Wagon Wheels Break Into the World Cup DH World
The cat is out of the bag. People on the inside have been mumbling about 29ers making their way into DH racing for some time. What's more, several companies (such as Trek and Norco) experimented with wagon wheeler DH bikes way back when. In April, however, rumors solidified into something much more. It started with leaks like this one
(at right), then properly avalanched with the release of the Santa Cruz V10 29er
Due to the torrential rains at Lourdes, we didn’t get to see just how the introduction of 29ers would shake out in the final runs of competition, but you can expect to see more of them showing up shortly, at Fort Bill.
While some people are undoubtedly shedding bitter tears over this whole thing, the move to at least experiment with 29ers seems largely inevitable in a discipline where every second counts. Does this mean that 29ers are the next logical step in the evolution of the downhill bike? I think you can make a compelling argument that some courses suit smaller wheels and other courses favor 29. At the end of the day, however, racing will decide what works. The podium doesn’t lie.
Anyone Hoping for Closer Finishes in Women's World Cup Racing
Rachel Atherton's Competition Grows Fierce
Rachel Atherton is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one has beaten her at a World Cup since Lourdes 2015. She has the longest winning streak in history at this point. And, let's give credit where credit’s due—she’s deserved that streak. That said, when an athlete—any athlete—so thoroughly dominates their sport for that length of time, some of the thrill of competition bleeds away. I mean, there were some close races last season, but Atherton’s margin of victory at Fort William in 2016 was 12.049 seconds. Her average margin of victory for the past two seasons? An astounding 5.651 seconds. In short, if you’ve been hoping for neck and neck finishes in women’s World Cup DH, well, you’ve been disappointed of late.
Obviously, it’s too early to say that all of that has changed. We’re just one race into the 2017 season, but if Lourdes is any indication, Rachel Atherton’s competition has been working overtime of late. Atherton finished second in the qualifiers; that’s not unusual in and of itself since she tends to hold back a bit before her final runs while her competition pulls out all the stops, even during the seeding rounds. This time around, however, both Tracey Hannah and Tahnee Seagrave came within three seconds of Rachel in the finals. I’m not suggesting that Rachel’s season is suddenly in jeopardy—three seconds is still a mighty margin—but if Lourdes is any indication, the competition might be closing in on Rachel Atherton… which could add a bit of excitement to the mix.
Nomad sighted, Polygon's mythical beast unleashed, Jekyll face-lifted and Ripley re-worked
If you’re itching to see new bikes, April was kind to you. First, there was that candid, camera-phone shot of what sure looks to be a new Santa Cruz Nomad
. The bike was clearly an unmarked prototype, but the carbon frame does, as Mike Kazimer noted, resemble “the love child of the current Nomad and a V10, with a split seat tube, and a rocker link that's noticeably longer than the previous version.” Then there was the debut of the Polygon Square One
with its R3ACT Suspension. While the internet had a field day with the bike's… unusual… aesthetics, a number of reviewers (including Richard Cunningham) were positively effusive about the 180-millimeter travel bike that reportedly climbs like a cross-country machine. And, yes, we've all heard that line before. A thousand times. Is it any truer this time around? Time will tell.
And that was just for starters. Cannondale unveiled new Jekyll and Trigger models
(there's no DYAD pull-shock this time around), Transition launched carbon hard tails (yes, really) and Ibis rolled out a stiffer, snappier Gen 3 Ripley
. April paid off big for bike nerds.
People Who Pine for Electronic Shifting
Inventors Unveil $300 DIY Wireless Shifting
Perhaps you are in love with the idea of electronically-activated shifting, but you don’t feel like blowing a wad of cash on Di2 or messing about with the wires. If that’s you, you might be in luck because Brandon Rodgers and Devin Carlson have created a working prototype of a wireless remote shifting system that can shift any cable-operated rear derailleur. Oh, and they expect to sell it for $300.
Rodgers and Carlson hail from Santa Cruz, California and are still in the early stages of getting their company, Archer Components, off the ground, but they showed up to Sea Otter with a display and let us fiddle about with what they are calling their D1X system
The handlebar-mounted remote communicates with the derailleur actuator (mounted on the chainstay) via Bluetooth. As currently configured, battery life is less than awesome—a few days, as opposed to a few months with Shimano. Archer, however, is confident they can boost the battery life significantly. Probably the coolest aspect of their invention is that it doesn’t require that you buy a whole new drivetrain—it’ll shift just about anything you are currently rocking—from 8-speed to Eagle. You program the shifting via smartphone.
