The Interbike Outdoor Demo gets bigger and better every year, and there’s stacks of new and interesting bikes to take for a spin on the trails at Bootleg Canyon. It’s a good testing ground, if a little unforgiving in places. Here’s half a dozen bikes that we’ve ridden so far.
At first glance the 2006 Turner 5-Spot looks the same as the 2005 version of the popular trail bike. But look more closely and you’ll see that the rear pivot has moved from the chainstay to the seatstay, changing the Turner from four-bar to faux-bar.
It’s a brave move from Turner – the company (and Dave Turner, the man behind it) was one of the pioneers of the four-bar design and has been singing its praises for over a decade. But these days it’s getting harder and harder to build bikes without having to license things from some patent holder or other, and Turner’s decided to sidestep the whole thing and move the pivot.
Four-bar evangelists will be surprised to learn that it doesn’t appear to have made the slightest bit of difference. Turner says that the rear axle path only varies by about a millimetre from the old design, and that’s not a difference you’ll be able to feel. The angle of the rear brake mount does change quite considerably, but that doesn’t seem to have resulted in a detectable difference either. The stuff that makes a Turner a Turner is still there – sorted handling, well thought-out shock leverage, excellent quality, grease-ported bushings, all that stuff.
When Giant launched its new Maestro suspension system recently, it had three models – the 4in travel Trance, 6in travel Reign and 8in travel Faith. What it didn’t have were competition-oriented bikes at either end of the scale. But it does now. The Glory is the downhill bike, and the Anthem is the XC race bike.
It’s got 3.5in of travel and the frame’s been extensively worked on the shave excess grammes. The most obvious difference from the other Maestro bikes is the absence of the forged shock “basket” at the bottom of the frame. That’s actually gone from the new incarnations of the other bikes too, but more of that later. The Manitou shock is mounted straight to the down tube, all the tubing is slimmed down and even the paint is extra-light. It all adds up to a 5.1lb frame (with shock), which is apparently lighter than the NRS that the Anthem replaces.
The geometry has been developed with the help of Giant’s XC racer Adam Craig, and it’s proper old-school long-and-low. We rode the top-spec Anthem 1 (which gets titanium shock mounting hardware to lose even more weight) with Manitou R7 forks, CrossMax wheels, Race Face carbon post and a bar/stem combo with the sort of shape that we don’t seem to have used for about ten years – long stem, narrow flat bars.
You won’t be surprised to learn that this is a bike that demands attention, but it’s not half fast. It makes you feel guilty about not pedalling, while the suspension strikes a happy balance between rounding off the edges of bumps and remaining unobtrusive. Don’t try running it NRS-style with no sag, though – you’ll fall over the front…
Kona King Supreme
While we’re looking at full-suspension XC race bikes, here’s Kona’s offering. The King Supreme, besides sounding like a hamburger, kind of bridges the gap between flexy-stay soft-tails and “real” full suspension bikes, with just 2.5in of travel. With a Scandium frame and lightweight parts, it certainly exhibits the necessary lack of heft, but it’s a rather more forgiving bike than the Anthem – it’s got a full-width low-riser bar and geometry that, while racy, won’t scare anyone who’s familiar with Konas.
The suspension’s of the “there when you need it” school – you get traction benefits on rough climbs, but it’s not what you’d call plush. If you want plush, though, this clearly isn’t the bike you’re looking for.
Mountain Cycle San Andreas DNA
You can still get a “classic” San Andreas, a bike that’s been largely unchanged for, ooh, thirteen or fourteen years. But this is the DNA, a redesigned incarnation of a bike that was way ahead of its time. The 6in travel DNA was launched last year, but it’s had a couple of tweaks for 2006. The main difference is a reworked swingarm – it’s slightly shorter and has better mud clearance. The new swingarm also alters the geometry slightly, slackening the angles a tad.
There’s still a lot to like about simple single pivots, and a 5th Element coil shock keeps things steady. The monococque construction makes for a solid and surprisingly light frame. The DNA’s definitely leaning towards the downhill side of things, but like, say, Specialized’s Enduro it’s a downhill-oriented bike that it’s worth attempting to climb on. And it looks great.
The name of Maverick’s new ML7/5 means that it’s essentially an ML7 with 5in of travel, but it also has features borrowed from the 6in travel ML8. The front end is made of tubes like the 7 (which is lighter and, to be honest, looks better than the 8) while the Monolink rear end has the shock body welded to the swingarm like the 8, doing away with a bunch of mounting hardware and saving weight. It also feels noticably stiffer in the back than the ML7. In fact it feels very solid and planted all round – it’s much more than “just” a longer-travel 7.
The demo bike was equipped with Maverick’s other new product, a gas-lift adjustable seatpost. You set your seat height in the usual way, and then if you come across something that looks like it might require a lower seat you reach down, pull the lever under the nose of the saddle and push the seat down. It’ll stay wherever it is when you release the lever. Pulling the lever with the seat unweighted allows it to rise back to full height. Anyone who’s got a half-decent office chair will understand how it works. It’s really rather good – simple, unobtrusive and easy to use. One downside is that the space taken up by the air gubbins inside means that, for now at least, the post will only be available in 30.9 and 31.6mm sizes. But there’re plenty of bikes that take one of those out there.
And finally, today’s novelty item. This is Surly’s Pugsley, designed originally with snow in mind but also at home on pretty much anything that’s too soft to ride an ordinary bike on. It gets its miracle flotation powers from 4in tyres running on super-wide Surly Large Marge rims – you can easily take these down to single-digit psi.
You’d expect this bike to be somewhat hard work, but we were surprised at how much it felt like, well, a bike. Once up to speed it rolled along very happily (probably helped by the unusually large outside diameter of the tyres). You’ll know about it if you let the speed drop at the bottom of a short, steep climb, but generally the only thing that reminds you what you’re riding is being able to see the steamroller front tyre and the fact that everyone’s looking at you because you appear to be riding a cartoon bicycle.
The Pugsley pressed home its advantage on the many patches of soft sand and gravel on the Bootleg Canyon test loops – narrow-tyred bikes tend to have a bit of a shimmy in those, but the Pugsley just cruises serenely across. It’s one of the few bikes that seems best described as “hilarious”.
That was pretty much everything that we managed to ride today before the heat got the better of us. But we’ve seen a bunch of other stuff to check out tomorrow…