New suspension bits, plus more parts for road and 'cross

Sea Otter Classic Tech #5, April 23, 2007

Manitou allays fears with new MRD models and first 29er fork

Answer Products' recent buyout by the Hayes Bicycle Group sparked rumors that the Manitou brand was destined to become a hollow and diluted shell of itself. If Manitou's new lineup is any indication, though, things are looking just fine, at least for now.

Manitou's XC-specific R7 platform goes on the MRD (Manitou Racing Development) diet and drops its weight to under 1.27kg (2.8lb) in the process. Much of the savings comes courtesy of a new Noble Air spring system which uses a single-valve, self-adjusting negative air spring instead of a coil. An optional carbon fiber lower leg assembly adds some extra chassis rigidity (and snazzy appearance), but doesn't slough off any additional grams relative to the standard magnesium casting. As with last year's model, travel options will be limited to 80mm- or 100mm-specific versions.

The new Minute MRD receives a similar air spring upgrade, bringing the weight down to just 1.45kg (3.2lb) or 1.50kg (3.3lb) for the 100mm and 130mm versions, respectively. Both the R7 MRD and Minute MRD will be offered in a choice of two damper styles: the superb TPC damper or a new Absolute damper which uses a similar architecture but adds a true external low-speed compression adjuster. Both dampers will feature lockout capabilities.

Two-niner fans can also rejoice in Manitou's new Minute 29 fork, which will be available in 80mm, 100mm, and 120mm air-sprung versions come mid-May. Manitou will wisely offer the fork in both 41mm and 47mm offsets (the latter of which will be a boon to 29er owners with 71° head tube angles), as well as a range of damper options including Fluid Flow, TPC, and Absolute. As if that weren't enough, both standard quick-release and Hex-Lock 20mm thru-axle flavors will be on the menu, and all of the Minute 29 forks will supposedly accommodate a whopping 2.5" tire. Claimed weight is approximately 1.72kg (3.8lb), depending on model.

Race Face delves further into roadie realm

Vancouver-based mountain bike component icon Race Face dove back into the road market last year with its Cadence crankset (yes, I said 'back'; anyone else remember the road-specific Turbine?), and apparently it was received well enough to expand the line.

The Cadence crankset carries on unchanged from last year, but is joined by a new stem, handlebar, and seatpost. The Cadence stem is made of forged and blasted 6061 aluminum with a forged two-piece 7075 aluminum faceplate. Race Face will offer an impressively broad 70-130mm range of extensions, all in a ±6° angle and with a 31.8mm handlebar clamp diameter. Claimed weight is a reasonable 165g (110mm).

The matching butted 6061 aluminum handlebar features an anatomic bend and double cable grooves for use with Shimano, Campagnolo, or SRAM. The Cadence handlebar will be offered in a similarly comprehensive run of sizes, ranging from 38-44cm (c-c). Claimed weight is 280g.

Race Face's innovative head design makes its way on to the new Cadence seat post, which utilizes a forged and fore-aft butted 2014 aluminum tube mated to a forged and machined 6061 aluminum head with 13mm of offset. Diameters will range from 26.8-31.6mm and both 280mm and 350mm extensions will be offered. Claimed weight for a 27.2mm x 280mm model is 235g.

Race Face will also move a little more upscale in the road department with the introduction of its Revolution line. There is no Revolution crankset just yet, but a swap to 7075 aluminum drops the weight of the similarly-styled stem and handlebar to 140g and 230g, respectively. A triple-butted 7050 mast and more aggressive machining drop the weight of the Revolution seatpost down to just 195g.

KORE Bicycle Komponents returns to the flock

After falling out of favor in the earlier part of the decade, Kore Bicycle Komponents is shooting for a resurgence with an extensive multi-disciplinary product line shown at this year's Sea Otter Classic as well as sponsorship of a number of high-profiled athletes, including current World 4X Champion Michal Prokop and GT factory team racers Jill Kintner, Bryn Atkinson, and Todd Wells.

KORE licenses SDG's innovative I-Beam saddle and seatpost attachment system but adds its own unique twist that also happens to directly address one of our biggest gripes with the system. Unlike the original, KORE's I-Beam rail is attached only to the very front and rear of the saddle, thus providing some much needed shell flex and comfort. New for '08 is a zero-offset I-Beam post to supplement the existing 20mm version.

In addition to its MTB, BMX, and road offerings (which now includes a full carbon fiber drop handlebar), KORE is also tossing its hat into the cyclocross arena with a new cantilever brake, top-mounted brake levers, and a unique set of grips. The Sport and Race cantilever brakes both incorporate a time-tested old-school geometry as well as a novel offset design intended to provide more pad clearance during wheel changes. The forged 6061 aluminum top-mount levers include drilled lever blades to enhance grip in muddy conditions, and proprietary cable architecture is designed to mesh perfectly with the company's unique Palmster grips.

FSA introduces chain guide, new 'cross-specific headset

This year's Sea Otter Classic saw FSA finally add a dedicated chain guide to its Gravity line of heavy-duty MTB components. The new Gravity 'Chain Device' is designed to fit single chainrings from 32-36T, and was specifically designed not only to work well, but also be easy to install.

The fully assembled guide includes a sturdy 7075-T6 aluminum boomerang (4mm thick at the upper arm and 8mm thick at the lower arm) for durability, and glass fiber-reinforced upper and lower guides and a DuPont Zytel lower cartridge bearing pulley for smooth and quiet operation. Stainless steel hardware is readily accessible from the driveside without requiring crankset removal, and the system is compatible with all major mounting standards (BB, ISCG, and ISCG 05). The suggested retail price of US$119.99 will also include FSA's polycarbonate bash ring.

FSA finally adds a standard, non-integrated offering to its line of cyclocross-specific headset for '08. The Orbit X-CX headset includes a built-in cable hanger for cantilever brakes to simplify the front end and utilizes angular contact cartridge bearings housed in CNC-machined 6061 aluminum cups. Even with the integrated hanger, the headset still weighs just 119g.

X-Fusion suspension aims to play with the big boys

X-Fusion isn't yet a household name in the bicycle suspension world, but it certainly wants to be and has put forth a pretty good effort to make it so. After the Ford Motor Company pulled out of cycling last year, X-Fusion joined forces with Kenda and Titus to keep things going. X-Fusion provides the cross-country team with its Velvet suspension forks and O2 Series rear shocks, both of which feature the company's Power Valve II stable platform technology.

X-Fusion pushes the envelope a little further with its Delta 8 line of downhill forks. The 100% CNC-machined forks utilize 40mm stanchions filled with coil/air internals and a cartridge damper with adjustable low-speed compression and rebound adjustment. Inverted-style forks normally give up a fair bit to their conventionally configured cousins, but X-Fusion graces the Delta 8 with a proprietary PlusHub that incorporates a massive 35mm axle.

As the name suggests, the Delta 8 features 8" of travel, but Delta 8 TA models borrows travel adjustment technology from Bionicon (similar to that used on Manitou's IT system) that can reduce the fork's travel down to 5". Claimed weight for non-TA models is 3.49kg (7.69lb).

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