The bike gathering in Riva del Garda is a technology
By Lennard Zinn
Riva del Garda, a small town at the northern tip of Lake Garda, has become one of Europe’s major mountain-bike Meccas over the past decade, largely due to the spectacular trails coming down the mountains overlooking the dark waters of the deep, narrow Alpine lake nestled in Italy’s northern border. For the last eight years, Riva has hosted a springtime mountain-bike festival and manufacturer show that this year attracted around 10,000 visitors, mostly from Germany. Mountain bikers filled the town for five days and tried their legs en masse on the second day of the festival in an off-road marathon with the likes of Gary Fisher and Paola Pezzo. The late-April date this year was met with warm, sunny weather and offered a great opportunity to see and try some 2002 model year products.
Forks: stiffer, faster, more options
Manitou and RockShox unveiled new 2002 forks with features that are much more than cosmetic. Manitou is taking a unique design approach with its new Black fork by building the arch onto the back rather than across the front. Since the top of the wheel curves down and away on the back, an arch built onto the back can be shorter than one on the front. The “reverse arch” can also be thicker at the inside of the fork legs, where extra material does the most good, without interfering with brake pads.
The result is a lighter fork that is 20 to 25 percent stiffer than a Manitou X-Vert, which was already about as stiff as single-crown can be. Less flex in the casting means smoother fork action by preventing the outer legs from moving independently and binding the movement of the inner legs. The hollow, steeper-angled crown is also stiffer than previous Manitou designs.
The Black comes in three coil-spring and two air-spring versions. The coil-spring models feature a “Rapid Travel” adjuster lever at the bottom of the left leg. On the Black Comp and Elite 80/100, one flip of the lever and a push on the fork resets the travel from 80mm to 100mm, or vice versa. The Black Elite 100/120 adjusts the same way between 100 and 120mm. I rode the Comp model on rough and steep trails and found it very smooth.
RockShox also introduced a new fork line for 2002, called Duke, with air-spring technology at a lower price than SID. The magnesium outer-leg casting features stiffening fins on the arch and disc-brake mounts and raised Duke logo. Both Dual Air (positive and negative air spring) and Hydra Air (positive air spring, negative coil) models are available with 80 or 100mm of travel.
The SID line will be refocused on racing, offering two Dual Air models with titanium-nitride coated inner legs. The Judy line loses the Race model, and the Judy SL and XC get air-assist chambers to back up the coil springs. Instead of changing springs, adjustment can be made using any pump and a ball needle.
RockShox’s big development is its new U-Turn external travel adjustment for Psylo coil-spring forks. The orange knob on the left fork leg can be turned while riding, yet the performance of the coil spring stays consistent because the spring is effectively shortened or lengthened as well as the fork. The spring screws into large threads around the outside of the plastic plunger. Turning the U-Turn knob clockwise screws the spring past the plunger, reducing the working section of the spring and giving the fork infinite adjustment from 80mm to 125mm. Other changes include new fork castings with stiffening ribs on the brake arch, longer internal bushings, and Teflon-impregnated upper tubes on the Race and SL models.
I rode the Psylo SL for two days and fell in love with it. It was super smooth, and that 125mm of travel was great to have on Riva’s steep, rocky descents. On pavement, it was nice to crank the fork down to 80mm with the U-Turn on one leg and lock it out with the “Climb-It Control” lever on the other, all without stopping. The change drops the fork by two inches. That’s actually a good thing because the steeper head angle improves handling on pavement, the position is better for climbing and the fork won’t bob.
Wheels: a new norm
Mavic’s UST tubeless system, pioneered with Michelin and Hutchinson, will become a published manufacturing norm in January 2002. Legally, this means that UST will be a standardized norm like ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technology Organization) that assures that a tire fits on any rim marked with the same diameter. It also means that Mavic is obliged to license the rim shape at a reasonable cost to other manufacturers.
