July was one of the hottest months of record almost everywhere in the world, and so was racing and freeride competition. World Cup action at Lenzerheide set a new standard for cross country and downhill events - and five freeride events, including a FEST double header, produced some of the most incredible still and video imagery we've seen on PB this season. On the technical side, with Eurobike just around the corner, the big guns are starting to flash some 2016 product to build some excitement. No month passes by without a few stinkers, but we are happy to report that July was far better than it was worse. Who would have guessed, however, that one of the most uplifting months this season would be followed by tragedy, when on August 1, EWS competitor Will Olson lost his life in a racing accident in Crested Butte. In the context of this article, Will's passing reminds us that we are as much a community as we are an action sport. Good times or bad times, everyone counts.
Riding into the record books
Greg Minnaar admitted that he was struggling with the Lenzerheide race course. Lenzerheide's downhill was newly built with the help of Steve Peat and Claudio Caluori, and it became clear on the first morning of practice that the race was going to be a three-minute serving of every racer's wish and every racer's nightmare - which should have played well to Minnaar's wide-ranging skillset. The Champ could only manage to qualify sixth, and the media quickly shifted its attention to other hopefuls for the final.
Minnaar knuckled down on his race run and somehow found some bits on the course where he could shave some time, which earned him the hot seat - where the South African super star would remain until the end, besting crowd favorite Loic Bruni's scorching run down the mountain by just under one second. It is the mark of a true professional to be able to lay down a winning time when the course, the bike, or the body is not cooperating. Hats off to Greg, whose victory at a Lenzerheide also earned him a place in the record books for the most World Cup victories in the men's DH ahead of his team-mate, Steve Peat.
Two Suspension developments that you can't have, yet.
Fox developed a version of its 2016 DHX2 shock for enduro racer Justin Leov's Trek that could signal a wholesale jump from air-sprung shocks back to coil-sprung types by top enduro racers. Weight and versatility are the factors which have made air sprung dampers the popular choice and perhaps more compelling, is that air springs can be tuned, using volume spacers and other tricks, to compensate for the funky leverage-rate curves which are characteristic of most anti-squat suspension designs. The overwhelming popularity of one-by drivetrains has recently simplified suspension kinematics, and suspension designers are also returning to conventional leverage rates. Both trends favor the linear rate of a coil spring.
Coil/over racing shocks for enduro may be appearing in greater numbers now that Push Industries and Fox are on board.
The weight disadvantage of a coil spring has been addressed somewhat by using a special steel alloy which brings the weight of Fox's SLS spring to that of the far more pricey titanium option. Versatility is not on par with an air-sprung shock, however, because one air spring can be tuned to support a wide range of rider weights, while the SLS spring still must be purchased to suit an individual. That said, Fox's twin-circuit Rod Valve damping system allows a rider to remotely adjust high and low-speed compression forces and inside, the shock can be tuned to higher and lower thresholds to further control bottoming forces - all of which help the DHX2 shock play well with funky leverage rates.
What makes Leov's proto DHX2 shock big news, though, is that Fox added a pedal platform lever to its Rod Valve low-speed compression circuit - which makes it a prime candidate for enduro racers and all-mountain riders who want a lot of support for pedaling, without sacrificing supple DH-like rear suspension for the downs. Fox says that there are no firm plans to market the new shock, but Darren at Push Industries has been selling every ElevenSix he can make - a shock that offers almost exactly the same features as the prototype DHX2, right down to the lightweight alloy steel spring. We expect that Fox will make an announcement soon.
Last week Pinkbike posted a first-ride feature on Fox's electronically controlled Live Valve shock and fork system. You can get the details in the tech feature, but the short version is that Fox figured out a simple way to use accelerometers to sense bumps and then connected it to a super-fast solenoid-actuated low-speed compression damping circuit that they developed in-house. Live Valve is a set-and-forget system that uses very little battery power and it makes your bike pedal like it never has suspension, yet at the same time, ride like it always has suspension. So future suspension designers can let Live Valve take care of the pedaling, and then choose the best performing suspension kinematics without compromises related to pedaling dynamics. Imagine, DH smoothness and XC pedaling efficiency. It's here, it works and it's going into production in the near future.
Getting back on the bike after a paralyzing crash
Martyn Ashton is the super-talented trials guy who started the trend of tricking road bikes and riding them where no sane person would imagine it would be possible. In 2013, Aston suffered a spinal injury in a crash that robbed him of the use of his legs and it seemed that his life on two wheels had come to an untimely end.
Two years later, assisted by a special seat designed for skiers who suffered similar injuries that was attached to a modified Nicolai Mojo, Martyn was once again able to ride a mountain bike. With some help from Danny MacAskill, Chris Akrigg and Blake Samsonan, the ex trials shredder was strapped into the seat, taped to the pedals and then given a shove for a long and beautiful descent - his first official trail ride since his disabling injury.
