The off-season, and especially the cold darkness of a Northern Hemisphere winter, can be a trying time for people who get excited about new this and prototype that. Very few new product releases are worth writing about this time of the year, and there are no EWS events or World Cups where racers are employing one-off bikes and gear. Sure, you might not think new tech is all that interesting, but you'd be in the minority - World Cup tech coverage consistently pulls more views that the actual racing content, which goes to prove that there are a lot of dorks (my hand is up) out there.
Thankfully, there are some crumbs to pick up on social media channels during the winter, mainly Instagram. Have a look below at what Greg Minnaar has been posting on his personal Instagram account
, as well as Syndicate mechanic Jason Marsh
Greg Minnaar is in the United States to do some testing with Fox and Santa Cruz, and they're being pretty scientific about it all. He's using a Freelap timing system, and there's a data acquisition kit strapped to the South African's yellow and black V10 (it's also being used on other V10s at the same session) that appears to be evaluating the 40 on the front of the bike. They wouldn't be doing this unless there was something new to test, of course, although Mark Jordan, Fox's Global Marketing Manager, declined to specify whether it was related to the 40's damper or spring system, so your guess is as good as mine.
Can you spot anything else interesting on Minnaar's V10? The bike's lower VPP link is certainly not production - it's not anodized, and it has a single travel setting compared to the standard bike's two travel options. This piece is far from new, however, with the Syndicate boys using it all last season to, I suspect, increase the bike's progression for when guys like Bryceland pass on actually using a jump's landing. Transitions are for mere earthlings, it seems.
All neat stuff, but there are more interesting things in the back of that shuttle truck than wired-up V10s...
Greg is also testing what appears to be a Hightower, although it's probably anything but off-the-shelf. The bike's front and rear triangles look stock, but that's likely where it ends as far as unmolested parts go. There's obviously a 40 on the front of the bike, with a 29'' wheel attached to it, and it has surely had its travel lowered from 200mm to 170mm or less. It also looks pretty badass with those black stanchion tubes, I have to admit.
While Minnaar's leg is blocking our view in the above photo, you can easily spot what looks to be a custom upper VPP link on the bike while it's in the back of the pickup truck. My guess, and that's all it is, is that the link ups Greg's Hightower from the stock 135mm of travel to at least 150mm, although it could be even more. I bet it also forgoes the ''High/Low'' geometry adjustment of the stock link while also compensating for the bike's increased travel. Who knows what else we can't see; offset shock bushing(s) and a headset that supplies increased reach or a slacker head angle wouldn't be out of line.
|Greg rode a Hightower at the last EWS race in Finale Ligure, Italy, and he was impressed with it, which brought up some what ifs. The guys are in California right now, so it's a good opportunity for us to throw some stuff at them for testing. We've done this with all of our bikes. - Don Palermini - North American Marketing Manager, Santa Cruz|
If true, all that would bring the modified Hightower into Bronson and Nomad territory, which seems off given that, well, Santa Cruz has the Bronson and Nomad. Ah, but both of those bikes roll on 27.5'' wheels, and Santa Cruz's biggest (stock) 29er is the 135mm-travel Hightower. But maybe not for much longer, it seems. Are we looking at the early testing days of a bike designed to compete with long-travel 29ers like Trek's 150mm Slash and Nukeproof's 150mm Mega 290? Or is Minnaar simply testing long-travel, big-wheeled bikes to have as an option for the 2017 race season? As PB member @Andy-FFM
suggested in the comment section, Minnaar may already be thinking of a down-sized race bike for the pedal-intensive 2017 World Champs tracks in Cairns, Australia, much like some racers used for the Pietermaritzburg course.