By Nicole Formosa
The Sea Otter Classic is the unofficial kickoff to the season in North America, and the expo at Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey draws hundreds of brands showing their newest products. Here are a few things that caught my eye:
The first ride samples of Praxis' double mountain bike chainrings arrived Wednesday night, just in time for the opening of Sea Otter on Thursday. Praxis, which prides itself on its proprietary cold forging technology, had already released a triple set-up and one-by single rings, but had not met the demand for the popular two-by setup until now. This year, the rings will be packaged with Praxis' own Turn-branded hollow forged crankset in two options: a 30-millimeter spindle for BSA threaded frames and with a conversion-style bottom bracket that makes it compatible with BB30 or PF30 frames. The rings come in a 36/22 ratio for the 29er crowd; 38/26; and a triple spider with a two-plus bash. The thin-walled aluminum spindle also comes in a 35-millimeter option with a bottom bracket conversion to fit BB30 and PF30 frames. The all-mountain "big bang for your buck" rings will be available later this fall and priced between Shimano's SLX and XT.
We first heard rumblings about Continental's 27.5 inch tires at last year's Eurobike tradeshow, and the German brand delivered six months later at Sea Otter with a selection of rubber in four tread patterns. Continental emerged with its offering for the ever more popular wheel size with 2.2 width for the Race King, Trail King, Cross King and Mountain King tires. The latter three models are also available in the beefier 2.4 width. The 27.5 inch tires will be available in shops this August.
Focus, another brand based in Germany, debuted its first 650B mountain bike in the U.S.: the Raven 1.0 100-millimeter carbon fiber hardtail. The bike has already been available in Europe, but makes its way to American stores for model year 2014. At $3,950, the Raven is priced well for a full XT spec'd bike, but it could be held back by its triple chainring setup in a market increasingly demanding two-by. That's something the U.S. arm of Focus would like to see changed by model year 2015. "We're pushing them hard in Germany, but in Europe triples are still really popular," said Tim Jackson, Focus USA's marketing manager. Focus is in the midst of revamping its entire full-suspension line and, in the mean time, will sell only hardtail 29ers and the Raven 1.0 in the U.S. market for 2014.
If you look really close at the Felt booth, you may spot a prototype of the new Edict Nine full-suspension XC 29er. The 100-millimeter travel race bike has been updated with a new larger volume bottom bracket for increased stiffness, a direct mount front derailleur and an oversized aluminum pivot axle with locking collet bolt to replace the previous steel version. The remodel shaves 100 grams off the frame weight and increases stiffness by 5 to 7 percent, according to Nick Ducharme, Felt's design engineer. The 2014 Edict should be available by the end of the year. Felt is also offering Edict's big brother, the 5-inch travel Virtue, in three 29er versions: a full carbon fiber frame, a full aluminum frame and an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber rear triangle. Like most brands, Felt is in the hunt for a 650B bike, and is currently testing prototypes that could hit the market as early as model year 2015. "We're looking forward to coming up with a couple new platforms based on that wheel size in the next two years," Ducharme said.
The one-man mountain bike baggy brand, Dirtbaggies, started by Tim Lane, a former designer and engineer at Felt, keeps plugging along with an updated mountain bike bib and baggy short combo. For the second iteration of his short, Lane has integrated a new stretchy waistband and added a green/grey color combo to the baggy selection. Lane also adjusted the price of the liner to $160, a $30 reduction, and increased the price of the baggy by $10 to $90.