Gear Shed

5 Bikes to Watch in 2015

Adventure road bikes are in, ‘cross bikes are still trending, disc brakes are coming to road bikes, and 26-inch-wheels are dying.

Brady Kappius of Team CLIF bar races the 2015 Niner Bikes BSB9 RDO 'cross bike.     Photo: Courtesy of Niner Bikes

Each year in June, about 30 bike industry manufacturers gather in Park City, Utah, to unveil their most compelling product for the upcoming model year. It’s a good time to get a sense of what’s trending and which new technologies to watch in 2015.

Earlier this week, we covered the best new components and accessories from the show. Now we bring you the best new bikes.

Several things are clear: Adventure road bikes are in, ‘cross bikes are still trending, disc brakes are coming to road bikes (like it or not), and 26-inch-wheels are the big loser to 650B. Oh, 29ers are still going strong, too, and fat bikes are here to stay.

GT Grade

  Photo: GT

GT doesn’t want to vie with other manufacturers to make the lightest, fastest, stiffest road bike. Instead, the company says it will tailor its road program to bikes built for the bulk of the market—riders who favor comfort and versatility.

Enter the Grade, which has a tall head tube for an easygoing riding position and a low bottom bracket and long wheelbase for stability. The company’s signature triple-triangle design is employed to add more vertical give, and while there’s some high-modulus carbon to add stiffness in key spots, the frame is comprised mostly of variable-modulus fibers for better compliance. The frame is still relatively light at 965 grams for a size medium (1350 grams for the aluminum build).

The bike has disc brakes for more power and less hand fatigue, clearance for up to 40cm tires, and No Tubes’ brand new Grail wheels that handle high-pressure tubeless setups.

It’s a road bike for all terrain, and even though it’s no racer, we found it quick and fun on both the asphalt and dirt around Park City. A top-end carbon grade with Ultegra will sell for $3,300, while aluminum builds will sell for as low as $800.


Cannondale F-Si

  Photo: Cannondale

As full suspension bikes have grown ever lighter and more refined, we’ve all but shrugged off hardtails because they often feel appropriate for nothing more than racing.

But Cannondale’s F-Si has us excited about hardtails again. With a 69.5-degree head tube (extremely slack for the genre), it should descend much more playfully than the typical race-oriented hardtail. But Cannondale used a 55-degree offset on the fork and extremely short chainstays to keep acceleration and steering snappy.

There’s interesting asymmetric frame mechanics, too, which allow for 2x setups up front, but also ensure stiffer wheels for better carving and precision. And though the frame is light (960 grams for a size medium), it shouldn’t be harsh thanks to smart carbon layups.

In short, it should be a bike with Ferrari speed and agility, but Land Rover handling and comfort—which looks about right watching Peter Sagan and Marco Fontana throw it around. The Team issue ($8,500) will weight a paltry 18.6 pounds, while the least expensive Carbon 2 ($4,500) will still be just 22.1 pounds.


 

Niner BSB9 RDO

  Photo: Niner

After last year’s unexpected foray into the road market with the excellent, adventure-oriented RLT9, Niner surprised us again with the launch of a full carbon ‘cross racer.

According to Niner, the BSB9—that’s Blood, Sweat, Beers—is possibly the only ‘cross bike on the market tested to mountain bike standards. That means you can rail it through tough terrain and not worry about breaking it.

The company debuted a new carbon layup process with this bike (which also extends to the revised Jet9 RDO). The company claims the new process makes for a stronger, lighter frame—said to weigh just 965 grams.

Tech and geeky specs aside, however, the BSB9 RDO bears the Fort Collins, Colorado-based company’s signature attention to detail, including full internal cable routing, a gorgeous new thru-axle carbon fork design with clearance for 40mm tires, and stunning paint, decal, and style details including color-matched anodized bits.

Best of all, it will be available well ahead of ‘cross season (a rarity for this genre) in three builds: 5-Star Ultegra Di2 Team build for $6,500, 4-Star Ultegra hydraulic for $4,400, and 2-Star Shimano 105 build for $3,000. 


Pivot Mach 4 Carbon

  Photo: Pivot

We’ve already started to see some full-suspension cross-country race bikes move toward smaller wheels and bigger travel. The overhauled Mach 4 carbon goes even farther down that path.

Pivot founder Chris Cocalis says he settled on 115mm of rear travel and 120mm up front because it’s a length that allows for taut, XC-style pedaling, but still makes for a bigger-feeling, plusher bike on the descents. The DWLink suspension should keep Mach 4 super efficient when cranking, while the relatively slack 68.2-degree head tube angle will make for mannered and fun downhill handling.

Pivot worked closely on this bike with Shimano’s rollout of the XTR Di2 group, and the frame has beautiful internal cable routings (which are also optimized for mechanical), as well as a modular port in the bottom of the frame for a battery. With a lightweight spec, the Mach 4 will build out to right around 22 pounds, and full bike builds will range from $4,500 to $9,000.


 

Mongoose Argus

  Photo: Mongoose

If it’s not already clear, we love fat bikes. They expand the range and seasonality of riding and they are more fun than I can express here. Unfortunately, they aren’t inexpensive, and, as niche machines that people would likely buy as second or third bikes in their stable, most people probably can’t justify the expense.

That’s why we love the Argus, a $1,000 fatty. Sure, the company has made a less expensive fat bike in the past, but compared to that monstrosity, the Argus is a real bike built with good parts (think Shimano SLX drivetrain, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, and Vee Rubber tires).

At sub-35 pounds, it won’t be the lightest or nimblest bike out there. But it was plenty fun to pedal around the trails near Park City, and will hopefully serve as a gateway drug by getting more people on big tires.

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