PressCamp ’14: the riding

PressCamp ’14: the riding

In my previous trip to Park City for PressCamp I didn’t ride an inch. On one hand, I was there to meet with manufacturers and talk with them about new product offerings. That my job. Bike riding is a requirement of my job, but it isn’t the job itself, so while I had met with everyone I could and left feeling like I’d done my job, the fact that I’d never swung a leg over a bike felt like a fail. Fortunately for me and everyone else, the smart folks at Lifeboat Events, the organizer of the event, the format was tweaked a bit so that every afternoon there was a window to go out and ride some of the bikes and other products we were talking about. IMG_8145

The GT Grade had so intrigued me I made sure to take it for a quick spin while another bike was being readied for me. I took it through some grass, a bit of dirt, off a curb (or three or four) and over all the chewed up asphalt I could find, plus, yes, a bit of gravel. The bike handled with confidence and while I did get bounced around on the rougher stuff, this is a bike I’d love for a fire road adventure. It would be easy to look at a bike like this and see it as gratuitous pandering to some tiny sliver of the market that resents being catered to, but this bike is a good deal more interesting than that, not so easily summed up.  IMG_8139

I wanted to make sure I got at least one ride in on the revised SRAM Hydro brakes. I had a chance to get out on the Hydro Rim brakes on this Focus Cayo. While I was somewhat critical of the Izalco Max for being too stiff, the revisions to the Cayo made that bike lighter, more lively and a bit more responsive.

SRAM stressed that dealing with the Hydro recall was an all-hands response. The pulled people off of other projects to address this so that they could find a solution with all due haste. As a result, two things happened. First, the effort was so epic that the new Hydro brakes will delay the introduction of some other products we would otherwise have seen at this year’s Interbike show. Second, and more to our benefit, the brakes received a new design from the ground up. One of the best features in this regard is how the brakes now offer lever reach adjustment as well as lever stroke (or free stroke) adjustment. These revisions make the system much easier to use.

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Compared to traditional mechanical calipers, the Hydro R system offers incredible braking power, but a road brake system needs more than just raw power, it needs good modulation. Modulation is what really gives a rider control, and these offer modulation that seems superior to most, if not all, mechanical systems. IMG_8181

I’d really love to have this thing drive up to my home, even though I don’t have many neighbors who would be impressed by it. IMG_8180

Campagnolo showed off a new Chorus EPS group. Rather than sit in a suite and talk about what beautiful parts Campagnolo make, I headed out for a ride with Campy’s Tom Kattus and Dan Large. IMG_8188

The brakes remain unchanged from the existing Chorus but nearly everything else has.

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The group features a new Ultra-Torque crank set and chainrings. It comes in a variety of configurations: 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34. It also comes in three lengths: 170, 172.5 and 175mm.IMG_8184The EPS derailleur, like it’s mechanical brother, will handle a cog as large as 29 teeth. Shift speed is noticeably quicker than with the mechanical group.

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The EPS front derailleur is even more impressive than the rear derailleur. Shifts aren’t just fast, they are relatively quiet and in my limited experience, ceaselessly flawless. IMG_8186

One of my favorite features of Campagnolo’s groups are the shapes of the hoods and brake levers. The ergonomic design makes them comfortable and easy to hold even when the road isn’t smooth. IMG_8187

The button that conducts downshifts for the front and upshifts for the rear is easy to reach no matter whether your hands are on the hoods or in the drops. I’ve even shifted from the bar top with by extending my pinkie.

Our ride was relatively brief, but my experience with Campagnolo is deep and varied. I liked this group a lot. Typically, the opposition friends of mine have had to Campy groups has been either the cost—for the upper-end groups—or the weight—for the lower-end groups. This Chorus group isn’t cheap, but it does a nice job of blending functionality, weight and cost. 
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Deer Valley ran the lifts for us so that those of us who reside at sea level so that we could do more than spend our time climbing at 3 mph. I managed to ride two bikes, the new Pivot Mach 4 Carbon and the Cannondale Trigger, both with 27.5″ wheels.  IMG_8148

The ride with Pivot’s Chris Cocalis, Switchback’s Phil Booth and Byron of Bike Hugger was a pleasant reminder of why I miss downhill skiing—lift time with friends.

