The two days prior to Interbike sees the Dirt Demo, this year at an expanded location in Bootleg Canyon, Nevada – not far from the Hoover Dam. Loads of manufacturers show up with bikes for people to ride, and we rode ourselves into the ground in the heat and dust. It seemed a shame to spend our day riding mainstream stuff that you see all the time, so we decided to concentrate on rarer bikes that don’t reach the UK in huge numbers but just might in the future…
Lenz Sport LumberjackThey say: Our new Lumberjack is designed for all mountain riding and is a tribute to the new breed of lumberjacks who craft riding terrain and obstacles from raw lumber in the woods. This new style requires a sturdy long travel bike that can be pedaled for long distances. The Lumberjack is a well balanced bike that is perfectly able to climb all day if necessary and provide comfort for epic journeys.
We say: Sturdy and long travel the Lumberjack certainly is. The 5in travel rear suspension pivots around the bottom bracket, giving minimal pedal feedback and composed rock-swallowing ability. Don’t try to put the hammer down, though, as hard pedalling efforts just disappear. Sit and spin and you’ll be fine.
Titus Racer-XThey say: Introducing the lightest, fastest, most efficient full suspension bike ever made! The 2003 Racer-X provides 3.65″ of fully active rear suspension travel, precision tuned for killer climbing performance with zero pedal bob. Our ultra rigid “Hollow Box” lower swing arm, X-link rockers, and mega-sized four cartridge bearing main pivot set a new standard for frame stiffness, tracking and sprinting abilities.
We say: We liked the Racer-X a lot. It’s light, taut and flickable without being skittish. Big, knobbly tyres on the test bike certainly helped in the Nevada dust and sand but the lightweight frame and parts kept overall weight well down.
GT I-Drive XCThey say: All-new GT 6061 I-Drive full suspension frame with 100mm travel and integrated bearings throughout
We say: We’ve never really got on with I-Drives before, finding them a tad mushy and heavy-feeling. But the new XC I-Drive changes all that. The redesigned system works its chain-effect-negating magic in a considerably simpler (and less dirt-prone) way and the bike feels a whole lot sprightlier. Even out-of-the-saddle efforts are greeted with enthusiasm.
Titus SwitchbladeThey say: Click. Click. Click. 3.75″, 4.5″, and 5.6″ of rear wheel travel. Going up or going down? Titus and Fox Shox have teamed up to provide the most versatile, easy-to-use, adjustable travel trail bike on the market. Just move the lever as you are riding to adjust to the travel you need. The Switchblade is totally redesigned for ’03 with a new seat tower and hollow box chainstay. If you ride a variety of terrain, click the Switchblade up and down on the fly. The choice is yours.
We say: Now this is clever. Flick the lever on the Fox TALAS shock to one of the short-stroke positions, bounce on the saddle and marvel as the shock body shortens and the bike settles to a new, lower position. Flick it back again and the bike pops open ready for whatever you can throw at it. Teamed with an adjustable travel fork, the Switchblade is properly versatile.
We say: Ventana’s single-pivot 4in travel trailbike looks a lot like a Cannondale Gemini, although to our eyes it looks better. Capable allrounder with confidence-inspiring handling and solid suspension performance. Ventana also have the El Chamuco, which is very similar to the Pantera only with a little linkage to drive the shock and 6in of travel.
Yeti AS-XThey say: Strength and travel are king here. Our exclusive Yeti/Easton RAD tubeset has been specially designed for big hit riding. The Active Suspension design and Progressive 5th Element shock allow an amazing amount of adjustment and tuning, and the OnePointFive head design adds maximum strength and steering precision. Our unique head tube design can also fit standard 1-1/8″ forks.
We say: It’s certainly burly. The massive front end and swing-link keeping the back end in track contribute to unwavering stability down nasty chutes but there’s enough nimbleness there to cut it in the twisties and it pedals pretty well too. OnePointFive Manitou Sherman forks provide the ideal ally for the Yeti’s six inch back end.
Castellano FangoThey say: Fango is Italian slang for dirt. We love Fango. The Fango is a lightweight, aluminum softail designed for all around cross-country mountain biking. It features our patented pivotless Flat-Plate Chainstays and Critically Damped Elastomer Shock for the ultimate in an affordable, reliable, comfortable frame. You will love the Fango.
We say: The Ibis Ripley aluminium softtail disappeared with Ibis, but designer John Castellano has revived the concept with Fango. Flat-plate 6069 chainstays are combined with a 6061 mainframe and two-stage elastomer bumber at the seat cluster. The result is something that feels like a hardtail with a big, fat, soft rear tyre but without the drag. Flat bars and long stem emphasise racing intentions, but the relatively slow steering worked fine on Bootleg Canyons with its fast, sweeping trails
We also had quick spins on the Maverick ML-7 complete with insanely capable six-inch travel Maverick fork; the Kona Hawg Dee Lux which looks like it’s heavy and slack-angled but rides like an XC bike; and an entry-level Mongoose full susser that was actually rather good.
Sunday sees the first day of the show proper – we should have some news on Monday morning, so stay tuned…