Bike Intelligencer » mountain bike tires All bike, all the time Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 New Exciting Things We Hope for Sea Otter Classic 2015 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:05:13 +0000 See ya there!




Each year, Sea Otter marks the de facto coming out party for bike debutantes, from lightweight accessories to trendy builds. That’s why we like to go early. You can see all the new stuff, talk to the vendors, and get a feel for where the industry is headed.

We don’t have any crystal balls around here. But that doesn’t stop us from using our imaginations to conjure up what we’d like to see at Sea Otter 2015, running from April 16 through 19 at the spacious Laguna Seca grounds near Monterey. Here’s our Top 10 wish list:

1. Wide-rim tires. Wide and super wide carbon rims are all the rage, with good reason. They’re stiffer. They offer lower psi for better cornering, climbing and overall traction. They’re more stable and predictable . They look cool. The only problem comes with the tires. Their knob patterns weren’t designed for low pressure and squashed profiles. We’re sure hoping to see a new category of wide-specific tires from leading manufacturers like Schwalbe, Maxxis, Continental and Specialized. Who knows, maybe one of the lesser known brands or even a startup might debut something cool.

2. Customizable Fox rear shock. Fox is being left in the innovative dust by RockShox and Cane Creek, and X-Fusion is coming on strong as a like-for-like competitor. We expect a resounding Fox answer to the DB Inline’s and Monarch DebonAir’s fine-tune capabilities.

3. Longer, lower, slacker 29ers. A huge boost from BIKE magazine’s annual Bible of Tests put Evil’s new Following 29er at the top of the forum buzz list. Early adopters are raving about The Following’s go-big performance characteristics, bringing enduro and even bike park handling to the big hoops. Seattle-based Evil isn’t listed among exhibitors (as of this writing) but we’re hoping it will still have some presence at Otter. Given the ungodly demand, it may be asking too much for bikes in a demo pit, but failing that, at least a Following or two to ogle and drool over.

4. A Santa Cruz Bicycles reboot. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Santa Cruz rocked Otter with the amazingly lightweight, fast, and cool-looking carbon Bronson. It was the bike that lit the fire on 27.5, which today is fast becoming the dominant mountain bike platform. But two whole years in the bike biz, coupled with advances in geometry and shock tech since then, has the Bronson looking a bit long in tooth. Santa Cruz needs an answer to Ibis’ hot new HD3, and a Bronson update seems like the logical path — as would, on the 29er side, a Tallboy refresh. For that matter, the 5010 may get a goose. Or equivalents — Santa Cruz sometimes just comes out with a whole new bike rather than a 2.0 or 3.0.

5. Something big from SRAM. There are a number of possibilities here, and as a Presenting Sponsor SRAM will have huge presence at Otter. Here’s what we’re thinking: Entries into the super-wide carbon wheel category, where SRAM is noticeably absent; a direct-mount chainring setup similar to Race Face’s Cinch technology; a lighter, hollow carbon crankset update of its XX and XO cranks, again in response to Race Face’s Next SL. And SRAM could have something completely new up its sleeve, too. One to watch for sure.

6. Ripley 2. There’s no fanboys like Ibis fanboys, and we’ve been agitating for a longer, lower, slacker Ripley for some time. Like, say, The Following. With Ibis scrambling to fill HD3 backlogs, a Ripley upgrade might not be in the cards. But we’re blue-skying here and would love to see such a thing.

7. Boost 148 axle/hubs. The rapid adoption of 27.5, coupled with continued popularity of 29ers, has the hub folks all in a lather to widen and stiffen axles. Trek already is offering this wider standard, and Industry 9 has a set as well. This one’s a bit controversial, as it poses numerous thorny implications for bike design overall. I mean, I already rub the chain stays too much. But we’re eager to see and maybe even demo the stuff up close.

8. Hemp clothing. Hemp is wool without the pain. You can re-wear it without washing (till it stands upright on its own!), it’s more durable than wool, it’s cheaper and it offers the same insulating qualities (warm in cold weather, cool in hot weather) without getting clammy from sweat. Most of all, it’s a natural fiber. We went over to wool a few seasons back and have dumped all our synthetics. Most cycling garb still is predominantly polyester and we’d love to see hemp get into the bike clothing game.

9. POV camera mounts/selfie help. While we still enjoy mtb videos, minute after minute of a bouncing noodle of dirt has gotten old. We’ll be looking for innovations in camera mounts like the rear axle mount we’ve seen on some recent vids. But what’s really coming on strong is multiple-camera selfies. Multiple cameras allow side shots, trail-level action and other points of view to augment the on-bike footage. (Sure you can use the same camera for different POV but that’s more time and trouble, and we’ve got 3 cams sitting around anyway.) GoPro’s booth is always buzzing at Sea Otter and we’ll be looking for the latest gizmos there. Keep an eye out for drones. We love those overhead shots of mtb crickets bouncing along the landscape!

10. The Unexpected. We can’t imagine what else might turn up in the aisles. But we love surprises and figure the Sea Otter Classic is the place you can most expect the unexpected. See ya there!

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Sea Otter Classic 2015: Wide tire watch Tue, 23 Dec 2014 05:01:44 +0000

It’s early yet I know, but I’m wondering if the Sea Otter Classic 2015 festival won’t feature a wide rollout of new fattie-specific tires for the super-wide carbon rims being offered by Ibis, Derby, Specialized and others.

Here’s why:

The “fattie” rims are catching on. I ride around Santa Cruz, and they’re on virtually all the new bikes folks are riding, from not only Ibis but Santa Cruz, Intense, Yeti and others.