Fortunately, UST is a standard that works with others, as UST tires will fit on 26-
inch mountain-bike ETRTO rims and vice versa. One new UST wheel is the Grimeca three-spoke cast magnesium wheel, and tire
manufacturers are flocking to UST in droves. So far, Geax, Hutchinson, Kenda, Michelin, Schwalbe and Specialized are all offering UST models, while Continental, Tioga, WTB, Ritchey, Nokian, IRC and Panaracer will soon.
Speaking of standards, a new DIN
standard, not yet mandatory, requires that
all non-racing rims have a wear indicator
that appears and will not disappear with
further rim wear. All Mavic touring rims will now have a small, labeled hole in the sidewall
that will appear and get
big-ger as braking wear depth increases. On ceramic rims, the ceramic coating itself is considered a wear indicator.
Braking and shifting
Hayes is introducing a couple of new disc-brake models to go with its current HFX Mag hydraulic and HMX-1 mechanical brakes. The HFX Comp and HFX Maglite are lower-cost and higher-cost versions, respectively, of the Mag. The Comp has a composite lever body and lever blade that fit the same bladder-system master cylinder as the Mag, while the Comp’s caliper is exactly the same as the Mag except that it has an unpainted, blasted finish. The Maglite is a Mag with an 80-gram weight reduction by virtue of a titanium rotor and titanium bolts and fittings. The HMX-1 for 2002 will have a hand screw to adjust the fixed pad position and a barrel adjuster on the caliper for tool-free adjustment of both pads. All of the Hayes models continue to use Hayes’s race-proven sintered-metal brake pads.
SRAM is jumping into the disc-brake fray as well with two models built by the giant Italian brake maker Grimeca. The four-piston SRAM 9.0SL hydraulic brake is identical to Grimeca’s and virtually the same as Shimano’s. This brake is a scaled-down version of common motorcycle- and scooter disc brakes, both of which are built in large quantity by Grimeca and Shimano’s Asian brake manufacturer — hence the similarity. The SRAM 7.0 mechanical brake features a knurled screw to adjust the lateral position of the entire caliper by hand, similar to the way Formula mechanical brakes adjust.
SRAM’s new, as-yet unnamed rear derailleur shares direct cable routing and 1:1 cable pull/ derailleur travel ratio with other SRAM models, but it is lighter and completely serviceable. The forged aluminum parallelogram plates can be taken apart thanks to the circlips on pins holding them together. The upper pivot (the “b-knuckle”) is cast magnesium, while the lower pivot (the “p-knuckle”) is composite and is centered on the upper jockey wheel, rather than being offset as on Shimano derailleurs. Look for it on the bikes of SRAM riders this year.
SRAM’s trigger shifters, which differ from Shimano Rapidfire in function by virtue of the upper, cable-release lever moving up rather than back, are now available in 9.0, 7.0 and two Gemini models. The main difference between models is the larger up-push lever on the less-expensive ones, allowing easier use of both levers by the thumb.
Finding your way
One of the coolest things I found in Riva was being used by riders out on the trails. The CicloNavic from Ciclosport is a handlebar-mounted navigation computer with a display that resembles the screen of a GPS navigator in a luxury car, but the directions are based on distance, not satellite information. The CicloNavic has a broad screen that tells the rider where to turn and what obstacles are coming. The text messages and directional arrows that appear are read from a program recorded on a previous riding of the trail, but you do not have to be that rider. You can purchase a chip for the computer that has rides programmed for a given region, or you can download routes from the www.ciclosport.de Web site that other Navic owners have posted. So you can just head out onto the trail, start the computer at any tour intersection you wish, and from there it will tell you which way to turn, even warning you with audible beeps! The Navic also includes normal cycling computer functions plus temperature, altitude, elevation gain, rise or descent grade in percent, and a profile map display that shows your progress.
Riva del Garda is an incredible place to go mountain-bike riding, especially on the latest equipment. No wonder it is the finish of the annual TransAlp Challenge race that crosses the Alps from Munich and encompasses 620km and 66,000 feet of climbing.