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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
Just got back in the office after a five-day trip (or was it six? I’ve never been good with time travel) to check out a bit of Manitou’s 2006 suspension technology. While trapped on Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco, I’m pretty sure I signed a piece of paper promising I wouldn’t spill the beans on the new fork. So I’ll be particularly brief and vague here; the full story can be told on March 1.
Manitou, which in my opinion has set the standard for freeride and downhill suspension over the past five years, has chosen to dump a ton of R&D into a market that hasn’t seen much recent development. Vague enough for you?
Think it about in these terms: The Southern California fork manufacturer has the best downhill fork on the market (Dorado MRD X-Works); the best long-travel freeride fork (Sherman); one of the best lighter-weight freeride forks (Nixon); and one of the best trail forks (Minute) on the market in 2005.
If you followed that progression you’ll notice I left out one main fork category. And it’s exactly that category that Manitou chose to invest heavily in for 2006.
Sherlock, if you can’t deduce what I’m getting at from those clues, you’ll just have to hold your breath until next week, when I can speak freely without fear that Manitou officials will bust down my front door and beat me to death with my keyboard.
Scott does some serious P-R for Saunier Duval
On another note, with Paris-Roubaix approaching on April 10, you can be sure serious teams are prepping both physically and technically for the notoriously grueling 267km event.
One such team is Saunier Duval-Prodir, which races on Scott USA bikes. In speaking with Scott USA’s media-relations honcho, Adrian Montgomery, I got a few hints as to the team’s plans for this treacherous race – and Scott has pulled out all the technical stops in preparing bikes for 1999 winner Andrea Tafi and his teammates.
“Scott USA has taken preparation to the next level by producing a ‘Roubaix-specific’ frame for the 2005 race. Based on the CR1 road frame currently available, this bike has a few modifications which make it more suitable for the specific demands of this event,” explained Montgomery.
Tafi’s ride may appear completely stock from a distance, but the folks over at Scott USA have done plenty with the 880-gram carbon CR1 frame to make it pavé-worthy.
The frame is made of stock materials with only a few modifications. First, the steering angle is 1 degree less than the original at 72 degrees. This slacker head angle allows for a more stable ride and produces increased damping characteristics out of the fork. The chain stays feature increased clearance to accommodate the larger tires used at Paris-Roubaix. This increased clearance also keeps the wheel from becoming blocked due to mud or a damaged rim.
Second, the fork has been modified, also for fitting larger tires – custom Continental 25mm wide tubulars with thicker sidewalls. These allow for better damping from the tire casing and protection from pinch flats. The blunter the corner of a sidewall is, the less chance of snakebite.
And third, the bike uses lower-profile rims, which have better damping characteristics than high-profile rims and incorporate a softer, less abrupt bead area. This, combined with tubular tires, takes pinch-flat resistance to the next level. Tied and soldered spokes actually decrease damping characteristics, but increase dependability by preventing the spokes from loosening up on the cobblestones.
Since there are no hills to climb at Paris-Roubaix, Scott and Saunier Duval chose a bigger chain-ring combo (53/46).
A “third eye” chain guide prevents the chain from jumping down off the lower chain ring on the cobbles.
Special gel pads wrapped under the bar tape provide more dampening and comfort.
Additional top-mounted brake levers, similar to those used in cyclo-cross, allow for quick braking from multiple hand positions.
With the race just weeks away, the Roubaix-prepped bikes are currently being ridden by team members so that they might get accustomed to the radical handling differences. Armed with this impressive technology and a bit of luck, Scott USA hopes its ambitious “Hell of the North” plans will pay off and Tafi will be the first to enter the Roubaix velodrome. Only time will tell.
Check back early next week to see exactly what Manitou has up its sleeves for 2006.