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New race shocks and rubber, plus new ways to get them there

Race Tech: MTB Nationals #1, March 31, 2007

After a long stint as a SRAM BlackBox test rider, Kelli Emmett now finds herself on Team Giant for the 2007 season and with Shimano as her exclusive component supplier. Filling Emmett's role for SRAM is Subaru-Gary Fisher's newest signing, current U-23 National Champion Sam Schultz.

Like Emmett, Schultz calls Colorado Springs, CO his home and is, conveniently, ideally situated near SRAM's brake and suspension development facility. Here at the first MTB Nationals race, Schultz's Gary Fisher Procaliber was equipped with a brand-new rear shock from Rock Shox called the Monarch 4.2 that won't be officially launched until next month's Sea Otter Classic.

The Monarch will reportedly replace the current MC series but will still utilize Rock Shox' excellent Motion Control damper architecture. According to Subaru-Gary Fisher team mechanic Matt Opperman, the new shock offers a higher threshold platform for enhanced resistance to pedaling inputs, but updates to the MoCo damper simultaneously yield reduced harshness. The new shock is also said to deliver a wider range of adjustment, a smoother stroke, and even sheds a bit of weight relative to last year's MC. One nice little touch is the new flip-up Schrader valve, which pivots out away from the shock body for easier inflation, but then tucks tightly against the shock, safe from harm's way.

Over in the Team Maxxis camp, riders were spotted with 'team only' Maxxis Oriflamme and Larsen TT race tires in bright orange hues to match the rest of their gear. According to team mechanics, the orange tread compound doesn't offer any performance benefits as compared to Maxxis' standard race treads, but a quick fingernail test (and the lack of carbon black in the rubber) still suggests that the team may have been running softer treads for better adhesion in the dry and loose conditions at the Fort McDowell course.

Also found on team bikes was a new prototype dual compound Larsen TT. Mechanics were mum on the details, but one would expect Maxxis to follow the usual convention here with a higher-rebound and faster rolling harder compound down the middle, but a softer and grippier compound in the shoulders.

Race-specific gear wasn't the only thing to see at opening day for the 2007 MTB Nationals series; after all, riders still have to get their bikes to the venue. Rack supplier Thule has revised its fork-mount trays for increased security as well as expanded bike compatibility.

According to Thule's Western Envoy Eric Wallace, company research has found that even high-end forks can display differences in fork tip thickness as high as 1mm from left to right, which can result in grossly dissimilar clamping pressures. The new Echelon will replace the current top-of-the-line V2 and includes a brand-new set of Equalized Twin Cam clamp internals that automatically compensate for those variations in fork dropout widths. A new adjustment knob is now also front-mounted for easier access.

A new Peloton mid-range model will eventually replace the workhorse Velo Vise and will retain the same internal design as last year, but now includes a deep cutaway head for full disc brake compatibility. Both the Echelon and the Peloton are also equipped with longer and wider trays to better accommodate a more diverse range of bikes.

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