Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival round-up

Black Sheep, Boo, Panda, Dean and Zinn

If the Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival is a harbinger of what's to come from the cycling industry, someday soon we'll all be riding bamboo bikes with 36-inch wheels and Exo-Grid skeleton tubesets.

For now, though, the two-day pow-wow of mostly small, custom frame builders was a chance for participants and fans of the 2010 Leadville Trail 100 to see what's happening on the outer fringes of the bike manufacturing world.

Better known outfits such as Dean, Moots, Tomac, Eriksen and Zinn Cycles were joined by the likes of Black Sheep, Boo and Panda, making for an eclectic mix of bikes that are as much functional art as they are viable alternative transportation.

Bamboo bike makers Boo and Panda were both touting the stiff but supple ride of a frame material that literally grows like a weed in some parts of the world.

"We are growing our bikes and that is pretty cool," said Panda's John McKinney, whose operation is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, and whose current line includes a road bike, single speed commuter, and an internally geared townie. "At the same time bamboo is extremely strong. We passed the ASTM impact tests and our bike actually performed better than a steel mountain bike frame. Yet bamboo dampens like carbon fibre and has rigidity that is similar to steel. So it's a really comfortable, unique ride that looks pretty cool, too."

Boo's hardtail 29er

While Panda is fusing bamboo with steel, Boo is looking to capitalize on the carbon fibre craze. At the RMBF show Boo was showing off a SRAM Red equipped cyclocross steed and a belt driven, hard tail single-speed 29er. Both incorporate bamboo tubing held together with carbon fibre wrapped joints.

Boo is the brainchild of wunderkind Nick Frey, a 23-year-old Princeton grad, who's also a member of the Jamis-Sutter Home pro team. All the company's bamboo is sourced from Vietnam, purportedly home to the strongest, most resilient bamboo in the world.

Directly across from Boo was Black Sheep Bikes, makers of ultra-sexy custom titanium rigs. The Black Sheep show stopper was 36-inch wheeled, belt drive single speed that according to spokesman Todd Heath was built "because you can and it's awesome."

The big, big-wheeled bike uses unicycle wheels laced to mountain bike hubs, and can be ridden on or off-road. A brief test session revealed a surprisingly nimble ride that seemed capable of rolling over rocks like a human-powered monster truck.

Black Sheep's mainstay are their 29er single speeds that include a proprietary telescoping chainstay, allowing for removal of the back end so that it will fit in a non-oversized travel case. It also makes belt drive installation possible.

Dean's John Siegrest

Exo-Grid titanium-carbon frame from Dean

Boulder-based Dean Bikes was in Leadville to show off their brand new Exo-Grid titanium-carbon blended frames, a technology previously seen on Titus road bikes. The new Dean machines are based on the same patented technology that uses a base metal — titanium in this case — that has a major portion of its surface area removed via laser machining.

The resulting exo-skeleton is then fused with carbon, creating what Dean's John Siegrest calls: "A lightweight frame that rides like a titanium bike, but has the dampening of carbon. It's really the best of both worlds. Plus it's repairable because it's a welded frame as opposed to one and done fully in carbon."

That best of both worlds mantra is also probably the best way to define the Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival, where appealing art and reliable transportation coalesced into unique and functional two-wheeled creations.

For more, check out our photo gallery.

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