EightyHD's FOX Crowns and DH Stems
Want to spice up your FOX 40? EightyHD's upper and lower replacement fork crowns are a direct-fit replacement for what comes stock with FOX's DH fork, and they're designed, manufactured, and assembled in the USA. The raw material is US-sourced 6061-T6 aluminum, and the upper crown has standard mounting for a direct mount stem, while the steerer tube is clamped in place at the lower crown rather than being press-fit into it. This means that you can replace the steerer tube (which is also made in the US, by the way
) if the old steerer has been damaged or if you're moving the fork to a new bike and it's too short.
The crowns feature the same offset as the stock FOX versions, so there's no playing around with handling differences as you'd find with some aftermarket dirt bike crowns, and they're also no lighter. EightyHD sells the standard crown set with steel bolts for $275 USD, or you can shave some grams by going with aluminum bolts for an extra $25 USD (the steerer clamp bolt is steel on both for reliability reasons
). Both are available in a handful of different colours.
EightyHD also offers two different direct mount stems: their 50mm option retails for $110 USD, while the mega-short Moto stem has either 0 or 10mm of reach depending on setup and retails for the same price. Both are also designed and manufactured in the US, and clamp 31.8mm handlebars only. The Moto stem's rearmost faceplate bolts do double duty by also clamping the stem onto the crown, while EightyHD has gone with separate bolts for the forward handlebar and mountings. Just as with the FOX fork crowns, there are loads of colour options to choose from.
New Protection from 661
661's lineup hasn't seen much in the way of new and exciting kit for the past few years, but 2016 has the company making a big push by debuting an entirely new line of protective gear. This includes redesigned elbow, knee and knee/shin pads, new shorts, and even a zip-up jacket with built-in padding that can also accept a bladder located over the rider's back.
The company's new Rage pads are available in both soft and hardshell versions, with the plastic shell of the latter on the outside of the knee so that the rider will slide instead of stopping dead when they hit the ground, which actually came about as direct feedback from 661 racer Loic Bruni. The pads also offer more protection that extends farther above and below the knee compared to the old Rage offering, and 661 has added foam protection on both sides of the knee - ever bruised the side of your leg from banging it on your bike's top tube? That's exactly what it's for. Kevlar is used for the Rage's skin, a mesh back keeps you a bit cooler than if 661 went with something less breathable, and a calf strap has been positioned to sit just above the muscle to help hold the pad up. Both the soft and hard shell models are available in a standard knee-only version for $70 USD, or a longer knee/shin combo for $85 USD.
With an MSRP of $45 USD, the new Comp AM pads are a less expensive alternative to the pricier Rage, although they also offer a bit less protection. They're based on a soft-shell design that should make them more pedal-friendly, although 661 says that the internal padding does harden up in a flash when it's struck. The pads are slip-on, so you'll have to take off your shoes to get them up your leg, but a Velcro upper band can be adjusted in tension in order to fine tune the fit.
The EVO jacket is all about full-on protection for a rider who's in the bike park or doing shuttles, and it has been developed with help from Lapierre phenom Loic Bruni - he's one of the few World Cup racers who will often wear some sort of upper body protection under his jersey. 661 has put D30 all over the place, including the shoulders and back, to allow the jacket to move with the body until you need it to firm up, and there's breathable foam padding used over the chest area. A long, skinny pocket has been designed into the jacket's back piece that allows the rider to slid in a bladder full of water, and guides route the hose up and over the shoulder so you can reach the mouthpiece when you need to.
More interesting is the EVO's Padlock system that sees slim snaps used for its integrated shoulder pads that can be easily added or removed, and the same system has been employed on the company's shorts to hold their Rage kneepads in place. The snaps themselves are very shallow so as not to leaves bruises behind if you land on them, and they're positioned so that the Velcro strap runs over the snap for even more protection. Pretty clever.
Vittoria's 'Inner Tubular' System
Vittoria has been experimenting with a two-chamber tire and 'inner tube' setup that's similar in concept to Schwalbe's two-chamber Procore system, although Vittoria's design is much simpler at this stage in its development. In fact, this very early prototype is more of a proof-of-concept than a purpose built system, and Vittoria is still thinking about if such a setup is actually needed in these days of very reliable tubeless tire and rim combos. After all, I can run a high-volume tire on a wide rim at under 20 PSI (depending on the terrain and conditions
) and have zero issues and massive amounts of traction. Vittoria is trying to figure out if a two-chamber system needed, and if it's worth the 120 gram (in their case
) weight addition.
Vittoria's Ken Avery has come up with a rough prototype to try and answer those questions, and while his early take on a two-chamber design is built using basically off the shelf parts, he says that it's allowed him to put plenty of time on the concept. Vittoria manufactures 900,000 tubular tires per year, and Avery simply went and grabbed a size-appropriate tubular tire off of the assembly line before the rubber tread was put on, but he's also had a rubber sealing element added to the base of its threaded valve stem. The treadless tubular weighs about 120 grams, and its cotton construction keeps the thin latex tube inside of it from expanding - it's volume means that it sits just proud of the rim, which provides protection from rock strikes, but it also doesn't apply too much pressure on the rim's sidewalls when pumped up as high as 80 PSI.
Avery has been running between 50 and 80 PSI in the 'inner tubular', and between 10 and 20 PSI in the tire itself. Inflating that tire does require that a hole is drilled in the rim for a second valve stem, which he then uses to inflate and seat the tire before filling the inner tubular, and while drilling a second hole in a relatively inexpensive aluminum rim won't scare many people, he does realize that doing the same thing to a carbon rim that can cost as much as $900 USD will be a different story for most people. There's a good chance that Vittoria will come up with a single valve stem solution if they end up taking the system to production, though.Be sure to check out all of our Sea Otter Classic images in this gallery.