If you don't recall what it is like to be absolutely happy, then watch the "Back on Track" video and you will be reminded of that one moment were the only three things that existed in the universe were you, your bike, and the blurry earth speeding below your wheels. Of course Martyn actually filmed that video a month or so earlier, and he had to have pre-ridden that bike to dial it in, but until it's on Pinkbike, it didn't really happen. "Martyn Ashton - Back On Track" dropped on PB July 2, 2015, so I'm callin' that a win.
If you slept through July, you missed a year's worth of freestyle action.
As if one FEST event would not be enough monster jump action for PB viewers, there were two in July: RoyalFEST, staged by Nico Vink in France's Royal Hills park went off first with Andreu Lacondeguy nabbing best trick and Vink earing best line awards. Just two weeks later, Mads “Makken” Haugen invited the world's best freeriders to compete at his Hillbilly HuckFEST in Norway near Hafjell, where Andreu once again landed best trick honors. The Colorado Freeride festival went off on July 25 on a course designed by Kelly McGarry at Winter Park resort where Carson Storch took top honors in front of record crowds.
Andreu Lacondeguy at RoyalFEST
Andreu Lacondeguy at Hillbilly HuckFEST
Matt Jones - Colorado Freeride Festival
Natural features at the Chatel bike festival
Across the Atlantic, the FMB series Damond-level Crankworx Les Deux Alpes fired up on the 9th, where Brett Rheeder made it two in a row, which propelled him to the top of the series with 300 points. All eyes are upon the Canadian as he attempts to seize the triple crown at Whistler Crankworx in August.
The second round of the Chatel Bike Festival held during the week of July 15 gave pro freeriders and filmers the chance to compete on a course designed by Nico Vink who added a number of machine-dug features to an already monsterized line that contains some of the gnarliest naturally based jumps on the world tour. Chatel's Film and freestyle competition was won by Ramon Hunzicker, Jaws and Patrick Rasche, fimed by Ryys. Watch all eight edits. That was a lot of freeride competition in only 31 days, but take a deep breath, because Crankworx comes home to Whistler in less than a week.
Brett Rheeder - two down, one to go.
Tenneco will close the doors of the famous suspension maker
Tenneco owns Marzocchi and a number of automotive parts suppliers including sister suspension makers, Monroe and Rancho. July 22, Tenneco announced that it could not find a buyer for Marzocchi and would be closing down both its cycling and motorcycle suspension operations by the end of 2015. Fans of the brand have taken the news pretty hard, but we feel most for everyone at Marzocchi who have been rallying, quite successfully, to restore the Italian brand's reputation as a leader in the all-mountain and downhill suspension arenas since the brand ran afoul with its major creditors and was purchased by Tenneco in 2008. The news means that OEM bike makers who spec Marzocchi suspension, Its sponsored race teams, and a whole lot of existing customers will soon be left to chance on supply and warranty issues.
Andrea Pierantoni, sales and marketing director for Tenneco Marzocchi, indicated in an interview by PB's Mike Levy that, at least in the short term, Marzocchi will fulfil its OEM contracts and continue to support its race teams. Andrea also was optimistic that its replacement and service inventory may be purchased before year's end so that current owners will have access to
Marzocchi's very promising EPD dropper seatpost was its last development before Tenneco pulled the plug.
replacement parts. Of course, there is always the hope that a White Knight investor might show up at the eleventh hour and buy Marzocchi outright with the intention of reviving the brand. Marzocchi was founded in 1949 and was a pioneer mountain bike suspension maker. We hope this ends well.
Unprofessional professionals at Mont Sainte Anne
So, the story goes, Sir Gee Atherton was conversing with bystanders somewhere at Mont Sainte Anne when Sir Josh Bryceland showed up unprovoked, dropped his trousers and began shaking his exposed flesh weapon at Sir Atherton in front of God and everybody. Words were exchanged and there was some pushing and shoving. The interaction was heated, and just when it seemed that the tussle was over, the two went after each other once more. The bystanders were in the act of separating Sir Gee and Sir Josh when out of the blue, Sir Sam Dale jumped into the fray and decided this was his moment to get a piece of the reigning World Champion. Sir Dale sucker-punched Sir Atherton a couple of times in the head while the Champ was being held back.
Medical experts say that a man's heart can only pump enough blood to keep either his brain or his privates running at full potential - but never both at the same time. Look no further for proof of that.
Klearchos Kapoutsis photo
Another less plausible explanation is that when Gee, Josh and Sam heard that Gwin won without a chain, they thought they heard "brain" and said: "Amputate mine, I want to win one of those things!" Fight your pet peeves on your bicycles, gentlemen.