wonder if GoPro won’t wind up being built into cars. And used for DIY home-security systems.

Just don't crash!

Attach it anywhere…

We love GoPros for their light weight, HD output, battery life, multiple mounts, durability, versatility… well, we’re starting to sound like an advertisement.

Which GoPro really loves. Especially now.

The Silicon Valley company, which moved its headquarters from Half Moon Bay partly to be closer to the tech pulse, recently applied for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It was called a “secret” application, but that just shows GoPro’s sophisticated marketing acumen. What gets more attention than something “secret”?!

This comes after GoPro was featured in a fawning “60 Minutes” special and considerable Wall Street attention to GoPro’s annual doubling of revenue.

Whatever the case, there won’t be anything stealth about GoPro’s presence at the Sea Otter Classic bike fest April 10-13.

GoPro traditionally is a marquee presence at Sea Otter, its big booth topped by a huge pennant featuring a constant churn of activity as riders come and go to fiddle with their cams. You typically can score a great deal on GoPro cameras and accessories, too.

This year’s event promises blow-out potential. It’s possible GoPro will use the combined incentive of Sea Otter and its IPO to roll out something really huge.

We can only speculate what it might be. A game changer in mountable, wearable, wireless, mega-HD, socially networked, blah blah blah?

But one thing is clear: You’ll have a hard time missing GoPro at Sea Otter.

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Will Specialized Debut 27.5 Bike at Sea Otter 2014? Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:47:07 +0000

UPDATE: As we indicated in the story below and Enduro mag’s scoop confirmed, Specialized has announced 27.5 models of its Stumpjumper just in time for a Sea Otter rollout. See you at the Spesh booth!

At last year’s Sea Otter 2013, the buzz was over the multitude of 27.5-inch models being introduced by bike makers.

This year, the pre-Sea Otter 2014 buzz is over just one 27.5-inch bike — from Specialized.

Right now it’s only a rumor. But a couple of factors suggest Specialized will introduce a tweener.

Longest bike name extant

Specialized S-works Enduro Carbon 29.

First, the Bay Area-based behemoth recently rolled out (pun unavoidable) a set of 27.5-inch tires. While Specialized makes a lot of tires, while they’re well-reviewed and while anyone can put one on any bike, let’s face it: Specialized tires appear predominantly on new Specialized bikes.

Second, the 27.5 party is well under way. For Specialized somehow to ignore or boycott it makes no business sense whatsoever.

The only explanation for why Spesh has delayed this long involves the 27.5’s putative niche market: so-called “enduro” racing. Specialized offers a model named exactly that, and its Enduro 29er (available in several configurations) typically is lumped in with reviews of 27.5 models (’s exhaustive rundown makes just that point).

It may be that Specialized thought it was leapfrogging 27.5 by offering light, long-travel, race-ready 29ers. And the Enduro 29er has gotten rave reviews.

Maybe Specialized thought 27.5 was a passing fad. Or wanted to wait to make sure it was real.

With most mtbers saying they’ll wait till their 26er or 29er bikes wear out before they try 27.5, Spesh can afford to take its time.

If Specialized is going to roll out a 27.5, Sea Otter 2014 is the hands-down logical place to do it. Even if it’s just showing a prototype, or a 2015 model to be released in the fall, Spesh will get lots of attention for it.

And attention is what Sea Otter is all about.

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Sea Otter Action Cam Outlook: Will Shimano Show? Mon, 10 Feb 2014 21:58:34 +0000

Even as San Mateo, CA-based GoPro continues to consolidate its helmet-cam market dominance, new players keep giving it a try. The latest: Shimano, a vaunted name in cycling, but a tyro in optics.

Just this week Shimano announced the CM-1000 “sport cam.” Some specs are impressive: Featherweight (86 grams), good battery life (2 hours on 4-hour charge), low-light sensitivity (16mp CMOS sensor), waterproof to 32 feet (no case needed). Wi-fi connectivity and ANT+ compatibility (for performance and training stats) are big pluses too. And all for $299 — a Ben Franklin less than GoPro’s top model (although GP’s step-down “silver” model matches that price, lacking only best-breed HD).

86 grams!

CM-1000 is latest to tilt at GoPro’s empire

There are a lot of unknowns, including mounting options (chest mount particularly, given its horizontal orientation and nearly 3 inch length) and compatibility (will it fit GoPro mounts?). Another biggie: Durability. Controls are exposed and that light weight gives one pause. Finally, the full-on HD spec at just 30 fps seems on the shy side, but we’ll see.

