Frostbike: Goods from the Great White North's Caley Fretz ventures to Frostbike in Minnesota for some MTB goodness

Quality Bicycle Products is a wholesaler of bike parts, accessories and apparel that serves more than 5,000 independent retailers across the country. Minnesota-based QBP is, as they describe themselves, the “shop behind the shop.”

Each winter QBP holds their dealer-only trade show, Frostbike, up in the Great White North.’s Caley Fretz made his way to the show and filed this report.

The new Race Face Next SL is truly impressive at only 595g (claimed) including bottom bracket. Photo by Caley Fretz

2011 Race Face Next SL

Race Face’s new Next SL crankset might just be this year’s “must have” XC crankset. It’s insanely light, just 595g for the 2×10 including BB, and is available in a multitude of setups. 3×10, 2×10 (26/38, 28/40 now, and 30/42 soon) are available now, and a 120bcd 36t single is on the way. Availability is still extremely limited (we can’t even get one yet for testing), but getting hold of one will become significantly easier over the next few months.

The Next SL’s carbon arms are completely hollow, with all excess material removed. The spider and spindle are titanium, with the latter permanently molded directly into the drive-side crank arm.

The Next SL is also 100-percent North American sourced, built with titanium and carbon from California and aluminum chainrings from Canada.

Big, Knobby… Tubulars?

Challenge's MTB ONE tubular uses a low tread pattern and 2.0-inch casing. Photo by Caley Fretz

That’s right, mountain bike tubulars are making headway in the U.S. They’ve been popular among many European cross-country racers like Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel, the Flückiger brothers and others for a few years, but have been almost non-existent in North America. Perhaps for good reason: The tires are expensive, sizes and tread patterns are limited, and a sub-par glue job will end a ride quick (and likely painfully).

Regardless, racers seem to love them. We’ll spend some time finding out why this spring.

In 2011, tire choices increase, as do rim choices, though the whole system will remain incredibly expensive. The fact that all the rims currently available are carbon doesn’t help. We just think they’re interesting, on a number of levels.

Some of the new entries into the mountain tubular market showed their goods at Frostbike:

Challenge MTB One tires – available this summer in 26-inch and 29-inch 2.0 versions. Claimed weight of 580g. The MTB will use 300TPI casings just like its skinny ‘cross cousins.

Geax Saguaro – these have been available in 26-inch and 29-inch for some time, both 2.0 wide. They do like like a real 2.0 though, which is somewhat rare these days. Weight is a hair under 600 grams.

DT Swiss tubular rim – Ok, we didn’t actually see these, but word is that they’ll be showing up at Sea Otter this spring and will be available for test rides.

New goods from Crank Brothers

The Cobalt Level 2 is tubeless ready and is designed as a sturdy XC wheelset, just a bit heavier than the regular Cobalt. Photo by Caley Fretz

Crank brothers is introducing a lower-pricepoint version of their venerable Cobalt this year, dubbed the Level 2. Design tenets remain the same, but machining is a bit less aggressive for a bit more strength (and weight). Price drops $300 from the Cobalt down to an MSRP of $650.

Crank Brothers is also moving into bags this year, and had their new messenger-style, saddle, and hydration packs on hand. Quality looked top notch on all three. Availability for the bags is slated for mid-April.