The mountain bike has been evolving for over forty years now. It's probably fair to say that the time of rapid innovation and experimentation is behind us. I mean, there hasn't even been a new proposed axle standard this year. Even so, many companies are still chipping away at the now well-honed machine that is a modern mountain bike, thinking up new ways to make it a little more comfortable, safer or quieter.
Why it's nominated
The ability to shift gears without pedaling is potentially a pretty big advantage. Picture riding a rocky section with a steep climb afterward. Shifting into a lower gear without having to spin the cranks and risk clipping a pedal could make the difference between making it up the climb or stalling. Sure, you can do this with a gearbox drivetrain, but they sacrifice the ability to shift while pedaling, which is even more important.
Shimano's system doesn't stop there. It also has a mode that can automatically shift gears for you (when you're pedaling or when you're coasting) based on your speed and optimal cadence. That means if you start a descent in first gear and pick up speed, the bike will be in an appropriate gear for whatever speed you're going when you next turn the crank.
This second feature won't be to everyone's taste - some people like to be in full control of their bike even if it means making more mistakes. But for an inexperienced rider, especially, it could avoid those heart-stopping moments when you start pedaling and find no resistance.
For now, this tech is only for ebikes - the motor is used to spin the chainring which allows it to shift. But just because something doesn't apply to every bike, that doesn't make it any less innovative.
Most high-end helmets these days feature Mips, or something similar. It's the yellow layer inside the helmet that allows the helmet to rotate relative to your head in a crash; the idea is to reduce the rotational forces on your head which can cause brain injury. The Fox Proframe RS is the first helmet to use an evolution of this concept called Mips Integra Split. Instead of a separate plastic layer inside the helmet, the helmet is constructed of two different-density layers of energy-absorbing foam, where the outer layer can slide over the inner layer in any direction, like a spherical bearing.
In addition to that rotational system, the “Split” name comes from the inner shell being made up of two halves that can articulate between 10-15mm on sets of elastomers which Fox calls “woofers,” offering a further degree of freedom to absorb energy. According to Fox, the combination of an EPP inner liner with an EPS outer layer is "optimized for a variety of impact speeds to reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash."
According to Mips, the new system offers the possibility of better ventilation and a better fit than a regular Mips liner too. When Matt reviewed the helmet, he noted excellent ventilation and none of the squeaking that regular Mips liners can suffer.
If the overall shell shape works for you and you're in the market for a DH-certified enduro helmet, then Fox's Proframe RS should be at the top of your wishlist. It's tough to beat the trifecta of weight to ventilation to protection. Although the price point is higher than most, the overall package is well thought out and offers unrivaled safety features in its class.— Matt Beer
The idea of being able to adjust the saddle angle for climbing and descending isn't a new one. Go to a hill climb race and most riders will tilt the nose of the saddle down; for downhill, it's normal to tilt the saddle nose up. Specialized's Wu dropper post tilted the saddle automatically while it dropped, but the actual dropper travel was only 115 mm, it only worked with 34.9 mm frames, and if you wanted the saddle up it had to be tilted down - there was no option to mix and match height and angle.
The Aenomaly SwitchGrade is a simpler approach that bolts to many existing dropper posts and allows the rider to adjust the tilt manually with an under-the-saddle lever. That means you have to reach between your legs to adjust the angle, but according to Matt Beer who reviewed it, that becomes easier with practice. Aside from simplicity and compatibility, this approach also means you can have a neutral tilt for flatter pedals or a steep downward tilt for steep climbs, and you can make that decision independently of the saddle height. Matt said the downward tilt was such an advantage on steep climbs that he really missed it when returning to a regular fixed saddle: "like the first time you tried a dropper post - you don't know what you're missing until it's taken away."
The ability to tilt the saddle nose upwards for descending is another advantage; it effectively increases the dropper travel by moving the tail of the saddle further out of the way, and it reduces the risk of catching your nether regions on the saddle hull.
We're not saying anyone needs one of these, but especially if your climbs are steep, it's a relatively simple and effective way to improve climbing comfort and descending safety.
E-bike drive units have a fundamental problem. The electric motor likes to spin at a few thousand RPM for maximum power and efficiency, but humans like to pedal at about 100 RPM or less. This means the bulk of an e-bike drive unit is not the electric motor, but the reduction gears required to allow that difference in speed. These usually take the form of pulleys and belts of intermeshing gears that step the RPM down in multiple stages. In these systems, the motor axis is offset from the crank spindle, with gears or belts connecting the two, creating a bulky, oval-shaped drive unit.
In TQ's design, the motor is concentric around the crank spindle. The motor drives the crank via a harmonic pin ring system, which features an inner gear with fewer teeth than a stationary outer gear. The inner gear is non-concentric to the outer gear, so it precesses around the inside of the outer ring, and this in turn drives the crank 17.5 times slower than the motor is spinning.
This is a lower reduction ratio than most e-bikes (many have reduction ratios of 50:1), but TQ achieves this in a single step, and they say that because their motor spins more slowly it makes for less noise. While the output torque is low (50 Nm rather than 85 Nm in the most popular systems), that's all some riders want. TQ makes up for it with an impressive lack of noise, intuitive response, class-leading weight (1,830 g), and a compact form factor that means e-bike manufacturers don't have to compromise on kinematics or geometry.
When we tested the Trek Fuel EX-e (one of the first bikes released with the TQ motor), we were impressed with the low weight, regular-bike geometry, and near-silent ride.
Personally, I would rather have the simple and obvious mechanical solution rather than bluetooth and a damn automatic transmission on my bike. How do either of those make riding better or more accessible? The only innovation there is innovatively high prices.
