Review, August 1997
The Other Stuff
Ocean Master Ti Blade
Diving knives have their practical side: They cut through entangling kelp or overfriendly barracuda. And they have their showy side: They look tough, giving pause to swaggering fellow divers. For either purpose, what could be more appropriate than that most attention-getting of materials, titanium? Nothing, according to Ocean Master, which recently introduced its Titanium
Beta Alloy Dive Knife ($90; 800-841-7007), unique for its Ti blade. Unlike stainless steel, which requires frequent honing, Ti rarely needs sharpening, and it will never corrode, even in the saltiest of water. Besides, it has that menacing matte-gray finish. Ocean Master's five-inch blade, available in pointed or blunt tip, features both straight and serrated edges, a notch for
cutting line, a hammerhead butt, and a lanyard hole — you'd hate to drop it into the Deep Blue. The quick-release sheath secures comfortably to your leg with two rubber straps, making it not only cool, but extremely convenient. — John Francis
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Ibis Bow-Ti Bike
Dual-suspension mountain bikes are hardly synonymous with good value, which is why I haven't taken them seriously enough to buy one. Added weight and maintenance for more money — no thanks. Then along comes the Ibis Bow-Ti (707-829-5615) to screw up a rider's sensibilities. Still expensive? Obscenely so: $3,975 for the frame alone. Yet its design is tantalizingly unique:
There are no mechanical pivots, those signature hulky joints that help the rear end hug the terrain's profile. Rather, the titanium frame's flattened down tube and dual stays, which span diagonally from head tube to rear axle, simply bow when the going gets bouncy, something like the leaf springs on a pickup. You can actually see the tubes flex up and down. All told, the rear end
allows for five inches of travel, which is controlled by a lightweight Fox Alps 5R air shock.
Pedaling down rough singletrack and washboard roads, I found little need to pop out of the Bow-Ti's saddle, since the frame rendered rocky, rooty descents a velvety joyride. And because the Ibis weighs merely 24 pounds — a figure that rivals some fine front-suspension steeds — it's also a brilliant climber, making it the best all-around full-suspension bike to date.
Nostalgia for my hardtail emerged only while sprinting on smooth fire roads, where the Bow-Ti felt slightly mushy.
Of course, you must pay for such performance. Adorned with Shimano's top-shelf XTR components — you could opt for lesser parts — a Rock Shox Judy SL suspension fork, and Ibis's own titanium handlebar and stem, this bicycle will set you back a fantastic $6,700. Credit that to the intensive manual labor and pricey titanium tubing that go into the Bow-Ti's patented
design, not to mention the tight supply of only 200 frames a year. Yes, you could nab a slightly used Honda Civic for that sort of cash. But straddle the lifetime-guaranteed Bow-Ti just once and you'll be ruined. A slightly heavier — gasp! — steel version will be available in 1998 for, oh, several thousand fewer dollars. Still not exactly affordable, but then, anything
worth obsessing over never is. — Andrew Tilin
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Princeton Tec Vor-Tec
ready alternative — a self-contained two-battery rig, for instance — but if that seems less than luminous, you'll appreciate the arrival of Princeton Tec's Vor-Tec ($42; 609-298-9331). It's a four battery unit you can actually rely on in a downpour. The Vor-Tec's lighting components are snug and cozy in one rubber-sealed plastic housing above your forehead,
rendering it waterproof.
Bright light for the backwoods typically requires a bulky auxiliary-powered headlamp with exposed wires that are vulnerable to water damage. There's always a more rain-
Twist the lens to the on position, and the Vor-Tec provides plenty of light for two people to make camp or prepare a meal under swarthy skies. Rather than futz with adjustable beams that throw light out of focus, the eight-ounce Vor-Tec comes with interchangeable reflectors (narrow and wide) and bulbs (halogen and krypton) that illuminate your entire field of view. The flipside
is that changing components can be a hassle. Conventional batteries will run the halogen bulb for three and a half hours, the krypton bulb for eight, and the Vor-Tec's burn times can be nearly doubled with pricey lithium cells. It's a little front-heavy to wear while biking, but the Vor-Tec is certainly a welcome new option in headlamps. — Gordon
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Photographs by Clay Ellis