Big wheels and big air

Race Tech: Sea Otter Classic, April 14, 2007

Mavic and Hutchinson team up again for 29" UST

You wished, you whined, you waited… and now the wait is over. Two French companies have again joined forces for another UST tubeless project, only this time the players are Mavic and Hutchinson (instead of Michelin) and the rim is sized for 29" tires instead of 26" ones. Part of the long delay in developing the new bits was reportedly due to the lack of a 29" UST rim and bead standard that all industry players could agree upon, but with that issue settled, the ball is officially rolling.

The new Mavic C29ssmax is essentially a 29" version of the Crossmax SL: Zicral aluminum spokes are arranged in Mavic's new Isopulse lacing pattern, and join the milled Maxtal rims to the latest generation of FTS-X hubs. The C29ssmax rims will also use the FORE drilling process to retain a solid (and airtight) outer rim wall. Quoted weights for the set are 1660g and 1745g for the quick-release and 20mm versions, respectively.

The new wheels will be disc-compatible exclusively, and only with six-bolt rotors. However, Mavic will offer both standard quick-release and 20mm thru-axle front wheels. Each version will use a dedicated non-convertible hub in order to optimize spoke flange spacing, and both sets will carry a retail price of US$775.

The Python 29x2.10" will use Hutchinson's new Tubeless Ready configuration which incorporates a UST bead with a standard casing. As on other such tires, users can opt for either a standard inner tube or can convert the tire to true tubeless capabilities through the use of an approved sealant (Hutchinson's own Fast'air, in this case). At 645g and US44.95 each, Hutchinson claims this setup saves as much as 160g per tire as compared to standard UST.

Hutchinson will offer just one 29" tire for now, but additional models are sure to follow. More importantly, though, the establishment of a true UST standard means that more tubeless 29" tires will also arrive shortly from a variety of other manufacturers.

Ellsworth returns to the DH scene with new Dare

The folks at Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles were painfully aware that its Rogue didn't exactly receive a warm-and-fuzzy reception by the true DH crowd, who woefully lamented the passing of the old Dare and religiously awaited its second coming. That second coming is still a little ways off, but the gravity component of Team Maxxis was spotted using new prototype Dare frames at this year's Sea Otter Classic.

"The new Dare is going to be reintroduced for '08, and we made these specifically for the Maxxis team," said Mike Burgess of Ellsworth. "So far these are the only ones we've produced. We've made them really close to our old Dares, and we've given the team these bikes to tentatively test. We're going to let them ride them a little bit, and we're going to go back and adjust anything they find necessary to adjust. We're working with Fox trying to get the rear ends exactly the way they want their race bikes dialed in."

Some of the differences between the old and new Dare are plainly obvious, especially in the front end which now uses a pseudo-monocoque construction with two formed aluminum sheets welded down the center in combination with conventional tubes. Frame stiffness is said to be improved over both the Rogue and old Dare, and the new front triangle configuration is also claimed to be somewhat lighter. Out back, the new Dare retains the excellent 230mm-travel ICT rear end from the previous generation.

Relative to the more freeride-oriented Rogue, the Dare wears significant frame geometry changes that supposedly make it better suited to the bike's target closed-course DH crowd. Changes include a slacker head tube angle as well as a uniquely interrupted seat tube design that allows Ellsworth to retain the existing suspension pivot geometry and tire clearance, but gives the team racers a more rearward seating position.

Ellsworth devotees will have to wait until around Interbike time to get one for themselves, and costs will reportedly hover around the US$2200-2300 range.

Intense displays next iteration of M-series downhill bikes, expands 29" range

The Intense Cycles M-series of downhill bikes has been among the winningest designs on the race circuit, and Jeff Steber displayed the latest test mule at this year's Sea Otter Classic. The new M5 "is the next progression of our flagship M3 downhill bike," said Intense founder Jeff Steber, but the significant changes clearly warrant the new model designation.

An all-new front end helps yield a dramatic 0.9kg (2lb) reduction in frame weight, and the geometry has been tweaked to better accommodate "the new style World Cup courses that have lots of technical rocky sections and really fast high-speed areas." Rear wheel travel remains at 240mm (9.5"), but a longer 10.5x3.5" Manitou Revox shock delivers a lower leverage ratio for better rear-end performance. The front end also gains an integrated-style headset.

The M5 is still in the prototype stage and won't likely be available until this fall's Interbike show, but Intense's factory team will begin racing it on the World Cup circuit this May in Vigo, Spain. According to Steber, "We're pretty excited about it, and the racers can't wait to get on it."

Otherwise, Intense continues to build on its 29" line with a longer travel 5.5 29, but is also playing with the so-called '69er' concept with the new Spider 69.

Niner Bikes releases new short-travel XC model

Niner Bikes was conceived from the start as an exclusively 29er-only brand, and the CA-based company has definitely benefited from jumping on the bandwagon early on. For 2008, Niner will supplement its already healthily proportioned six-model lineup with a new dedicated short-travel XC rig called the Jet 9.

The Jet 9 is loosely based on Niner's existing r.i.p. 9 dual-link full-suspension model, but a variety of changes drops the weight of the 100mm travel down to an impressive 2.45kg (5.4lb) for a medium frame with a Fox Racing Shox RP23 rear shock. Changes include the use of bushings instead of bearings at all pivot locations, pared-down suspension linkages, the omission of the r.i.p. 9's modular dropouts, plus a new 6000-series aluminum tubeset with revised butting profiles as well as a new rear end configuration.

Pricing was yet to be determined, but Niner Bikes anticipates an August/September release date.

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