In-depth news, reviews, and analysis

The Cycle Life

Best Bikes

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes and trends from Bike PressCamp 2013.

Testing the new Niner ROS9 at PressCamp. (Courtesy Niner Bikes)
Niner mountain bike mtb niner bikes ninerbikes ninerd pedaldamnit twentynine

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes and trends from Bike PressCamp 2013.

Best in Show: Bike PressCamp 2013

In Park City, Utah, I attended PressCamp 2013, the bike industry's answer to the Sundance Film Festival, where nearly three dozen cycling manufacturers presented their latest gear and wares to a scrum of journalists. This show is not a full-spectrum event like InterBike, but the breadth of gear on offer gives a good sense of trends for 2014 and beyond. And much of the talk is centered around the comfort-performance category on the road (with an eye to the budding gravel grinder market), with increasing trickle-down of technology to more affordable parts. On the trail, the story is all about 27.5 (or 650B), which most in the industry agree is set to supplant 26. Here are a few of the most compelling new bikes we saw. Check back for component and soft goods highlights from Bike PressCamp in Episode 2.

Best in Show: GT Sensor and Force

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes from Bike PressCamp 2013.

All Mountain, 27.5 M FORCE CARBON PRO M RAW/WHITE/BLUE

PressCamp reconfirmed that 27.5 (or 650B) is here to stay. Not only were most bike manufacturers showing once-26er models now upsized to 27.5, such as the Turner Flux and the Fezzari Timp Peak, but vendors of forks, wheels, and tires said that orders for 26-inch products have all but ceased.

GT showed two brand new bikes, the trail-oriented 130mm Sensor and the all mountain 150mm Force, designed around 27.5-inch wheels. The bikes rethink the company’s proprietary suspension design in a new system called Angle Optimized Suspension, which is a high single pivot configuration that provides for an arcing rear wheel path for great rear roll over. The Sensor launches in three carbon and four alloy models, ranging from $2,800 to $9,000. The Force will be available initially in carbon only, from $5,200 to $9,000, but aluminum versions are expected in coming years.

Best in Show: Orbea Avant

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes from Bike PressCamp 2013.

The Orbea Avant (Courtesy Orbea)

Best known for its sleek Orca racer, the Spanish company turns its attention to the comfort performance range with the Avant, a versatile and well-conceived bike that should play perfectly to the burgeoning adventure and gravel scene.

The head tube is taller and top tube shorter for a slightly more relaxed position, but it’s not awkwardly upright like some bikes in this class. What really sets the Avant apart, though, is the plug-and-play adaptability. Internal cable routings will accommodate either mechanical or electric components. Rim and disc brake models are available, and should you ever want to change, every frame has posts and fittings for both, including smart bolt-on chips in the rear hangers to accommodate the variable rear hub sizing. There’s clearance for 28 to 30mm tires as well as hidden eyelets for fenders and rack mounts.

And while that might make the Avant sound like a hefty cruiser, it comes in all manner of specs, including a 15.5-pound race model (size 55) with Zip 303s and SRAM Red 22 components. It was our first time on SRAM’s new hydraulic brakes, and the amazing modulation and feathery weight convinced us more than ever that discs are inevitable on road bikes.

Best in Show: Cannondale Synapse

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes from Bike PressCamp 2013.

The first Synapse won our coveted Gear of the Year award back in 2006, and the totally overhauled 2014 model looks like it might be just as groundbreaking. The 2014 model retains a taller head tube, slacker head angle, and longer wheelbase, but Cannondale is quick to say this is not some sluggish old man’s ride, but actually a racer that’s more stable and easier on the back.

Damping properties come from highly manipulated, helix-shaped seat stays, chain stays, and fork, plus the collarless 25.4mm seat post configuration is said to provide 113 percent more vertical deflection than the previous design. But it’s the seat tube that’s most eye-catching, with a scallop shape for even more bump absorption and an oval-shaped cutout above the bottom bracket that saves weight but adds rigidity in the same way that flying buttresses shore up a building.

It’s a dramatic and unconventional design, but first ride impressions were very favorable, with a nice dampened road feel but still-snappy handling. The Synapse will come in seven carbon models from $2,000 to $8,000, and five alloy frames.

Best in Show: Niner ROS 9

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes from Bike PressCamp 2013.

The ROS9 (Ian Hylands/Niner Bikes)

That’s Roots of Steel. Or Ride Over Stuff. Or as the Niner folks have more colloquially started to call it, Ride over Sh*t. And the point, as you might guess, is a 4130 chromoly steel hard tail that handles more like a full-sus trail bike. It has a dropper post and longer-travel fork for hucking and flicking and, well… plowing over and through just about anything in the way.

In the same vein as last year’s Diamond Back Mason and Trek Stache, the ROS 9 is optimized for either a 120mm or 140mm fork, has extremely short chain stays for lightning quick handling and acceleration, and has been beefed up in the front end with 34.9mm tubing to take the abuse. Unlike those other bikes, though, this is a boutique ride, with all the beautiful touches you’d expect: routings for dropper posts (including Stealth Reverb), ISCG tabs, sculpted bash guard below the bottom bracket, and color-matched forks.

While we were getting the presentation, one tester, a died-in-the-wool 26er fan, rode in on the ROS 9 and exclaimed that it was so good, so jumpable, and so deft-handling that it had, in just an hour of riding, singlehandedly won him over to big wheels.

Best in Show: Ridley X-Knight

From roadies to 29ers, we pick five of the best new bikes from Bike PressCamp 2013.

The Ridley X-Night (Courtesy Ridley)

Arguably the biggest name in cross racing, Ridley has revamped its top-end mud bikes just in time for cross season. The changes reflect a shift in the sport toward more manicured, rideable courses, so the new bikes get slightly lower bottom brackets, shorter heat tubes, and shorter wheelbases, all of which create a more aggressive riding position. Gone, too, is the integrated seat mast, replaced by a standard 27.2mm seat post.

Ridley says that thanks to all the changes, the new bikes have shed almost 500 grams of weight (over a pound!), though the real reduction is closer to half a pound since the company’s numbers aren’t accounting for the new seat post. Still, that’s a massive diet, which should make the X-Night more sprightly than ever. The bike, which will hit shop floors by August, will be offered in a SRAM Red 22 build for $5,700 or a Shimano Ultegra spec with Hayes mechanical discs for $4,700.

Holiday Subscription Sale! Save 79% and Get a Free Gift!

Subscribe
Pinterest Icon