Also, who’s making this bad boy for Shimano? (We assume it’s not getting into the electronics business.)

But the proof’s always in the pudding. When we saw the announcement we were stoked at the prospect of testing the CM-1000 at the upcoming Sea Otter Classic bike fest in April.

Unfortunately, the announced availability isn’t till May. Typically availability is even later than announced dates. The early announcement makes us wonder if it’s a pre-emptive move aimed at something in the works from GoPro.

Sea Otter might not be the best venue for Shimano’s rollout anyway. GoPro is a Gold Sponsor of the bike fest, has a huge, popular booth centrally placed, and keeps the groms fully equipped as they fly around the jump and stunt pits. Break a case or a mount? Run out of juice? Just go to the tent and they’ll fix ya up.

And if GoPro does have something new up its sleeve, Sea Otter is the logical place to show it off.

Competition is good for any consumer product. And GoPro’s cams have some limitations (we’d still like to see an LCD monitor although we understand rationale for omitting; a ball mount option would be great, too).

But till something blows us away, GoPro gets our nod for being home-grown, forward-thinking, customer-responsive and reasonably priced. We like supporting U.S. brands. As for anyone challenging GoPro’s near-monopoly, we’d rather see someone other than a much bigger near-monopolist like Shimano take it on.

In the meantime, alt-GoPro buzz is focused on the CamOne Infinity.

How serious Shimano’s entry is will take some time to ferret out. Remember Sony? Toshiba? Polaroid? See any of these puppies on the trail lately?

For a rundown on the increasingly crowded sport-cam market, check out GizMag’s comparison matrix.

MTBR’s comments section has some good input too.

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27.5 Shootout: Santa Cruz Bronson and Pivot Firebird Compared Mon, 22 Apr 2013 02:49:50 +0000

At the Sea Otter Classic 2013 we had an opportunity to test ride two new 27.5 bikes: the carbon Bronson — Santa Cruz Bicycles’ latest and one of the showcase bikes of Otter this year — and the Pivot Firebird, modified for 27.5 setup and announced opening day at the festival.

[Note we use the term “shootout” advisedly, given our limited time on the bikes. This was more bb gun than OK Corral.]

At 26 to 27 pounds for 150mm of travel, the Bronson build was impressive, including ENVE wheels and Maxxis Hi Roller tires along with full XTR. Our bike had a 2×10 drivetrain, although the Santa Cruz booth was displaying the same build with a XX1 (1×11) drivetrain on a Medium it said tipped the scales at 26.5 lbs.

We admittedly couldn’t stretch the Bronson out on Laguna Seca’s fairly docile singletrack. But the ride was long enough to tell us a couple of things.

The geometry of the Bronson — 67 head, 73 seat angle on a Large — felt a little more upright than we’d like. This is a personal preference of course, but we didn’t feel like the Bronson would be at its best riding aggro, mountain bike park or downhill. It felt closer to an XC bike. Perhaps that’s the crowd Santa Cruz is aiming at, although the aggressive tires indicated otherwise.

The bike climbed better than a 26-er but not nearly as well as a 29er. It felt as you’d expect, a compromise between the two. Although to our mind it was closer to the 26-inch experience than the 29-inch.

On downhill stretches, particularly fast sections, we wanted more travel out of the Bronson. Weirdly — and this could be related to suspension, the geometry, the amount of travel or just our own head games — we’re wondering if the 27.5 category isn’t better suited to longer travel. Just throwing that out there. It’s not a theory we found support for among a few 27.5 riders we interviewed. But to a rider, they were in the 5-8 to 5-10 height range. We run 6-0 and have long monkey arms.

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 7.41.04 PM

To confirm our theory, the Pivot Firebird 27.5 felt more comfortable to us. You sink down in the 6.6-inches of travel as with the conventional Firebird. But the bigger hoops and slacker angles (66 degrees via a Pivot custom angled headset on a Large, 71.5 seat angle) give you a new dimension of versatility, speed and handling. For a taller rider, the Firebird 27.5 actually adds a noticeable degree of stability and centered-ness.

This all held true despite the Firebird being heavier, at 31.5 pounds, and aluminum, not as responsive as carbon. But neither of those factors count for much when you point the rig downhill.

