The Bike Connection is a fresh event held in Massa Marittima, Italy. Close to the infamous Massa Vecchia and Punta Ala locations, hundreds of kilometers of the finest single-tracks weave through the woods, up and down Tuscan mountains with sea views and, ninety percent of the time, great weather. Unfortunately for us, we stumbled into one of the soggy 10 percent periods. The weather definitely got the better of us this week, but the event still managed to bring media and manufacturers together to see, discuss, and test the latest products without the distractions of the big bike shows, halogen lights and non-existent bike trails. Here's a look at some prototypes from Formula, rolling upgrades from e*13 and seals and the 'mud scraper' from SKF.
Proto-hype with Formula and Unno
Slap a prototype sticker on something and everyone goes wild; add that to a freshly-built production Unno Dash frame and you're on to a publicity winner.
There's something brewing inside the Formula Selva chassis that we can't talk about yet, mostly because I don't really know what is inside and they weren't divulging all the details. The gold cap on the bottom-left fork leg, however, is definitely not standard. More importantly, whatever is in there will be available for you to retrofit your current fork – "aaarghh bike companies are always forcing us to buy new products..." Hold-on, did they say retro-fit? Yes, Formula are vocally opposed to the constant changing of standards and are planning to make any new technology work with their older fork chassis.
#lookslikeaguide A four-piston prototype caliper, fresh rotor design and that extra gold thingy on the bottom of the fork leg.
There are also new brake calipers on the Unno Dash, similar to ones we've spotted before on Loic Bruni's race bike
. There is no official word on production plans, but the caliper is a four-piston unit that works with the current Cura lever. Formula says they want to make the most powerful brake on the market. They were also keen to point out that the current Cura is no weakling and was the only two-piston brake raced at World Cup DH's in 2017. I have just fitted a pair to a test bike so expect a review soon.
When I visited Unno two-years ago in Barcelona
, their test bikes looked like a first attempt at making carbon frames in the back of their design studio, that had then been smashed down trails, scraped on rocks, modified and patched, and beaten with hammers. It turns out that is exactly what had
happened to them. Even after all of that, they were still stunning to behold. But the finish on this production-ready frame is unbelievably beautiful. There are still a few framesets available from the first production run if you are quick.
The Gemini bar/stem is a separate project from Unno--a creation by one of Cero Designs' (Unno's parent company) engineers. The finish appears of equal quality to the frame and really cleans things up on the business end of the bike. Still no official word if these will make it into production, but here's to hoping.
Added length and strength for e*thirteen
E*13 seem to be rolling with the good times recently; closing the deal to have their dropper posts, cassettes, cranks, tires and wheels specced across many of YT's top-end bikes can't have been bad for business. Still, E*13 are continuing to improve their products and have added a 170mm TRS+ dropper post to the existing 125 and 150mm options.
The LG1 tires should be another great option for downhill and big wheels.
E*13 have also added a downhill casing to their tire options that have gained the LG1 Race and Plus monikers. No, that's not plus as in "plus-sized", but rather, plus as in... well I'm confused too... But I am
all for new DH-casing tire options, especially in 29" diameter. The LG1 Plus is a harder and longer-lasting compound, with a real dual-ply casing and a claimed weight of 1119/1162 grams in 27.5/29 respectively. The Race version uses dual compound, super-sticky rubber and has Apex reinforcement in the sidewall, close to the kevlar bead, but with an added aramid layer to improve air retention. This version weighs in at 1158/1257 grams. If you missed it, the full press release is here.
The massive LG1R crank on the left, and an eMTB version with self-extracting crank bolts on the right.
There is something very interesting in the drivetrain pipeline that should be released at Sea Otter, but in the meantime, you will have to settle with less exciting news, like self-extracting bolts being added to their cranksets and replacement crank arms for Brose powered eMTB's in 160mm and 170mm lengths.
SKF Seal Kits and Mud Scrapers
The outdated spacing is slowly on the way out, but there is still some way to go, I'm glad somebody said it.
Mud scrapers are commonplace in the MX-world for use in bad conditions.
It has been less than ten years since bearing and sealing giants SKF got into the mountain bike suspension game. Since then they have taken over a huge share of the market and now supply OEM products for every major player. With their experience in motocross, SKF realized that, in general, mountain bikers are not as mechanically savvy as MX riders, who are more used to frequently changing oil and filters, opening up engines and gearboxes, and often changing fork seals. Many MTB riders just expect their fork to last forever and only realize they need a service when it's too late and the fork or shock's expensive shiny coating has worn off. It's a fairly simple procedure to change the fork seals and SKF want riders to do this more often. The brand offers aftermarket kits that include seals and any other disposables, such as crush washers and o-rings, for nearly every fork on the market – there are over 130 options in total. They are also working on their own tools to make this task even easier.
SKF currently produce 'mud scrapers' for MX bikes and are considering making them for mountain bike forks, shocks and droppers. The scrapers are an external addition to the seals, add relatively little to no extra friction and scrape dry mud off the stanchions. But, don't mountain bike forks already have expensive hi-tech seals? Yes, and the mud scraper is here to save them; rubber seals are soft and do a good job of preventing dust and wet mud from getting into your fork, but the biggest problem is from mud that has dried hard on to the stanchions. This dried mud is one of the fastest ways to damage and wear out seals, and muddy shuttle or chairlift days are the worst culprits. It's not something for everyone, but I think the mud scrapers could be a great addition for many riders who want a little more riding time between services.
The scrapers are fork or shock specific and are easy to wrap around the fork legs and fix with a cotter pin.