Kona's Connor Fearon was seen on what looks like a carbon 29er Kona Operator at this weekend's Australian National Champs
Zooming in on the picture, the front triangle appears to be carbon, the rear shock link looks bigger and more refined than current production bikes, and we can still see welds showing that the chainstay at least is aluminum.
Connor's also running a Blackbox Rockshox BoXXer that's holding a 29" wheel - note the increased offset at the axle.
Sam Blenkinsop was spotted racing in New Zealand last week on a 29"-wheeled downhill prototype from Norco
. This weekend's Australian National Champs had multiple riders on what looks like a new BoXXer in a cherry red finish with silver crowns.
What's the importance of this colorway? 1998 saw the first production BoXXer dual crown fork after two years as a racers-only product, with its polished crowns, cherry red lowers and white decals displaying rainbow stripes. 2008 saw a tenth-anniversary edition and guess what, now it's 2018. The previous BoXXer has been through a couple of model years already – surely another anniversary model is due? Plus, RockShox doesn't currently have a production 29" downhill fork, and there are a bunch of brands with big-wheeled production models close to launch.
What's up with the offset? After a possible new version of the Lyrik was spotted at the Andes Pacifico recently, and the direction of enduro products getting more and more capable, and downhill products getting lighter and lighter, would it make sense to use the same lowers for a new Lyrik and new BoXXer? It appears that Brosnan's fork has shorter offset lowers for his smaller wheels than Moir has for his big wheels. Normally manufacturers adjust the offset using the forks crowns and the lowers stay the same for all sizes, but it's also possible to use the lowers to switch the amount of offset.
I'll take a punt that there will be two sizes of lowers shared between the Lyrik and BoXXer for each 27.5" and 29" wheels. Both forks will have different offset uppers for each wheel size. This would give manufacturers the option to mix and match parts to get different amounts of offset. It would make sense to give riders options as there are two schools of thought - those who argue for longer and those that want shorter offsets. There's also the fact that long travel big-wheelers are in their infancy and may need more testing and tweaking.
Whatever happens, we should find out soon when RockShox spec'd 29" downhill bikes hit the shelves.