The caveat being that we only rode the thing briefly around the midway, doing mostly stutter stops and starts, wheelies and track stands. Having lots of fun, but hardly testing it. Pivot did not have a build ready to take out on the trails. (Pivot offers an extensive demo program and expects to have Firebird 27.5s ready to roll in mid-May.)

With all that said, we admit to not quite getting the 27.5 category. It feels like half a loaf. If you want the advantages of a larger platform, why not go to 29? The only rationale that makes sense to us is rider height. There may be a sweet spot where 27.5 is just right for the shorter among us who find 29ers too angular. For someone our height, it may not be dramatic enough to warrant the commitment to a whole platform.

For another view on the Bronson, check out Francis’ take on Francis found more plushness to the Bronson than we did. It’s also worth noting he’s 5-8. But he had considerable more time on the Bronson than we did, and puts it in the context of other 27.5 (650b) bikes. (It omits the Firebird, however, having been written before the 27.5’s release.)

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Wahoo Fitness at Sea Otter Classic 2013 Sun, 21 Apr 2013 03:54:39 +0000

Have you checked out what’s going on over at Wahoo Fitness? We had the chance to stop by the Atlanta-based company’s booth at the Sea Otter Classic 2013 and get the full rundown from Eric Stobin, national sales manager. (See video below.)

If you train seriously, you know how important numbers become. Heartbeat. VO2 max. Caloric output. RPM. MPH. Distance. Time. Comparables.

All these things are quantifiable. But it can be a real pain to track them.

Wahoo Fitness is cracking that nut. Using not separate dedicated devices but instead recent iterations of the iPhone, iPad or iPad mini, Wahoo Fitness melds data from its own devices and apps with other smart device apps to provide a comprehensive statistical overview of your workout or training sessions. Examples of compatible apps include Strava, iRunner, MapMyWalk, MapMyDOGWALK, MotionX GPS, TargetWeight and on and on. (The Wahoo Fitness Web site provides a slew of them.)

Wahoo Fitness covers the gamut of athletic activities: Cycling, running, walking, hiking. There’s even a “Balance Smartphone Scale” that tracks weight loss or gain and BMI. (As Bicycling magazine put it, the bathroom scale trumps all other data points.)

Wahoo makes a variety of iDevice, bluetooth-capable devices for monitoring fitness. Including: the “RFLKT” bike computer (mountable on handlebars). The KICKR PowerTrainer featured in the video below. The SmartPhone Scale. An armband, a heart rate strap and a speed/cadence sensor.

We’re still taking in the incredible array of Wahoo Fitness capabilities. But recalling the days of clunky monochromatic displays and awkward bike rollers or stationary cycles, where the number of soaked towels was the best indicator of workout effectiveness, we can appreciate how digital technology in Wahoo’s ingenious hands is creating a whole new world for managing fitness athletics.

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Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles: Sea Otter 2013 Interview Sat, 20 Apr 2013 04:34:01 +0000 At the Sea Otter Classic 2013 we had the opportunity to interview Pivot Cycles founder Chris Cocalis, one of the cycling industry’s leading innovators and designers. Chris talked at length about Pivot’s latest, the Firebird 27.5, announced just the day before. Check out his comments toward the end of the video on a potential carbon 27.5 designed from the ground floor up.

Although there weren’t any demo bikes in my size Large, I did the parking lot test on a Medium and was struck by a couple of things.

First, it’s by far the plushest 27.5 bike I’ve encountered. With 6.6 inches of rear travel and the DW-link, it has that nice Barcalounger feel to it when you sit back. Most of the other 650b/27.5 bikes are in the 6-inch range, including the attention-getting new Bronson carbon from Santa Cruz.

Second, for all its plushness it handled really well. The 14.1-inch bottom bracket, 66.5-degree head angle and short rear triangle gave it a flickability I would not have expected, and have not found, in larger wheel sizes.

It made me wonder if longer travel isn’t the geometric “sweet spot” for the 27.5 wheel size. Shorter travel just doesn’t accentuate the larger wheel size enough, diminishing its versatility, in my experience anyway. I spoke with several experienced 650b/27.5 riders, and most were on the shorter-travel, cross-country side of the equation. They also tended to be a bit shorter than me — 5-9 and 5-10 range.

I’ll look forward to demo-ing a Large when they become available. For now, Chris gives the full rundown on Pivot’s new Firebird 27.5 in this interview.

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