Bike Press Camp 2012: Best in Show, Episode 1
This week, on the unseasonably dry slopes of Park City, Utah, two dozen bike manufacturers rolled out their 2013 product lines to a handful of journalists. The biggest talk in bikes was of 650B, the (re)new(ed) ‘tweener wheel size—it’s approximately halfway between a 26 and a 29—that’s set to flood the mountain bike market this year. There was also lots of excitement about disc brakes for road and cross, as well as a renaissance in steel and titanium bikes. Here, we present the five most interesting bikes we saw this week; we’ll be getting them for comprehensive testing in the coming months. Stay tuned for Episode 2’s roundup of compelling soft goods, electronics, and gadgets.
1. TURNER BURNER
Though it looks like both the Five Spot and the Sultan (respectively the Murrieta, California, bike manufacturer’s 140mm 26- and 29-inch bikes), the Burner sits right in between with 650B-size wheels. The new size, which is actually an old French standard that is now making a resurgence, is touted as being as quick and snappy as smaller wheels but still having the momentum and rolling benefits of bigger ones. We absolutely loved the Turner Sultan we tested last year. But we have to admit that where it felt a bit portly on steep climbs and a touch ponderous in tight turns, the Burner seemed peppy all around. It’s the vanguard of a whole fleet of 650B bikes and related products rolling out next year.
2. CANNONDALE SUPERX HI-MOD
Numerous companies have been testing the waters with disc brakes for cyclocross in the last few years, but the dearth of associated accessories as well as the weight penalties (approximately 0.5 to 0.75 pounds over cantilever brakes) have kept the offerings limited and generally in the low end of the market. But for 2013, Cannondale goes all in with it’s top-of-the-line full carbon SuperX. It was developed in collaboration with 2009 U.S. Cyclocross national champ Tim Johnson, who says that the benefits of racing with disc brakes far outweigh the small weight handicap. In addition to the Avid BB7 Ultimate brakes, the bike is decked in the newly revised SRAM Red groupo with Stan's No Tubes Alpha 340 disc wheels. The performance gains won't come cheap ($5,500), but it's a sign that discs are soon to be standard equipment on all levels of cyclocross bikes.
3. JAMIS COMMUTER 4
Continuing its tradition of forward-looking, high-value bikes, Jamis’ new Commuter 4 becomes the least expensive production bike available to employ the Nuvinci N360 hub. Like other internal hub options, such as the Shimano Nexus 11, the Nuvinci hides all the gearing hardwear inside the rear hub for better longevity and no gangly derailleurs to break. Unlike other internal hubs, however, Nuvinci’s forgoes designated gears for a continuous 360-percent ratio range of gears that makes it easier to precisely fine-tune the difficulty. Another compelling feature of the Commuter 4 is the adjustable stem-steer tube, which makes it possible to easily adjust the bike’s sizing. That’s a lot of technology packed into a city bike that costs only $950.
4. GT EDGE TI
Getting back to its heritage, GT is launching several titanium bikes next season that hearken back to models from 20 years ago, including a 29er version of the Xizang hard tail and this reimagining of the classic Edge Ti road bike. It might share a name with that two-decade-old bike, but the new version is revamped with thoroughly modern touches, including brand new geometry with sloping top tube, an integrated tapered head tube, disc brakes, and carbon fiber fork. Extra titanium has been built into the head tube, both for aesthetics and torsional stiffness, the seat stays are hydroformed for extra road compliance, and GT’s trademark seat stays that overlap the seat tube are said to help with bottom bracket rigidity. Instead of decals, GT has opted for a classy gloss on matte finish, which entails first polishing the entire bike, then bead-blasting it with logos masked off. The Edge Ti will be sold as a frameset only (including fork), but the bikes at camp were blinged out with full Dura Ace drivetrains and Enve’s SES 6.7 carbon clinchers. So much for throwback.
5. NINER S.I.R. 9
Niner makes its own nod to the past with the redesigned S.I.R. 9, as in Steel Is Real. But like the GT, this is a thoroughly modern take on a heritage material. The list of modern features is impressive: oversize head tube, 142x12 Maxle rear axle, and a thru-axle rigid carbon fork (or custom-tuned, paint-matched Rockshox for those who prefer some cushion). For running the S.I.R. 9 as a single speed, Niner engineered an elegant new bottom bracket, the Bio-Centric II, which facilitates quicker gear switches and is more secure than standard eccentric designs. As with all Niners, the attention to detail is outstanding. The dropouts (geared or single speed) are painstakingly machined, the rear stays are meticulously bent and shaped for maximum tire clearance, and the stay bridges and post mounts are all investment cast. The S.I.R. 9 will be available in 12 weeks, but impatient types can bid now for one of six limited edition bikes being auctioned off for IMBA.