The Cycling World
Racing Icon, Steve Tilford, Dies in Auto Accident
Maybe you’ve never heard of Steve Tilford. If that’s true, I’ll just put it this way: Steve Tilford was an undisputed bad ass. The guy entered the first NORBA National race in 1983 on a fluke, on a borrowed Moots mountain bike, and won. But Tilford is more than a memorable chapter in mountain biking history. Tilford was the epitome of the racer. The guy never stopped. Cyclocross, mountain bike, road—the guy showed up to races all over and put the hurt on generations of famous riders around the world. This is a guy who carried his own suture kit along wherever he went because tearing himself up on a bike was just part of the job and winners’ purses rarely paid him well enough to go into the emergency room on the regular. Tilford stitched up his own bad self. All the time. And, no, he didn't use anesthetic. Again, the man was a bad ass.
In short, Steve Tilford was the embodiment of the person a lot of us merely wish we could be. All that came to an end in April
. Per usual, Tilford was road tripping in his Sprinter van when he struck an overturned semi-truck in the middle of the night (the semi wasn’t visible on that stretch of Utah’s I-70). Amazingly, Tilford survived that collision, but was struck soon after by another semi which happened onto the scene and collided into the first, overturned semi-truck. The world is a poorer place without Steve Tilford. R.I.P, man. If anyone deserved a break, it was you. Just wish it hadn’t come about this way.
The Usual Podium Suspects
Deluge at Lourdes Puts a Damper on Competition
Ah, there’s nothing like the first big race of the year. We come to see who is returning full of piss and vinegar, who is rusty and who is set to shock the world. That first race of the season has a lot resting on it, which is why it royally sucked when the rain began to fall by the bucketload during the men’s elite race. A week of dry and dusty weather suddenly morphed into a deluge that thoroughly shit-canned the top contenders’ race runs.
Now, that isn’t to say that Alex Fayolle didn’t have a great race—he was fast and consistent all week, but still… you have to wonder about just how badly the massive deluge
screwed up the runs for Minnaar, Hart, and Gwin, to name just a few of the usual suspects for the top spots on the podium.
And that’s the tragedy of it all—racing is supposed to quell the questions and set forth answers. Who is the fastest rider of the day? Just look at the clock. Racing is not supposed to end in shoulder shrugs and ambiguity. If we wanted confusion, we’d be attending a theoretical quantum physics conference. We want racing. We want answers! This time around, however, Lourdes ended with a bit of a slump and a great big “I dunno…”.
We were robbed. By Mother Nature. Dammit.
Anyone Hoping Standards Would Stop Changing
Boost for 20-millimeter Thru-Axles is Going to be "A Thing"
At Sea Otter, a number of companies, including DVO, Formula, and Suntour, openly showed off forks designed to work with 20-millimeter Boost hubs
. Here’s the point in the article where someone says, “Bullshit! 20-millimeter through axle forks already feature 110-millimeter hub spacing.” True. But here’s the difference; Boost isn’t just about the hub width, it’s about hub flange spacing. To that end, we’re talking about spreading the hub flanges apart (five more millimeters on each side) on 20x110-millimeter, through-axle hubs. Spreading those spoke flanges apart will mean that the brake rotor is now five millimeters closer to the non-drive side fork leg and that, in turn, means that the disc brake mounts on the fork lowers need to be repositioned as well.
Why is this happening? There are a lot of things we could say here. It’s easier, for instance, for hub manufacturers to make just one hub and allow users to swap between 15 and 20-millimeter through axles by swapping end caps. You could also argue about some percentage increase in stiffness. But at the end of the day, it boils down to this: It just seems to be happening. Period.
On the upside, you should be able to use your existing 20-mm through axle wheel on a new Boost fork by simply using a rotor spacer. There’s some backward compatibility here, for sure. But, yeah, if you were hoping that the bike industry would, for the love of God, stop changing up this standards shit for, hell, a year or two at a time… well, no such luck.