Well, another Interbike show wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and it was entertaining and tiring, but it was fun to catch up with old friends and meet a few new ones. It was hotter and windier than normal at the Outdoor portion, making for a couple of sand filled desiccating days. Indoors was the usual monstrous mess of booths, and I kept getting lost (as usual), and thank goodness for maps and overhead signage.
Bikes just keep getting better, both the frames and components. When comparing the same types of bikes (All Mountain, for example), the differences between them are becoming more subtle, as the manufacturer is building excellent product, that are functional and well engineered. It is hard to pick trends each year, but in general the direction is for more suspension, especially on a bike that can be ridden uphill. Components are getting lighter, with accompanying durability, and bike gearing has evolved (or devolved) to 10 speeds, although there’s a large continuing renaissance for single speeds, with a lot of bikes using belt drive systems. Now that Europe has decided that 29er is not a lunatic North American biking variant, more 29er bikes, wheels, forks and tires are being released. A couple of the smaller helmet manufacturers, POC and Kali are morphing their full faced helmet technical protection innovations to their cross country versions, which is a good sign for continued helmet safety.
I compiled together a Top 5 list of products that I found interesting and innovative from this year show:
Nutrition – Honey Stinger Waffle
The Honey Stinger Waffle is tasty, good for you and are pretty darn addicting, and I can’t wait to include one for snacking on bike rides. New part-owner Lance Armstrong, suggested the Waffles, after eating many Stroopwafels in the Netherlands, which are two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. The Honey Stinger version is organic, and substitute honey instead of syrup, for enjoyable 160 calories of edible goodness.
Bike – Santa Cruz Carbon Nomad
I first saw the Nomad Carbon at Sea Otter this year, and was impressed with the swooping lines and attention to detail that the frame displayed. Santa Cruz had recently revamped the Nomad slightly, and I liked the improvements to the suspension system, but the addition of a carbon frameset was a wholesale change for the Nomad line. It has a 67 degree head angle, 1.5″ steerer tube, ISCG 05 tabs, a woven downtube protector (cosmetic only), and comes default with a Fox RP23 rear, although my test rig was tricked out with a TALAS 180 and DHX- Air. The Nomad Carbon is available in Black and Matte White.
It only takes a short distance down any sort of singletrack to feel the extreme stiffness of the Nomad Carbon. Superlatives like taut and muscular come to mind as you thread your way down the trail, being able to slice and dice wherever you want. The laser like steering qualities of this bike are pretty amazing, and when combined with the stiffness of the frameset, allow immediate changes and transitions in your direction, along with accompanying traction control. There is no need to recoil and load up the suspension, it reacts like clockwork and does exactly what you tell it to do (sit Nomad), like a telepathic twin. The damping qualities of carbon shine through every time you hit a bump, or toss yourself into some ugly terrain, and remove that slight edge received back through the handlebars. Much like the Ibis HD, the Nomad Carbon felt very firm in its feel, although in comparison it does have more plushness than the HD. Pedaling gave great feedback, and produced prodigious traction for a 6″ travel bike. I could pull off some technical moves, that more nimble bikes only get, which was a welcome surprise, especially considering I was riding a 180mm fork.