Sea Otter 2012: Trek teams shows plenty of prototypes

New wheels and tires, plus SRAM Red discs?

This article originally published on BikeRadar

Sea Otter has become a mini tradeshow for the industry, and just about every booth you walk into has something new to show. But due to the event's competitive side, there are also exciting prototypes floating around that manufacturers would rather keep wraps on – particularly so at this year's show, since it's an Olympic year.

Just about all the members of the Trek-Subaru cross-country team are gunning for medals at London 2012, and the squad's sponsors have offered up a range of prototypes to help – chiefly light wheels, but Emily Batty also has what appear to be the new SRAM Red road disc calipers. Trek World Racing's cross-country racers weren't at Sea Otter but their gravity team were running some developmental product, in the form of new tires.

A sneak peek at what could be the new SRAM Red disc caliper

The high point of our swing through the Subaru-Trek pits was a glimpse of what we think to be the new SRAM Red road disc brake. We spotted the never-before-seen caliper on Emily Batty's Trek Superfly 29er hardtail, mated to a set of standard, commercially available, XX World Cup levers. Batty – who showed her potential at this year's opening World Cup round in South Africa with a second place finish – is newly anointed to SRAM's BlackBox elite athlete program.

The brake stands apart from the standard XX and XX World Cup models by way of two key features: it forgoes use of an adjustable position, banjo style cable mount for a direct link to the brake line, and it uses a new pad design. The caliper also looks smaller and has more intricate engineering, though it forgoes a super-light mono-bloc type design for a more robust two-piece clamshell arrangement.

Piston size appears slightly smaller than on the XX models. The pads look to offer a similar surface area and the same top-load design, but sport a new shape reminiscent of Shimano's previous-generation XTR M970 and Deore XT M760 pads. Batty was running her brakes with a 160mm front rotor and 140mm rear, with all-titanium hardware.

While Emily Batty's brakes fall under the BlackBox program, we believe them to use the new SRAM Red hydraulic road caliper

While Emily Batty's brakes fall under the BlackBox program, we believe them to use the new SRAM Red hydraulic road caliper

New wheels all-round for Subaru-Trek, plus 142mm axles for Superfly hardtails

We spotted two different wheelsets in the team's compound, both of which appeared to be built up with Stan's Race Gold BST 29in rims, but on different hubs. One set of hubs sported SRAM BlackBox stickers and were built with conventional flanges, six-bolt rotor mounts and 32 spokes. The others were branded with the Bontrager logo and used 28 straight-pull spokes and Center Lock rotor mounts.

While we were visiting, team mechanic Dusty Labarr was swapping dropouts on the team's Superfly hardtails to a new custom 142x12 unit. The frames are unchanged; he was simply swapping out the alloy dropout inserts from the open quick-release stock model to custom, fully captured through-axle one-offs made in Trek's Race Shop.

The reason for the custom dropout was practical, rather than performance based; since the Superfly 100 already uses a 142x12mm rear wheel, the switch for the hardtail negates the need to carry around different rear wheels for the two bikes, thus streamlining the team's needs and making the equipment quiver easier to manage.

Other bits and bobs at Subaru-Trek

Oakley sales and marketing rep Rich Weis was pitting out of the Trek-Subaru camp for the weekend with a custom Project One Superfly 100 full-suspension bike. Weis is obviously well connected – his rig was produced through Trek's Race Shop. He was slated to race in both the masters and pro classes at Sea Otter, and was quick to mention that the 40-mile masters race was double the length of the 20-mile pro event.

Team mechanic Matt Opperman's Trek Superfly had a one-piece molded carbon bar/stem combo on it. The unit was originally built for team rider Sam Schultz, who raced it last year, but he changed his stem length over the winter, which put him back on the team's stock two-piece Race Lite and Race XX Lite stem and bar combo. Opperman said the new bar is sweet, though.

Matt Opperman’s one-piece carbon bar is a hand-me-down from Sam Schultz, who changed stem sizes over the winter

Matt Opperman’s one-piece carbon bar is a hand-me-down from Sam Schultz, who changed stem sizes over the winter

Tires, tires and more tires at Trek World Racing

Ask a downhill racer what the single most important part of their bike is, and more often than not, they're going to say tires (or suspension). Trek continue to pour resources into the former, both by bettering existing Bontrager tires and giving their teams what they ask for to win races. We caught up with Aaron Gwin's personal mechanic, Chris Vasquez – aka Monkey, Monk, Monk-dawg – to talk about Trek World Racing's ever increasing tire selection.

He showed us a new dual ply, reinforced casing for Ross Schnell's go-to all-mountain tire, the XR4, that allows it to cross over into downhill type conditions, plus two new tread patterns – an updated XR3, with a modified, more aggressive-looking tread, and a new fast roller. "If we had that tire in South Africa we'd have run it," said Monkey. "It can save hundredths, maybe even tenths of a second."

The man behind Trek's tires is Frank Stacy. He brought the G4 to the team last year and was at least partly responsible for convincing the gravity side of TWR to ride the tires for 2012. The new fast roller combines the side knobs of the G4 with a center tread that's low and reminiscent of the newer XR1 cross-country tire, which is available now.

"He's put it together a lot quicker than other's [I've worked with]," said Monkey. "With tires you want the best, and he's giving us the best. It's a new tire line but people are starting to want it. They see Aaron winning on it and they're starting to think, ‘if Aaron can win on it, then I should be able to win on it'."

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