Trade shows have a reasonably straightforward business model. They are a gathering of suppliers and retailers in one big space so that retailers can select what products they want to sell to their clientele. Simple, right? And for those following the woes of Interbike over the last few years, the show has struggled to demonstrate its relevancy because lead times have forced preseason orders to be placed at least a month, sometimes two, before Interbike takes place and no one wants Interbike to take place in July during the height of the summer sales season.
So, yeah, that’s been a problem.
But up until now, the suppliers have all understood that when you arrive at the show, you need to have some cool new products to show, and ship. Over the years there have been problems with vaporware that brought people into the booth but really wasn’t production ready and so they never made it to market, but everyone has traditionally understood that if you want any sort of presence in the media, you want to have something cool to show.
Well, it finally happened. Yesterday, the three coolest and most interesting things I saw yesterday are products I’m not allowed to tell you about. And one of them did an exceptionally poor job communicating the existence of the embargo. But really. An embargo at Interbike. What. The. Nevermind.
This would be where I only mention in passing that when WTB served beer at their tent management at Northstar called the cops. Outdoor Demo in its new home is not without problems of its own.
Sure, there were a ton of new products at Outdoor Demo, but for the last few years, I’ve spread myself too thin, trying to cover every cool new thing I saw, rather than focusing on just the things that I found, and thought you would find, really exciting, which is how I used to do my coverage, and how I’ve decided to do it this year. And so, while I’ve seen plenty of cool stuff, of the things that I saw that were utterly remarkable and made me excited to write about, due in no small part to the tiny collection of companies assembled at Outdoor Demo, I can say I’ve seen exactly two things worth devoting pixels to. Yesterday it was XTR, which is no small feat for me because I have traditionally disliked that group because the brakes were never powerful enough. As it happens, I’m probably only 1/3 as rad as your average World Cup pro and so I need brakes that do more than allow me to occasionally dial back my velocity. And now XTR offers brakes that are either plenty stoppy, or super stoppy. That will change the course of sales for XTR in 2019.
For day two, my absolute favorite thing I saw were two full-suspension mountain bikes … for kids. Mondraker is a Spanish brand that isn’t super-well-known or super-well-distributed here in the U.S. It’s a problem common to European brands and even some American ones (read Trek Stores and Specialized Concept Stores). Mondraker showed the Factor 24 and Factor 26. They are all-alloy frames with 24- and 26-inch wheels, respectively. They both have top tubes that slope and curve to give as much standover height as possible. The Factor 24 has 80mm of travel, in part to reduce said standover, while the Factor 26 has 100mm of travel.
What makes the Factor 24 especially cool is that once the kid has effectively outgrown the Factor 24, the suspension can be opened up to the full 100mm of travel and the 24-inch wheels traded for 26-inch ones, giving the kid another couple of years on the bike.
They use Rock Shoe air forks and shocks set to light compression and rebound appropriate to kids, not some unadjustable steel-spring pogo stick. Both bikes feature 11-speed drivetrains and hydraulic disc brakes, and the fact that they are crafted from aluminum means they can handle the sort of abuse the average middle schooler will dish-out during riding and “putting away.” I do expect both of these bikes will be dropped more often than hung up. Let me just add that they spec’d a SRAM drivetrain with Shimano brakes (which is an increasingly common occurrence considering how many people detest SRAM brakes), a move I find to be lovely because it shows just how much they care about the kids’ riding experience.
Suggested retail is somewhere between $2000 and $2500. And that’s perfectly reasonable for the quality of these bikes. Sure, you can spend $300 for a kids’ bike, but it will be largely constructed from boat anchor. I’ve got a son who weighs as much as the big bag of dog food. To put him on a bike that weighs 75 percent what he does is somewhere been garden-variety cruel and all-out mean. The Factor 24 has a claimed weight of 25 lbs.; that’s half of his weight and even that isn’t what I’d call kind, but making a full-suspension bike that has the same proportion to his weight as my bike does to me isn’t possible even with a $10k price tag. At least all the other kids will face the same challenge.
Imagine being 53-inches tall (4′ 5″) and being able to ride a full-suspension mountain bike. Holy wow. Mondraker also makes the only multi-geared 16-inch-wheeled bike I’ve encountered.
Srsly, if we want kids to have as much fun on bikes as we have, we ought to give them tools with which they can have that good time.
Hands-down my favorite thing I saw yesterday, except for those two bikes that … aw crap.