By Matt Pacocha
Fighting desert heat and a big afternoon windstorm, bike manufacturers did their darndest to keep Interbike tradeshow attendees happy for the second day of Outdoor Demo Tuesday, a task made easier by offering up a ton of new and interesting equipment.
Giant Bicycles has big news for 2006, two new mountain bikes based on the company’s Maestro suspension technology. Our old colleague, Andrew Juskaitis, now Giant’s communications manager, said the two new bikes are the “bookends” of the Maestro series, offering the suspension design on both cross-country and downhill models. Billed as “competition use only,” rigs, the Maestros are made using advanced materials and built by the company’s most skilled welders on a separate – lower volume – production line.
The first, the Anthem, is touted as a replacement for the now-dead NRS platform. As of the 2006 model year, NRS is no longer available, nor will it be produced under any other brand name. The new cross-country race bike will be offered at three levels, each sharing the same main frame and rear triangle. The frame offers 3.1 inches of travel, and is made from Giant’s Aluxx SL triple butted aluminum. The alloy is also hydro formed to meet stiffness requirements in the head tube and to offer a minimalist seat tube pivot.
The top end Anthem 1 frame weighs 5.1 pounds with its shock and differs in host of areas, including the titanium bolts used to mount the Anthem 1’s rear shock, as apposed to steel on the two lower models. At $4000, the Anthem 1 is Giant’s top-end cross-country race bike. During its development – which has lasted over a year – Giant has involved its top World Cup level cross-country racer, Adam Craig, in efforts to refine the design. This is Craig’s end all, be all, race machine. A longer top tube, steep head angle and short chain stays (420mm) make the bike’s handling razor sharp. If the bike’s design isn’t impressive enough, the prices on the Anthem 2 and 3 should generate interest, they are priced at $2300 and $1600 respectively.
Glory is to competitive downhillers what Anthem is to cross-country racers. Not just a re-worked free ride bike, everything about the Glory is geared toward going fast on the DH course. The new bike has a whopping 8.8 inches of rear wheel travel. As Adam Craig was instrumental in the development of the Anthem, Jared Rando took a huge part in bringing the Glory to market. Unlike the Anthem, which was kept under reasonably tight wraps, Rando has been racing a Glory prototype throughout the 2005 Season. The production bike will be sprung by Fox, and will cost around $4600.
Some of the biggest news from Shimano is the Dura-Ace 7801 Scandium wheel set. The new wheel set weighs roughly 1500 grams (the rim comes in at 400 grams), yet boasts a 30 percent increase in stiffness over the standard aluminum. Because of the stiffness provided by the scandium rim, performance is boosted in the areas of acceleration, cornering and braking. Though the new rim plays a huge factor, others help complete the package. Shimano uses both sealed and angular contact bearings in the wheel set’s 7801 hubs (also used on the carbon and standard aluminum wheel sets), the different types of bearings are placed in a specific order to counteract different stresses placed on the wheel.
The sealed bearings resist radial loads in the cassette body and the angular lateral loads on the non-drive side. The hub shell is also wider and oversized. The width has been increased by one centimeter in turn decreasing the dish and difference in spoke tension from drive to non-drive side. The larger hub body reduces twisting under pedaling loads. The front and rear rims are asymmetrical; the rear features an offset spoke bed. Though the wheels are still trued and tensioned at the hub – as the old Dura-Ace 7800 wheels were – the spokes attach to the rim via a double threaded nipple. The spoke nipples thread into the rim and onto the spoke, a second nipple at the hub completes the link mechanically joining the spoke to both the hub and rim. The technology at the rim is based on the Mavic Fore process that leaves the rim’s inner wall intact, an attribute adding to the wheel’s over all stiffness.
Tubeless for the road is out there, but still needs refinement. Mavic was first to offer a rim with a sealed inner wall then came Fulcrum, Shimano and Campagnolo. The industry is on the cusp of a big development. But both clincher and tubular technology offer a level of performance that has not been met by current tubeless road technology. I was able to slip in a 10-minute comparative test on a prototype Hutchinson tubeless road tire with a tube-type tire from the brand’s archrival Michelin. Both were mounted on Shimano’s new scandium wheels. Ten minutes is hardly enough to get an impression, but I will say there is a noticeable difference. For mountain bikes the advantage clearly goes to the tubeless tire, but on the road the stiffer casing of a tubeless tire cannot compete with a supple tubular or even an open tubular tire. The problem, and likely reason why no tire company has released the technology all seems to lie here. There is hope as tubeless road technology holds all the advantages of its off-road counterpart. We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude. Photo- TubelessRD
Hayes was showing off the latest version the “gearbox” the company first unveiled last year. The new gearbox offers downhillers nine speeds with an 11-24-tooth range that can be paired to both Shimano and SRAM shifters. The box is basically a cassette and derailleur that have been encased in a cast aluminum box. The cassette remains stationary while the derailleur slides on pins to remain inline with each gear.
Hayes gearbox engineer John Thomas couldn’t give specifics on a production date, only that this prototype still undergoing “lots of testing.” Right now both Sapa Anodizing and Ellsworth are building the prototype frames Hayes is using for testing. Thomas hopes that when finished Hayes will be able to offer one or two standard mounts frame builders could incorporate into their own frame designs. The box offers a well-protected almost invincible transmission for downhill bikes as well as a shift while coasting feature and impermeability to the elements. Photos- HayesGearbox1, Gearbox2