Rachel Byus: Pivot Cycles
No question: Pivot Cycles was winning Dirt Demo. Long lines formed in front of their demo tent and the moment a bike was returned, it was whisked away by the next rider in line. Pivot's Rachel Byus was coordinating the hand-offs, so I figured she would be the one who could best tell me what models were trending at Bootleg Canyon.
"The Switchblades with the Plus wheels are non-stop. The second one rolls in, it rolls back out. The same with the new Firebirds."
Pivot's Switchblade is built around a 135-millimeter-travel carbon chassis and a 150-millimeter fork, and it is convertible between 27.5-Plus and 29-inch wheels. The Firebird is Pivot's latest offering, with a 170-millimeter-travel rear suspension and aggressive, rider-forward geometry. I asked Rachel about rider profiles: who was showing up for the plus bikes and who was asking for big-travel enduro machines?
"Switchblades were going out mostly with 30 to 40-year-olds. About half of them were regular guys, and the others were the good riders who already knew their suspension, setup, and air-pressure settings. We had a lot of women interested in the Switchblades too - the extra small has been out all day."
What is the general consensus on wheel size?
"Everyone seems to be far more open to 27-Plus than they were three months ago."
Who are the Firebird riders?
"Younger, good looking guys. (laughs) Most are asking about reach and top tube measurements. We tell them up front that the Firebird is a big bike, so most of them aren't sizing up to large and extra-large frame sizes. The only Firebird that is hanging on the rack right now is the extra large one."
Max Commencal: Commencal Bikes
Founder and namesake, Max Commencal has etched out a reputation among some of the sport's best bike-handlers for his sharp-performing downhill and all-mountain ranges. Commencal was not hosting a demo fleet at Dirt Demo, which gave the chief some time to ride his competitor's machines. Max caught up with me riding an e-bike, of all things, so I asked him if Commencal has plans to enter that market.
"We will have a Meta AM 4 e-bike soon. In Europe, they are fifty percent of sales."
I told Max that I thought e-bikes were a separate category from mountain bikes and that I predicted that motor and battery technology, not frame and suspension design, would be its driving force. I asked him if bike makers were developing a market that they would eventually lose to motor makers or manufacturers outside the bike industry?
"Yes, there is always that possibility, but we have to look ahead, to visualize what future bikes will be to avoid that. We have to make money to survive, and to do the things that we like - to keep ahead and not just stay at one place, or to just disappear."
Steve Domahidy: Viral Bikes
Co-founder of Niner Bikes, Steve Domahidy is no stranger to bucking trends. His latest venture, Viral Bikes, blends the traditional titanium hardtail, with modernized geometry, plus-sized tires, a Gates Carbon cog-belt drive, and the German-made Pinion P1.12 geared transmission. Our conversation centered on the difficulty of marketing new, or different looking technology.
"You can develop a new concept that in all or most respects, is much better than anything that is out there, but if customers don't accept it, nothing you say or do will matter."
I thought he was referring to the Pinion gearbox and cog-belt drive, but Steve reminded me that both of those technologies have been time proven and, to a large degree, have been accepted by bike makers, at least at the upper end of the price range.
"I would love to make a linkage fork. I think that the Girvin fork was in many ways, a superior design than the telescopic fork is. It can be made stiffer, lighter, simpler to build, and there is less friction than a telescoping fork. I believe that it has more potential. I would love to develop one, but the problem is that when people think of a suspension fork, they see a telescopic fork - even an inverted one makes people go, 'Woah! What is going on here?' It's that perception that makes a linkage fork an impossibility."
Christy Cook and Kevin Costz: Cannondale's Bad Habit
Cannondale's demo fleet was also in demand at Bootleg Canyon. I poked my head into their tent to ask which bikes in their range were the most requested. "Habits," said Cannondale's Kevin Costz, who was preparing their newest edition to that range: the Bad Habit 27.5-inch Plus model. Christy Cook was being fitted for one, so while she was a prisoner of Cannondale, I asked her about the decision to go with over-sized tires.
"I was told by my husband that they would roll easier over stuff."
Have you ridden a Plus bike before?
"This is my first time, but my husband has been riding a Plus bike for about a year."
What are you riding now?"
"A Trigger 275."
What level would you consider your ability? Where do you do most of your riding?
"Intermediate. I live in Utah, so there are good trails everywhere. We ride a lot in Hurricane."
|The bicycle industry, as a whole, is not that intelligent. - Troy Rarick |
Paul Cusick: 100%
Paul Cusick is the sales manager at 100% - a leading motorcycle accessory maker that has been carefully entering the mountain bike realm. They began with goggles, followed by gloves, and more recently, their Aircraft helmet range and a selection of performance eye-wear. Interbike 2016 marks the debut of a small, but well-designed clothing range that 100% plans to gradually expand upon. We spoke about the perceived health of the mountain bike market, and Cusick had a surprisingly optimistic take on it.
"I think that mountain bikes are doing pretty well right now. People are becoming wary of riding the road. With all the cars and people texting, it is getting more and more dangerous. I think more people are discovering that they like riding where it is not life-threatening, where you can enjoy the experience of being outdoors and away from all that craziness. Plus, mountain bikes are so easy to ride now. With longer travel suspension, anyone can ride trails like a pro."