PressCamp is the event that I think Interbike wishes it was. The challenge is meeting with everyone doing interesting work and getting enough time with them to be able to write competently about it afterward. Where PressCamp really excels is the fact that the journalists present are the purpose, not an afterthought, so when someone is making a presentation to one of us, there are no interruptions, no missing product as it’s being shown to a curious retailer. In short, no competition.
This year, my visit started off with Zipp and a screenful of math that I didn’t understand. I was told it was a bunch of equations for aerodynamics, but honestly, it could have been the breakdown of our economic system and I’d never have known. What the equations pointed to, I’m told, were some of the work that led to Zipp’s latest and greatest wheel set, the Firestrike. So the Firestrike is being introduced in the 58mm-deep 404 model. The marketing copy could go on and on about the ways it differs from the 404 Firecrest, but there are two big changes that necessitated the new wheel. The first is that while the design draws on the Firecrest patent, I was told new shaping and a revision to Zipp’s ABLC dimpling makes the wheel behave more predictably in cross winds, shedding the wind more predictably.
Graphics are printed for less aerodynamic disturbance and greater durability. You can see the new ABLC pattern here, which results in smaller, more regularly occurring vortices. Practically speaking, this means easier handling in all conditions and for smaller riders.
The other big change is the Showstopper technology, which gives the Firestrikes a new braking surface. I’m told that it not only gives the Firestrikes a better braking surface for more consistent stopping in dry conditions, but those arcing grooves help to shed water for a huge increase in stopping power in wet conditions. The grooves are direction specific, so it will be important to install the quick releases correctly.
The 88/188 hubs have been revised to eliminate preload adjustment and have replaced the steel bearings with ceramic ones for even faster rolling. The clincher bead has also been opened up another millimeter (to 17.25) for the Firestrikes for a bigger contact patch.
Niner has entered the road market (sorta) with a ‘cross bike, the BSB (which stands for Blood, Sweat and Beers). The BSB 9 is built with Niner’s top-flight carbon layup, which goes by the acronym RDO. It’s a disc-specific ‘cross bike that can handle everything from racing to you-gotta-be-nuts monster rides thanks to the fact that it can take up to a 40mm tire. I’m told a 56cm frame weighs in under 1kg.
The slimming of the top tube and seat stays vertically help keep harshness to a minimum. Also contributing to the effort to make sure the bike is comfortable over any surface is the choice to go with a 27.2mm seatpost.
Niner has a great reputation for making excellently performing rigid forks and the BSB fork draws on lessons learned making those mountain bike forks. They went with a through-axle design to reduce wheel twist in the fork blades and to make sure that the front wheel can’t pull out of the dropouts under hard braking.
The frame is Di2-ready, for those who wish to go that way, though mechanical routing is an option as well. It comes in six sizes—47 through 62, to cover a very broad range of rider size and every size sports two sets of bottle mounts. The frame set comes in two colors and goes for $2299.
Smith Optics introduced a new helmet, this one for the road crowd. The Overtake takes the basics of their existing mountain bike helmet, the Forefront, and builds on it with improved ventilation and outstanding aerodynamics.
Koroyd is a honeycomb-looking material. A piece 20mm thick provides the same degree of protection as 25mm of EPS foam, meaning a helmet can be made smaller, thinner and, presumably, lighter.
The Overtake was wind tunnel tested against Specialized’s Evade, Giro’s Aeon and Air Attack. While the testing was conducted at only one angle, the Overtake came out second, behind the Evade, a helmet that weighs roughly 60g more.
The Overtake comes in two versions, a standard version which is shown here, and it goes for $250. There will soon be an enhanced version that will include MIPS technology and it will run for $360. We’ve got the non-MIPS version and will begin riding it next week. Stay tuned for a full review.
On a slightly odd note, our first day of riding was
rained snowed out. We had heard that our riding might be limited, that what was drizzle might preclude us from mountain biking, but when the drizzle got heavier and the temperature at our lodge dropped to the low-30s, the falling stuff turned angel white and we all stared out windows with jaws slack as the line of a fallen kite. Oh. Well maybe we should regroup. Though I missed having the chance to ride some of what I was looking at, I felt worse for the locals who were enduring yet another day of the Winter That Would Not End®; they were every bit as surprised as us.