I’ll let you try out my @Aenomolyconstructs Switchgrade.
It’s fairly innovative, and so far anyone who’s tried it on my bike, loves it. Full stop
You were the only one that noticed
It’s a big ol world out there, and we all don’t live in the same places, with the same access, with the same cool bike shops, etc.
Some places, and get this, still experience bike, and parts shortages.
Trying to find a GX replacement chain here, no bueno my man, no shop has em, no idea when they’re getting them…..Now, are there other chains available, you bet, but that still counts as a shortage right?
I also get frigged off by constant complaining about this and that, and sometimes it feels like people do it, just to do it. That’s annoying, I’m with ya
I don’t even really want a reimbursement, I’d settle for a rethink on $50 tire valves as a product of the year.
I’m losing faith in this place, and the blind following of some of the people who consume it
Personally, I don't have a problem with my saddle position so I think this is overpriced for a manual gizmo that just adds stack height and, on my current bike, might make the next longest dropper unusable for me. But I'm not ranting about y'all being blind and buying overpriced gizmos. Everyone has their own take, you don't have to repetitively tell us those who like expensive valves are blind consumers. It's a neat idea, just not for me. Right now.
And honestly, we're all blind if we're buying anything in the last 3-5 years in this industry.
The “blind” comment was uncalled for, and did nothing to further my point. Apologies
If you’re ever in my neck of the woods, swing on by, and take my bike, with Switchgrade installed for a ride. Like most of the reviews have noted, the benefits are much more noticeable once you go back, and I’m willing to put my money where my big mouth is, and I think that’s important.
Hell I’ll extend that invite to just about anyone, come on by, let’s trade bikes, and go for a ride.
In general, right now, if you gave me almost $300 USD to spend on "mtb something", it wouldn't be the valves or the Switchgrade. Because I have other priorities. Honestly, I think the Switchgrade is very cool, but not for me at this time. It may become the second coming of the dropper, where after a few raised eyebrows at first it becomes the thing you can't ride without. I'm glad it is the schnizz for you, and I'm glad someone made it because no cool thing came from nobody making it. Be it a valve or the right bib short.
I’m comparing what are from any valve review I’ve seen as marginal gains, to my experience, and other reviews on something that is much more than marginal gains.
Again, I’m willing to eat my words, I figured that PB, for essentially no cost to them could do the same.
Obviously they don’t need to, I just hoped they would.
Cause let’s be honest, $50/$70 tire valves as a product of the year nominee is a friggin stretch
If I’m honest, I loved travel adjust forks, I mostly used them on smoother climbs, so pedal strikes weren’t really an issue for me. I think it’s a great idea in theory, and would love to try a modern interpretation on my Spire
I think you read my comment with a bit more sarcasm than I had intended, if that’s my fault, apologies.
I was more referring to the general idea of pre-conceived notions, but your experiences with travel adjust forks is cool.
As far as them not being a thing anymore, well that might have more to do with the engineering, and execution not quite being up to the idea.
Mark my words, it’ll be back, and the idea and engineering will be a bit more fleshed out, and it’ll be the new “have to have” ……much like $50 tubeless tire valves!
I didn't notice much of a difference between my TALAS and a same year Float, and ended up keeping the TALAS, which is still rollin' 19 or 20 years later. Of course, to each their own, and low bb's do play into this.
Not MIPS' fault obviously, but to hand that award to a product so notoriously faulty would be a shame.
Me too, almost. Been on Hightower exclusively over past 7 weeks and no battery/juice to fret, so makes that part of ride nice, it just climbs really slow
Get 3200’ on a Rise in full boost with 360wh, 3000’ on a Levo SL with 320wh, 2400’ on a EXE, 4000’ on a Shuttle. TQ is the worst
Interesting! I guess I was stoked to get 4100ft on EXe last weekend in Trail mode the whole time. About 3000ft tops on my Rail in Tour at same location, but bike is 10 lbs heavier and Tour setting stronger than Turbo on EXe
It’s like comparing MPEG’s between a smaller 2.0L 4cyl engine running at 8000rpm (TQ) vs a larger V8 engine running at 4000rpm (EP8RS) which is not the max power of the V8 that can easily Rev to 6000rpm for much more power than the 4cyl.
Now running that 4cyl at 2000-4000rpm, it will be way more efficient.
TQ is the smallest and when you use max boost, it’s just not as efficient.
I also can get 4500’ on an EXE in about 3:05 moving time in mixed Eco and trail on super steep sections. But I got 5950’ on a same size battery Rise in 3:20 doing the same trail when I did my own Range test. On my Voima 750wh, I’ve done 6800’ in 2:05 moving time .
Longest ride to date is with the Rise with 2 252wh range extender, did 10,600’ but ran out at 10,400’, this was 5:40 moving time
That is wild with the Rise! I have two, 625 w/hr batteries for my Rail and think my max was about 7400ft (ECO/Tour).
I hear ya with the TQ. I ran turbo the whole ride yesterday and only got 75 minutes max, like 2,000ft, 10 miles. So ECO/Trail mode for me from here on that unless shorter ride. I do very much appreciate how the TQ performs on the pedally DH’s! Zero drag, constant acceleration when on the pedals and no noticeable motor cut-out at al, making it feel so fun to jam on. Feels like accelerates much better/more efficient than full powered ebike in these pedally descent environments like a regular bike with some forward boost to keep the momentum going, so fun!
Gripes aside, the Fox does look like an awesome helmet.
Innovation, fixing the supply chain issues
& making my freezer door stay shut.
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