Editor’s Note: This week VeloNews.com editor Steve Frothingham will be scouting out affordable gear at the Interbike trade show to supplement our usual coverage of the latest and greatest price-is-no-object gear. On the first day of Outdoor Demo West Steve rode a Fuji full suspension 29er and wrote about it on Singletrack.com, our mountain bike site. On Tuesday morning Steve rode another sub-$3,000 bike, this one from Diamondback, and found an affordable pair of road bikes from Rocky Mountain, a new road shoe from Serfas and a belt-drive cyclocross bike with the world’s cutest headtube decal.
Yesterday I rode a $2,749 full-suspension 29er from Fuji, and today I perused the sub-$3,000 bikes from several manufacturers. While not chump change, $3,000 seems to equate to a bike that an athletic, experienced rider will enjoy riding on relatively difficult trails like those at Bootleg Canyon outside Boulder City, Nevada.
Making significant improvements on a $3,000 bike — to make it a more viable cross-country racing bike or a more gnarly gravity bike, for example — seems to quickly bounce the price up to $5,000 or more. In other words, in my survey at the show so far, $3,000 seems to define the point of diminishing returns for most of our readers. You are welcome, of course, to make the argument for a lower or higher price in the comments section.
Tuesday morning I took out the Diamondback Sortie 3, an aluminum-framed 26-inch bike, with 5 inches of travel. With an inch more travel and 180mm disc brake rotor up front, and WTB Wolverine 2.1 tires, it’s a bit less cross-country-oriented than the Fuji. While it’s far from a DH bike, I thought it would be better suited than the Fuji for the Skyline trail, a technical descent where folks like me, in Lycra shorts and a short-sleeved roadie jersey, share space with guys and girls in full-face helmets, body armor and 2.5-inch-plus tires.
Conveniently, the Sortie 1 has the exact suggested retail price as the Fuji Outland 1.0 29er: $2,750.
Before you get to the Skyline trail, you have to earn the descent by riding up a hot and loose dirt road. The Sortie felt surprisingly sprightly. With the Fox shock moved to its firm ProPedal setting, pedal feedback was minimal and I never felt that the extra travel (versus the Fuji) was a disadvantage.
Once headed down, the Sortie felt nimble and secure as I worked down some hair-raising drops over sharp-edged rocks. The extra travel over the Fuji was welcomed here, although at times I suspected 29-inch wheels would have rolled over the nasty rocks with more aplomb. The tires were barely adequate for this kind of riding — another half-inch in width would have made me feel better.
But Skyline is probably not the kind of trail most Sortie 3 buyers will spend their time on. If you were looking to ride this kind of trail more often, you might opt for something like the Diamondback Scapegoat, a 6-inch travel bike with 2.5-inch tires and Shimano Saint four-piston brakes. Retail on the Scapegoat is a cool $5,900, which probably excludes it from this column.
Affordable road shoes
Serfas has been selling its affordable road and mountain shoe line in the U.S. for about a year, and is introducing a higher-end road model for the upcoming season. The Serfas Pilot has a carbon composite sole, two Velcro straps and one buckle, and one of the most-ventilated soles I’ve seen. Price is a very reasonable $149 retail.
Affordable road bikes
Rocky Mountain is not the first name you think of for a road machine, but the Canadian company has been in the market for several years. For the upcoming season, the company has moved its focus from $5,000-plus bikes to lower prices.
The Solo 90 RSL frame is made from 40- and 60-ton carbon, with a tapered-steerer carbon fork. It’s outfitted with Ultegra shifters and rear derailleur, a 105 front derailleur, a 50-34 compact FSA crank and Fulcrum 5 wheels.
It retails for $3,099.
Now, I’ve been around cycling long enough that I still flinch at calling a $3,100 bike a bargain. But it’s not unusual to find carbon-framed, Ultegra-equipped bikes selling for $3,500 or more, so in that sense, it’s in the ballpark.
And for $2,299, you can get Rocky’s Solo CR, which has a similar frame technology (without the tapered headtube), Shimano 105 shifters and an FSA Gossamer compact crank.
Affordable belt-drive cyclocross?
I promised to focus on mid-priced bikes at the demo, but I was sucked in by the singlespeed belt-drive ‘cross bike at the Raleigh tent. The prototype bike on display is being used by Raleigh’s Brian Fornes, who raced it in this past weekend’s StarCrossed in Seattle and will line up on it at the CrossVegas industry race Wednesday evening.
The frames are being made for the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships, which are being held in Seattle this year. Raleigh is donating a batch of the limited-edition frames to the race organization, which will sell or raffle the bikes to support the race.
The framesets will be available on the race’s website next month for about $1,200. A version of the bike is likely to appear in the regular Raleigh product line next year.