The issue being this: Existing tires are made for narrower rims.

Fattie rims allow lower air pressure for greater traction. But they spread the tires out. This increases traction simply from greater tire footprint. But the tread pattern on traditional tires doesn’t typically match up to the fatter, flatter profile of the tire.

The workaround so far has been, choose a tire with a round rather than square, or aggressively side-knobbed, tread pattern. The typical choice for winter (wet, muddy, soft-surface) riding has been the Maxxis High Roller IIs or Minion DHFs.

They’re stout tires with burly side casings that work well for navigating the slop. But they won’t be the first choice for spring and summer riding once things dry out.

The small-block tires, Maxxis Ikons, Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, Kenda Small Block 8s, have a round profile. And their shallower tread is great for ripping the berms in summertime.

But they have flimsier sidewalls that tend to flop under low pressure. You have to air them up to keep them stable at speed on berms and corners.

That’s why we’re guessing
the tire industry will come up with new lines for the super-wide carbon rims. And Sea Otter 2015 seems the perfect place to roll them out.

We’ll be there, and watching…

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Introducing the On The Bike Review: A new twist on bike reviews Mon, 19 Mar 2012 07:18:11 +0000 Digital video technology today offers a whole new approach for reviewing bike stuff. Armed with a GoPro Hero helmet cam, a reviewer can offer a running commentary while he or she rides the bike — providing observations and reactions as the ride progresses. The effect is to put the viewer right there on the bike with the rider, giving a real feel for how a bike or component is performing.

The concept occurred to us as we were doing a torture test of Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf all-mountain tire on the back side of Mount Tamalpais in the birthplace of mountain biking, Marin County.

Instead of writing up a review and attaching a video — as we’ve done for many BikeIntelligencer evaluations — we decided to just talk out loud about what we were feeling as we rode the bike…while all the time pointing out what the tire was going through on our test.

The result we dubbed OTBR — On The Bike Review.

Tires are tailor-made for On The Bike reviewing, but other components can be critiqued just as easily and effectively. Among them are suspension (droppable) seat posts, front and rear suspension systems, brakes, drive trains — in fact, just about anything worth reviewing can be adapted to the On The Bike review. The best fit of all may be evaluating a new bike itself — recording reactions as they occur to the reviewer in real time.

We wish we’d had this setup when we first rode the Crank Brothers Joplin suspension seat post back when. We could have dramatically illustrated the frustrations with trying to raise and lower the post using the Joplin’s under-the-saddle lever. Remote controls have since made the Joplin approach obsolete, and Crank Brothers itself has a new post called kronolog.

How does OTBR differ from conventional reviews?

The first thing to understand is that OTBR would not be possible without GoPro’s sound technology. You need a mike that can pick up voice in just about all conditions. The Hero gets the job done, offering amazingly adaptable audio pickup as the ride progresses. Combined with the camera’s visual feedback, the OTBR gives the listener/viewer a truly real sense of how the bike is performing. For the viewer, OTBR is quite literally the next best thing to being there — on the ride itself.

Contrast that with text reviews where the writer discusses reactions in the past tense, often leaving out key information and having no way to show exactly how a component behaved. There’s just nothing like being there.

We at BikeIntelligencer used helmet cams for nearly a decade before the GoPro. They were heavy, bulky, difficult to use and suffered from low video resolution (barely TV quality back when TVs were big heavy tube things with fuzzy pictures — you remember!) as well as short battery life.

When we did reviews with them, the best we could do was voice-overs during editing.

When we began using the Hero it immediately occurred to us that its versatility lent itself to bike reviewing. But we tended to use it the same old way we did pre-GoPro: With mostly dubbed-over commentary. The visuals — riding along a favorite singletrack — may have offered some sense of what the ride was like. But without real-time, simultaneous commentary, the “review” element was not as effective.

The model here might be those outdoors videos where adventurers whisper so as not to disturb the wildlife. The commentary imparts a greater sense of immediacy and participation. It puts you right there on the scene. It’s just plain more real.

Beyond being more real, OTBR is more spontaneous and honest. If a fork seal pops, it’s right there on pixels and you see the travel die. If a suspension post wobbles, you can show how and why right there in the saddle. If your brakes fade, it’ll show right there as you pin the lever to the handlebar on the next corner.

With the Dampfs we wanted to test traction, durability and stability. We picked the nastiest downhill around, Blithedale and Eldridge grades on the back side of Mount Tam, to just pound the stuffing out of the Dampfs and their Snakeskin sidewalls. If we so much as rolled a bead, chipped a knob, tore a sidewall or dented a rim, we’d have it all right there on video.

OTBR’ing is so effective we hope that Web reviewers and YouTube denizens will adopt it with time. It may even merit its own queue on our favorite review site, (it’s no coincidence that OTBR shares so many initials with MTBR).

To do the job right, OTBR does require a bit of thinking on the feet (or pedals), good audiovisual instincts and an articulate narrator. The reviewer has to be able to make observations beyond the American Bandstand approach — “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” But that’s true of reviewing in general.

We think OTBR would be a great tool for our favorite reviewers — folks like MTBR’s Francis Cebedo, PinkBike’s Richard Cunningham and BIKE mag’s Vernon Felton. With the resources of their supporting publications (far better than BikeIntelligencer‘s modest lot), they should be able to take OTBR to a much more sophisticated level.

In the meantime, here’s our humble OTBR offering, featuring the Hans Dampf on one of the nation’s most popular mountain bike rides.

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