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The new Mach 4—arguably Pivot’s most lauded and popular bike—moves to a new carbon fiber design. Cocalis worked with Shimano to make sure the frame would have routing options for both the mechanical XTR as well as the new Di2 XTR.IMG_8796

There’s a port on the bottom of the down tube for the Di2 battery. The new bike weighs in at only 22 lbs. and features a bit more travel than the previous version with 115mm of travel.

In my brief ride on it, I found the Mach 4 to be really nimble, especially in tight switchbacks and over undulating terrain. This is a bike I’d love to get more time on.

 

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The Trigger was a fun ride and featured both a dropper post and a rear suspension lockout lever. I’ve come to consider a dropper post to be necessary on anything except for cross country race bikes.
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I couldn’t tell if the suspension was just a bit firm for my weight or if it simply wasn’t as active, but I wanted something a bit more supple on the down. The bike handled really well, though, and allowed me to pick my line with precision even at high speed. IMG_8160

The rear suspension lockout lever was easy to reach and even easier to release. All that was required to go back into full bounce mode was a small knock from the knuckle of my index finger. IMG_8161

After the lifts shut down I took both an electrically assisted Lapierre and a Haibike out on the trails. Considering I was riding platform pedals and a suspension set up for God knows whose weight, these bikes shouldn’t have been much fun, what with my cleats slipping off the pedals, but my experience was crazy fun.

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Both bikes used the Bosch assist which, while fairly heavy, positions the weight low to keep the bike well-balanced. IMG_8162The battery mounts on the down tube to the water bottle bosses.

The first thing I noticed is the way the altitude effects melted away. We were at 7000 feet and I rode to over 8000 feet without getting a headache. The Bosch system is not a throttle-assist; you must pedal. The computer gives you four pedal modes—eco, tour, sport and turbo—pretty self-explanatory. I tended to ride in tour and sport and found the system most effective and my control best when I kept my cadence up.

I’ve heard numerous concerns (some forwarded by IMBA) that electric-assist bikes don’t belong on trails, the riders will roost trails into ruts and traditional riders will get run over by the “cheaters.” I found that I was able to manage my efforts through wet spots so that I didn’t add to trail damage and the assistance allowed me to see far more of the mountain than I would have on my own.

Clearly, these bikes aren’t for everyone, but this thing could welcome a whole new segment of rider into off-road riding.

 

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4 comments

  1. Walt S

    I have been a Campy fan for years, retrogrouch that I am. But the the shape of the new 4-arm Campy crankset looks so much like a ShimaNO clone, if there were no decals, it would look like a new DA carbon. Heresy I say! And the 4 hole Campy chainrings? Makes last year’s model obsolete, just like their competition does. I am sure that the new setup will make me 0.00023 second faster, so well worth it.

  2. B.S.

    As far as the Lapierre is concerned or any other “bicycle” in that category does not belong on the trails IMHO. It is the true definition of a Motorcycle. It might be a neat commuter for some or even a way for a certain demographic of folks to ride with their kids. But, I would hate to see some of the not so welcomed consequences such as you mentioned: trail damage, user conflict, trail closure, and many other issues I am sure to be missing.

    Thank you for all your reviews, editorials, and writings in general as I really do value your opinions and absolutely love your style of writing and view of the world from the saddle of a bike!

    Sincerely,
    B.S.

    Sent from my flip-phone


    1. Author
      Padraig

      B.S: There are certainly those electric bikes out there that are little more than electric motorcycles due to the inclusion of a throttle. Bikes like the Lapierre and the Haibike is significantly different in their operation in that they only assist you as you pedal. Trail damage is a function of riding style, not the bike.

  3. Carson

    Regarding the dropper post issue you mentioned: I have a dropper post on a hard tail carbon Niner, which definitely qualifies as an XC race bike and I love it. It’s great for tight downhill switchbacks and faster speeds for anything twisty that points down. Weight gain is negligible for the benefits you gain.

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