2013 Interbike, Part 2

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In the 15 years I’ve been coming to Las Vegas for Interbike, I cannot recall a year where the conditions were more inhospitable for riding than today and yesterday. One set of reports I saw put yesterday’s high temperature at 106 degrees, while today’s dropped a single degree but added a steady wind that could gust north of 15 mph. Not many things can dampen my enthusiasm for bikes, but feeling like I’m sitting in the oven along with the pizza I’m cooking isn’t conducive to bike riding. I didn’t ride as much today as I wanted or expected to, but the upside is that it gave me more time to talk with people.

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Zipp had a couple of announcements. They revamped their Service Course bars to make them a bit more intuitive for fitters. There are three bars, all of which feature a flatter drop to the levers—the SL70 has the shortest reach of the bunch and is bound to be popular with riders who want to run a long stem. The SL80 has an 80mm reach, while the SL88, pictured above has the longest reach and a slightly modified take on the classic bend. I stopped using a classic bend bar even before Greg LeMond retired and can’t stand them now, but the bend on this bar is opening up just enough I can get my hand in there comfortably.

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The 808 received a new hub that is supposed to be much stiffer than the previous one. It features virtual three-cross lacing, new larger bearing and plenty of input from Mark Cavendish.

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Zipp says the change in the ride experience for the rider will be that the wheel will be much stiffer laterally without picking up any additional stiffness vertically. And for really powerful sprinters who have complained about the wind-up of Zipp wheels, this new 808 addresses that issue square-on.

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There weren’t a lot of titanium bikes at the show, but I decided I wanted to try to ride each of the different frame materials once during the Outdoor Demo. I dropped by Litespeed and checked out the T1. This is produced from 6Al/4v and while this is meant to be the successor to Litespeed’s Archon model, it is also true that this is their flagship metal bike and in that it reminded me of the old Vortex, both in terms of stiffness and handling.

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The chainstays are asymmetric, and while engineer Brad Devaney did a fine job of explaining just why they chose to build the bike around two different chainstays, the explanation will have to wait for a full review of the bike. It was a delight to ride.

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To make the bike easy to build up with current parts and to give it as many performance attributes found in the current carbon bikes, Litespeed went with a BB30 bottom bracket.

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It’s also easier to increase front-end stiffness if you’re not building around a straight 1 1/8″ fork. The T1 uses a fork that tapers from 1 1/8″ at the stem to 1 1/2″ at the fork crown. This was easily the stiffest ti bike I’ve ridden to date.

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I’ve been dying to ride Felt’s redesign AR model since seeing it at their global product launch back in August. One of the reasons Felt has been such a great value at the mid and low end of the market is their price-point bikes come out of the same mold their high-end bikes do. This bike is the AR4; it’s exactly the same frame as the AR FRD, except for the material used. So while it didn’t offer quite the road sensitivity that their high-end bikes do, this is an Ultegra-equipped bike that retails for $3499. And honestly, some companies’ top bikes offer no more sensitivity than this one does.

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The AR uses an unusual seat post and clamp that pinches not the post itself, but the walls of the post, allowing them to make an exceedingly thin-walled seatpost that doesn’t need to withstand crushing forces. The point is to increase rider comfort. I will say that this bike was stunningly stiff in out-of-the-saddle efforts. However, I wasn’t able to get much of a feel for how much comfort it offered because the road surface I was riding on was pretty smooth. And, frankly, I cut my ride short because there was a steady 10 mph wind that was gusting to 20 mph. An aero bike with aero wheels wasn’t dynamite, but truly, it was so bad out there that any bike riding wasn’t much fun. Where’s my Visine?

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The large bottom bracket area not only helps smooth the wind’s flow over the lower part of the bike but helped give it the stiffness necessary to stand up to hard sprints. And because the rear brake was mounted to integrated posts, the braking offered terrific power and sensitive modulation.

There’s plenty more we saw at Outdoor Demo and more posts will be coming. Contributor JP Partland rode a great many bikes as well, so this won’t be the end of the ride reports.

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