In the varied and ever-changing garden of bicycles, it seems that the fat bike corner is the latest area of flourishing growth, producing new ideas and iterations at a rapid pace. Two longtime mountain bike innovators—Aaron Joppe, former owner of Slingshot, and John Muenzenmeyer, former owner of Nukeproof—have been drawn into this bloom and are making interesting contributions with their relatively new company, 616 Fabrication.
The company name comes from the area code of western Michigan where they manufacture frames, forks and hubs at their own facility. They offer frames for fat bike, cyclocross and mountain builds, all made in high-end steel. Artistic touches, such as laser-cut seatstay bridges and custom-etched ID plates, further set these creations apart from the average mass-produced models, as does a classic paint job.
The first thing I and other staffers noticed about the Fat frame is its relatively steep 72 head tube angle. It also sports short-for-a-fat-bike 17.5-inch chainstays. Hub spacing is 135mm front and 170mm rear. It’s designed to ride light and nimbly over sand, snow and rock. Custom geometry is available to suit anyone’s taste, but for our tight turns and four seasons, the stock numbers suited me just fine.Tweet
It’s refreshing to see that large companies have not wholly abandoned the legacy of steel. Specialized’s Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple stands out from the Tricross line as the lone steel-framed model for the entire brand. Of course steel is a fitting material for the line’s intended purpose, “Freeroad,” A.K.A. riding all over the place for a variety of reasons, a purpose we champion. It’s not a new category for Specialized—we’ve tested two previous models, the Sport in issue #12 and the Comp in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, back in 2006.
The Tricross caters to us “freeroaders” by aiming for that sweet spot between road, cyclocross and touring. The chromoly frame has a longer top tube and a lengthened wheelbase (as compared to a standard road racing bike) for stability and comfort, though the wheelbase is not as long as a typical touring bike. The head tube is a middle-of-the-road 71.5 for predictable steering. It may be heavier than its aluminum cousins, but for rough-n-ready riding, I enjoyed the genteel comfort of steel, and didn’t feel like it held me back too much when it was time to sprint for the traffic lights. It’s a nice package that covers the bases well, weighing in at 27lbs.Tweet
It’s a warm morning. The sun’s out and spring has sprung. I’m stepping out of my back door with Cannondale’s Quick CX 3 ready to start the 11-mile commute to the office. My neighbor waves “good morning,” and it promises to be a great day for a ride.
My commute isn’t difficult. There aren’t many hills, or even traffic, but it traverses a variety of riding surfaces. It can make finding an appropriate bike challenging.Tweet
Most people associate Norco with adrenaline-fueled gravity and freeride mountain bikes, for good reason. The company’s head office is located in British Columbia, Canada, the heart of those cycling disciplines. But Norco is not all dirt. The Indie models, part of the company’s Urban Performance line, are designed for pavement and come in either straight or drop bar configurations. The Indie Drop 1—obviously with a drop bar—is the middle sibling of the trio.Tweet
Xtracycle is largely responsible for the blossoming of the longtail cargo bike market in the United States. In the late 1990s, Xtracycle was thinking big thoughts about what widespread acceptance of the cargo bike could do for American transportation infrastructure. This led to the FreeRadical, a bolt-on rear frame extension that turned many an unused bike into an incredibly practical cargo bike. Since then, the longtail has been in continuous development, with a handful of companies using the Xtracycle LT open standard as the basis for complete cargo bikes.
The idea of a complete bike has always been part of the plan at Xtracycle, but until the EdgeRunner, all complete Xtracycles just used the bolt-on FreeRadical extension. But a purpose-built, one-piece frame is really the best way to go for a heavy-duty cargo bike. While Xtracycle wasn’t quick to come to market with one, the EdgeRunner was worth the wait.Tweet
Misceo is a Latin verb that means “to mix or blend.” The idea behind the Raleigh Misceo Trail 2.0—a flat-bar, 700c bike decked out with disc brakes and a suspension fork—is to blend the performance and versatility of a mountain bike with the comfort and street-friendliness of a hybrid. This machine is designed to tackle a variety of terrain, including pavement, rough roads and even dirt trails.Tweet
While many brands have introduced “endurance” road bikes over the last few years, few have taken the idea to quite the extreme as Trek. The Domane was developed with considerable input from Swiss pro cyclist Fabian Cancellara, who is known for his steam-engine riding style, using his massive power output to crush cobblestones in the fabled Spring Classics. He is said to enjoy the bike so much that he rides it year-round, even in the Tour de France, choosing it over Trek’s racier Madone model.
