More big bike fun from Sea Otter

Trek is on a full-suspension roll lately with the successful launch of its new Fuel EX and Remedy...

On show: Sea Otter Classic, May 1, 2008

Trek rolls all of its tech goodies into new Session platform

Trek is on a full-suspension roll lately with the successful launch of its new Fuel EX and Remedy platforms whose Full Floater, EVO Link and Active Braking Pivot technologies have done much to pull the company back into the off-road spotlight again. After proving their effectiveness on the trail bike stage, those same technologies now find their way into a wholly revamped Session 88 gravity platform that was formally introduced at this year's Sea Otter Classic (which now leaves only the short-travel Top Fuel racer still untouched...).

The new Session 88 will be available in two forms, the Session 88 DH and Session 88 FR, both of which were reportedly designed with three goals in mind: incorporating those new technologies, reducing weight and improving the old Session geometry. According to Trek, the advent of those new features on the Fuel EX and Remedy actually prompted the complete scrapping of an alternative Session design that was already approved for production two years ago.

"We really had something with the original Session 8," said Trek senior R&D suspension engineer Dylan Howes in a company press release. "The geometry was dialled, we were spellbound with the handling, and the weight was acceptable. But we knew from the Fuel EX and Remedy development that new technology would surpass what we were developing. So we stopped production and went back to a clean sheet of paper."

The new models also feature heavily hydroformed tubing, refreshingly aggressive appearances and a tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" E2 front end. The latter likely won't matter too much to riders that typically use dual-crown forks anyway, but single-crown riders should benefit from the added front end rigidity. For now, the sole rear shock offering is a custom-tuned DHX 5.0 coil-over unit from Fox Racing Shox although that unit's proven performance should satisfy most comers.

At the very least, the new Session 88 models are certainly striking in person and the included technologies give us high hopes for how these will actually ride once we're able to throw a leg over one. Production is currently slated for June with availability beginning shortly thereafter. Pricing is still to be determined.

Shimano debuts new Saint group

Shimano had its own baby to show off in the form of a wholly revamped Saint group that seeks to address the needs of a broader range of downhill and "All Mountain Extreme" users than the previous version.

Key changes include new two-piece, four-piston brake callipers that reportedly increase stopping power by over 50% for a given rotor size. Differential piston sizes and new Servo Wave-equipped brake levers also promise better control of that additional power while also offering increased pad clearances. Pad contact point will be adjustable as was introduced on the new Deore XT group. Oil flow through the system suggests easier bleeding and increased oil volume promises increased resistance to fade, too.

The new rotors now bear a similar look and design to the current XTR generation with big aluminium spiders that should both drop weight and improve rigidity. Attachment of those rotors to the similarly new hubs will be via Shimano's standard non-oversized Center Lock interface rather than the oversized one used previously. Faster engaging freehub internals are fitted throughout, bearing spacing has widened and the hubs drop significant amounts of weight (100g for the rear hub alone). As before, a variety of axle diameter and length options will be on hand.

The rear derailleur is arguably the most heavily changed bit of the group as it sheds the old axle-mounted design for a traditional hanger-mounted setup. A super wide inner link delivers improved body stiffness and durability and also incorporates a 'skid plate' design to help deflect trail debris. Most interesting, though, is the adjustable geometry that supposedly provides better cog tracking on a wider range of cassette ratios. Spring tensions have increased across the board and weights have even dropped about 100g as compared to the previous unit.

The matching front derailleur is now dual chainring-specific and the new cage profile reportedly allows for wider tires, steeper seat tube angles and less chain drag.

As expected, the new shifters incorporate many of the internal (and external) wizardry of other recently launched Shimano groups. Instant Release and 2-Way Release-equipped internals couple with the shorter release trigger for quicker shifts while the new multi-position mounts will offer greater positioning flexibility.

The revamped crankset also sheds significant amounts of weight with the two-ring-plus-bashguard and single ring versions losing around 100g or more, depending on configuration. Even so, stiffness has reportedly gone up (making it twice as rigid as Deore XT, according to Shimano), pedal stance width has come down and steel inserts offer extra security. Single chainring options will include 34/36/38/40/42T while doubles will include a 36x22T combination.

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