Gravel, All-Road, Adventure Bikes…I’m interested in design not what you call it

Gravel, All-Road, Bikepacker, Adventure Bike….marketing terms for a somewhat nebulous and ill-defined target demographic into which bicycle brands have desperately been hurling new product development. Golly, I do like bike design but I hate the debate over what is the most appropriate name for the genre. It’s just like that one song, “you say tomato, I say f*** you”.

As if one term can reign in all the conflicting ideas and give a hierarchy to the products, yet that is the goal of the nefarious science known as marketing. I don’t really have the head for that kind of mysticism and etherealism; I’m more interested in the corporeal, the carbon, and the titanium. What is the product, where did come from, where is it aimed?

Three bikes have caught my attention recently. The Salsa Cutthroat, the Open Cycle UP, and the Cannondale Slate.

With a stable of successful house brands including Surly and Salsa (and sort of successful brands like Civia), QBP have been quick to capitalize on recent trends such as fatbikes and now that….you know….gravel/adventure thingie. This month Salsa introduced the Cutthroat….named after some sort of fish (gotta name a bike something, I guess). They call it a mountainbike for dropbars, a race bike for the Tour of the Divide, equipped with 2.4” 29er tyres. Well, there have been dropbar mountainbikes in the past. Famously, the legend that is John Tomac raced a dropbar mtb on the NORBA circuit fresh off racing road with the pro European peloton about 25 years ago, but drawing a direct lineage between Tomac’s experiment and the Cutthroat is strained at best. That’s probably because the term “mountainbike” is hard pressed to encompass both a 2-3 hour NORBA-style mtb race and an adventure-style race that may a week or longer, basically unsupported.

Zipp Firecrest Track Wheels

Zipp introduces their new Firecrest track wheelsets in the “404” (58mm deep) and “808” (82mm) rim versions. Another touted feature is the new “303” track hubs.

So I guess SRAM feels like they can still eke out some cash from the Red Hook Crit crowd. Maybe I’m just a Debbie Downer, but the brakeless/fixie criterium racing seems like the tail end of the fixie boom/fad of the ’00s.In a way it somewhat parallels the BMX boom of the early to mid-80s when BMX racing carried on in pockets of this nation while trickriding/freestyle disappeared until the X-Games era. That’s not exactly analogous because BMX racing wouldn’t have existed/survived without the progression of junior/juvenile age-groups, whereas the Red Hook Criterium series is the logical evolution of underground, unsanctioned alley cat races into corporate-funded “unsanctioned” live entertainment. Well, maybe “brakeless track bike criterium” racing will show sustainable growth or maybe it’ll just live on as search words for cycling crash video clips on Youtube, only time will tell. Regardless I can’t see these Firecrest track wheels as being the first choice for track cycling’s elite, because the whole Firecrest design philosophy was optimized for road cycling, not track.

More Friction

Trek 1400

As I explained it, friction shifting builds character, and every cyclist should learn how to do it. Read about the history and development of the derailleur bicycle in Frank Berto’s Dancing Chain. This Trek 1400 was equipped with SunTour.

650B Performance Road

gakdds

After all the 27.5+ excitement this week, there’s another wheel size getting some buzz, and it’s 650b. Mark V texted me from the shop last night (where he’s building up, custom “allroad” bikes)

Cannondale is going 650b x 42 for their Lefty suspension gravel bike…as in Jan Heine tyres w suspension fork and disc brakes. Rad

This marks the first performance bike from a mainstream maker that explores 650B/27.5 tyre standard without knobs

Well that’s interesting, huh? As Jan wrote

The thought of a modern carbon bike that can fly over pavement like a racing bike, but handle rough gravel like a mountain bike, and everything in between, is truly exciting.

and I can’t wait to talk to him more about it. If there’s one thing the industry needs is to de-niche their lines, and bring back the all-around great, road bike. Call it made for adventure, gravel, all road, or whatever.

Scott 27.5+

Tuned LT 27.5+

Scott is now within the ranks of manufacturers that have joined the Plus movement – Muffin Top Tires, as grumpy Nathan Wright calls them. For 2016 the company will offer five Plus models: Scale Plus: Scale 710 Plus, Scale 720 plus, Genius 700 Tuned Plus, Genius 710 Plus, and Genius 720 Plus. All models will be equipped with 2.8-inch Schwalbe tires. Scott worked with Schwalbe and determined the 2.8 size provided a good balance of increased traction (+21-percent contact patch) with minimal added rolling resistance (+1-percent). The 2.8 size is slightly narrower than other brands that have been touting 3.0 tires. Scott then tweaked the frame geometry, with slacker head angles and shorter chainstays to take advantage of the increased traction.

The 2016 Scott Plus bikes, roll on Syncros rims with a 40mm internal width, while the Genius range include: Boost hub spacing (110mm front, 148mm rear), 2016 FOX suspension with a new TwinLoc lever and standard crankarm Q-factor. The Genius 700 Plus has 140mm of front and 130mm of rear travel and features Plus tuned suspension.

Prices have not been announced and see the full galleries on G+ and Facebook.

Also, a couple notes on plus sizes from Twitter

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