The frame features the intriguing IsoSpeed decoupler, an ingenious system that separates the seat tube from the top tube and seatstays, and allows the seat tube to flex and pivot at the mounting point. If you stand next to the bike and put your weight on the saddle, you can see the seat tube flex slightly, but while riding it is imperceptible until you hit a bump.Tweet
For the eco-conscious, or those just looking for a conversation starter, Schwinn offers the Vestige, with a frame constructed of flax fiber (90 percent flax, 10 percent carbon). Derived from the same plant that gives us linen, flax fiber maintains a high tensile strength that makes it an alternative to carbon fiber, but possesses a biodegradable attribute that carbon fiber does not. Why not use 100 percent flax, then? Flax alone isn’t stiff enough to meet European standards on its own, so Schwinn adds some carbon for rigidity.Tweet
Bianchi is the oldest manufacturer producing bicycles these days, having been started by company namesake Edoardo Bianchi in 1885. That’s nearly 130 years of bicycle production. Though the Bianchi name is often associated with road racing, the company got its start producing bikes for the evolving transportation market in the late nineteenth century. How fitting then we have this opportunity to review Bianchi’s transportation-focused Metropoli Uno.Tweet
Trek’s CrossRip is part of the Urban Utility line. Two models are offered, the basic Crossrip and the upgraded Elite. Both are spec’d with a drop bar for versatility and comfort, and differ only in the parts package.
The frame is made from Trek’s 100 series Alpha aluminum, with a Bontrager Satellite carbon fork. The tubes are shaped to create a stiff front end and bottom bracket that doesn’t flex when standing and pedaling, but also to keep frame weight to a minimum.Tweet
Kona designed the Rove as a versatile machine, mixing the practicality of its commuter and touring models with the fit and geometry of its cyclocross heritage. The result is a bike that feels responsive, but still delivers versatility that will keep you rolling all year.
It seems rim vs. disc brakes has superseded Campagnolo vs. Shimano as the debate du jour in the bicycle industry, and there’s no doubt which side I’m on. A mechanical disc brake is easy to set up, simple to maintain, performs well, and inspires far more confidence in this rider than a rim brake ever could. The Rove’s Hayes CX5 calipers did seem underpowered at first, but once the pads were bedded in they stopped just as I had hoped. I’m a little surprised to see 140mm rotors spec’d when 160mm wouldn’t seem excessive.Tweet
The Crosstrail formula is simple: aluminum frame with generous tire clearance plus rack and fender mounts, 60mm-travel SR Suntour NEXi suspension fork, a 3×9 drivetrain, Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes, and wheels and tires on the heavy-duty end of the road spectrum. This package delivers a highly versatile bike that can be used for commuting, light touring, road rides, urban and rural exploration, and even some light-duty trail riding.Tweet
When the folks at Fairdale put together the Flyer, they were thinking of people who ride their bikes occasionally, and casually at that. The intention was to create a bike you can pick up and ride with little fuss, little maintenance, and be happy about the experience. This bike is just as comfortable cruising the strand as it is rolling over rail-road ballast and everything in between.
Company founder (and BMX freestyle pro) Taj Mihelich says, “the whole point of Fairdale is to try and get people to find their love of cycling… I spent a lifetime on bikes and I want to create bikes that help other people experience some of that. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to put a casual rider on a singlespeed bike. However, inexperienced riders are often confused by derailleurs and their required maintenance. Having a bike that they can keep going is a huge key to keeping them riding.”Tweet
Rather than a beefed-up touring bike like the Co-Motion Divide we reviewed last week, the Fargo 2 is actually a drop-bar mountain bike, with a lighter compact frame, 2×10 drivetrain, tubeless wheels, and slacker geometry than the Co-Motion. A tall, 44mm head tube means a higher handlebar for comfort off-road, and suspension-corrected geometry allows a suspension fork upgrade.Tweet
The Co-Motion Divide’s rugged looking frame is hand-built in Oregon using oversized Reynolds 725 chromoly tubing. Co-Motion’s tandem expertise is evident in the massive chainstays and the 40-spoke wheels, built using DT-Swiss 540 tandem hubs (with 145mm rear spacing for a dishless wheel) and Velocity Cliffhanger rims. The stout 44 mm-diameter head tube on the Divide is another clue that this bike means business.
The Divide rode like it meant business, too. As soon as I got her built, I zipped through the mean streets and hit the local trails. The bike felt incredibly stiff and well built. I took that as an encouraging sign for the loaded tour that lay ahead—a 355-mile self-supported tour along the unpaved Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.Tweet
By Karen Brooks
Like moths to a flame, we bike geeks get drawn to the bright, shiny stuff at Interbike. Our definitions of “shiny” can vary from ultra-bling to practical-chic to clever and well-made. But it is nice, sometimes, to breathe the rarified air of the top-of-the-line. Shimano’s R785 brake and Di2 shifting systems are two such examples.
As disc brakes are becoming more common on everything from adventure touring to cyclocross to commuting bikes, and even creeping their way onto road-racing style bikes, the big two component brands, Shimano and SRAM, are paying attention. The natural next step in the evolution is to follow mountain bikes and go fully hydraulic. Aftermarket hydraulic brake systems for drop bars from TRP, Formula and others have been around for a few years, but until recently there haven’t been one-stop options. SRAM debuted the Hydro R system, for disc or rim brakes, earlier this year. Shimano fired back with the artfully named R785 hydraulic brake system that integrates with Di2 electronic shifting, and I got a chance to try out both here at Interbike. Read the full storyTweet
By Adam Newman
We’re excited to see more bikes coming around for the kind of riding we love the most: rambling adventures from the city to the mountains. The Giant AnyRoad might not have an innovative name, but the design is perfect for a huge segment of the bike-riding market. The aluminum frame offers a hugely sloping top tube for standover clearance, room for 700x48c tires, a carbon fiber fork and fender mounts.Tweet
By Karen Brooks
Dutch-style bikes have become popular as accoutrements in certain U.S. cities, allowing urban dwellers to glide along the streets with European sophistication, suits and skirts unruffled. However the history of these bikes, from English roadster to opafiets, is more about daily transportation than fashion. This style is just as popular with the Danes as with the Dutch, and Viva Bike Design represents the Danes, hailing from Copenhagen and headed by a former member of the Danish national cycling team.
The Danish version of these daily drivers is a bit lighter and sportier than the Dutch “grandpa” bike (“opafiets” in English). The Kilo model is a slight variation, with 26 inch wheels and fat tires rather than 700c and thinner rubber, basically adding pneumatic suspension to the package. Although this could never be mistaken for a lightweight, the Kilo’s chromoly steel frame is less hefty than the typical high-tensile steel of many of its tank-like counterparts.
Its frame geometry is a tad less relaxed than others as well, giving it quicker handling. Of course, its riding position is bolt upright, good for seeing and being seen in traffic and easy on the spine, if a little awkward for steeper, standing climbs. The bottom bracket is positioned high enough that the pedals were a bit far from the pavement, so that stopping required getting off the saddle to put a foot down, something I’d expect from a more performance-oriented bike. Otherwise, the bike’s overall impression is one of sturdiness and capability without being sluggish. Read the full storyTweet
By Stephen Haynes
When the folks at Fairdale put together the Flyer they were thinking of people who ride their bikes occasionally, and casually at that. The intention was to create a bike you can pick up and ride with little fuss, little maintenance, and be happy about the experience. This bike is just as comfortable cruising the strand as it is rolling over railroad ballast and everything in between.
Company founder Taj Mihelich (and BMX freestyle pro) says, “the whole point of Fairdale is to try and get people to find their love of cycling…I spent a lifetime on bikes and I want to create bikes that help other people experience some of that. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to put a casual rider on a singlespeed bike. However, inexperienced riders are often confused by derailleurs and their required maintenance. Having a bike that they can keep going is a huge key to keeping them riding.”Tweet
By Jeff Lockwood
Giro New Road apparel collection
Giro still makes some awesome helmets. And their shoes are still way rad, especially their super-stylish Republic shoe.
But what intrigues us the most right now us is the New Road cycling apparel collection. The refined aesthetic of the products in the line is what first grabs the eye, but the logical details are what really gets the interest going.
Giro uses the terms “Mobility” and “Ride” to define the two themes or aims of the line. “Mobility” refers to the side of the line better suited (get it?) towards the commuting rider. With wise use of wool and technical fabrics, tops like the Merino Polo top and the Mobility Trouser are undeniably stylish and truly useful as every day, off-bike clothing, but feature cycling-specific details like almost invisible shoulder vents and reflective bits on the pant cuffs.
The “Ride” pieces are definitely meant for people looking for more high-tech features for longer-distance road rides, yet hoping for an aesthetic that’s less likely to get snide remarks at the mid-ride cafe or bar stop.
Giro has found that carrying essentials like tubes, tools and phones is more efficient and more comfortably done as close to the body as possible. As such, the layers closest to the body in the Ride side of the line such as the Bib Undershort (complete with a quick-access fly) and the Base Pockets base-layer shirt feature back pockets. Pieces like the Ride Jersey and Ride Overshort give street-smart cover to the book-smart techy undergarments.
While the men’s New Road line is in its second season, the New Road women’s collection is a new addition for 2014. The same detail, technology, style and aesthetic sense of the men’s collection is tempered with specific tailoring for women. And Giro isn’t just giving lip service here. The women’s collection is just as broad as the men’s, and the first half of the catalog is devoted to the women’s line, pictured here: