Sea Otter Classic: 29ers, carbon wheels and gravity rigs

Day 3 was a scorcher in Monterey, California

On the third day of the 2009 Sea Otter Classic, we dug around and found that Specialized and Rocky Mountain have turned up the full-suspension 29er heat for 2010, while DT Swiss has expanded its carbon wheel offerings. French outfit Commencal celebrates the Atherton family's twin world championships with the Supreme DH WCS frame, while our keen-eyed tech editor James Huang spotted the as-yet-unreleased SRAM XX hydraulic disc brakes.

Here's his report from the pits of the Laguna Seca Raceway, a scorching Saturday in Monterey, California.

Specialized delve deeper into 29” wheels with carbon hardtail and Epic models

Specialized dipped their feet into the 29er pool with a handful of mid-range models and now jumps in headfirst with two additional high-end offerings: an S-Works carbon hardtail and an aluminium Epic Marathon.

The new 100mm-travel Epic Marathon 29er offers the same performance advantages of the 26” aluminium version – such as the inertia valve-equipped FlowControl Mini Brain rear shock, four-bar FSR rear suspension design, and lightened M5 manipulated aluminium tubing – but with adjusted geometry to accommodate the bigger wheels. Chain stay length is reasonably short and the head tube angle is steepened by about one degree to maintain reasonably speedy handling.

Specialized have also maintained the standard version’s tapered steerer and head tube design by melding their existing FACT carbon fiber crown and steerer assembly to an otherwise-standard 100mm-travel RockShox Reba 29. According to Specialized, the hybrid creation yields additional stiffness and steering precision – crucial given the longer legs’ extra leverage relative to the 26” version – but also lightens things up to the tune of about 100g.  

Target weight for the complete Epic Marathon 29 will be around 11.3kg (25.0lb).

Likewise, the upcoming S-Works Stumpjumper HT 29 offers all of the performance features of the 26” one with no concessions made to fit the bigger hoops, including the same FACT 10m carbon construction techniques, carbon driveside and forged aluminium non-driveside dropouts, and FACT carbon crankset with integrated bottom bracket bearings.  

As on the Epic, the hardtail melds a Specialized FACT carbon upper assembly to RockShox Reba uppers, lowers and internals. However, in keeping with Specialized’s other race-oriented hardtails, travel is limited here to a custom 90mm.   

Target weight for the complete S-Works Stumpjumper HT 29 is 9.3kg (20.5lb). Specialized also plan to produce a limited run of singlespeed versions, but interested parties may want to act quickly – only 200 or so will be made.

DT Swiss introduce full range of carbon road and mountain bike wheels

DT Swiss have apparently recovered from last year’s RR1250 hiccup – the carbon road clinchers were introduced but never actually released – with an impressively complete collection of RRC carbon fiber road wheels for 2010.

DT Swiss will offer 32mm, 46mm and 66mm section depths in both tubular and clincher varieties, all built with the company’s Aerolite bladed stainless steel spokes, Pro Lock hexagonal internal nipples, and 240s hubs with road-specific interchangeable alloy freehub bodies. A carbon tubular rear disc with flat sides will be on tap as well.

Maximum pressure on the clincher rims is 140psi and all of the wheels will include SwissStop carbon-specific brake pads and RWS ratcheting skewers with titanium shafts.  

Claimed weights for the 32mm, 46mm and 66mm-deep tubulars are 950g, 1000g and 1360g, respectively, all with a US$3240 cost for the pair and measured without skewers. Clinchers are expectedly heavier at 1250g, 1300g and 1650g as well as more expensive at US$3530 for a pair. Claimed weight for the disc is 1055g.  

DT Swiss have also expanded the range of carbon mountain bike wheels with the new XRC 1350 and EXC 1550 models. The XRC 1350 is essentially the same wheel as the top-end XRC 1250 – using the same 24mm-wide 300g carbon disc-only clincher rim and Aerolite bladed stainless steel spokes – but uses Center Lock 240s hubs with steel cartridge bearings and standard ratchets instead of the ultra high-zoot 190 hubs’ ceramic bearings and more milled-out driver rings.  

Standard 9mm quick-release axles are offered for both hubs with options for a 15mm thru-axle up front and 10mm thru-bolt out back.  

For all-mountain riders, DT Swiss will offer the EXC 1550 with a 28mm-wide carbon rim weighing just 400g for additional strength and stiffness, plus better support for wider tires. Hubs are based on the six-bolt 240s but with a wider range of fitment options. The front will be compatible with 9mm quick-release and 15mm or 20mm thru-axles while the rear will be offered in 10x135mm thru-bolt or 12x135mm thru-axle. OEM customers may also request the new 12x142mm thru-axle standard currently being promoted by Syntace.

Though it still isn’t quite ready for production, DT Swiss also showed off a new set of ratchet rings with 36 teeth instead of the current 18, thus decreasing engagement speed from a languid 20 degrees to a far speedier 10. Testing has been completed but the company is still deciding where to install them as the additional teeth add engagement speed but also friction.

DT Swiss also add a few items to their suspension category. The limited edition XRC 100 Race LTD fork steps things up from the standard XRC 100 fork with a molded carbon fiber crown and steerer that shaves nearly 200g from that already-light figure.  Claimed weight is now around 1200g complete with the remote lockout lever, easily making it one of the lightest – if not the lightest – fully featured 100mm fork currently available.

Though the stanchions measure just 28.6mm in diameter, the carbon fiber lowers, beefy hollow carbon reverse arch and reinforcing rib inside the lower section of the steerer tube help to maintain steering precision.  

Suggested retail price is US$1550.  

At the other end of the scale is the new M 210 rear shock, a price point model intended to bring DT Swiss suspension technology to a wider audience. Pedaling platform comes courtesy of a factory-tuned shim stack and external adjustments will include air pressure, rebound damping and manual lockout.   

Air chamber design is borrowed from the now-defunct SSD 210 with its floating chamber wall for a more linear feel and DT Swiss will also include their usual spherical ball joint eyelet hardware.  

Weights are competitively light at around 210g for the shorter 165mm size.  

Rocky Mountain celebrates 29 years with 29 inches

Rocky Mountain fittingly celebrate their 29th anniversary with a new range of 29” mountain bikes.  Sitting at the top of the big-wheeled lineup will be the 2010 Altitude 29 with 120mm of front and rear travel courtesy of Rocky Mountain’s new SmoothLink four-bar suspension design.

The frame will be built with a custom FORM29 hydroformed 7005 aluminium tubeset and Rocky Mountain will also include the StraightUp geometry’s extra-steep 76-degree seat tube. Up front, a tapered head tube will be ready to accept a tapered 1 1/8”-to-1 1/2” steerer and clearances will be wide enough to accept aggressive 2.3” rubber.  

The Vertex 29 hardtail will also be built with FORM29 tubing but is obviously aimed more at racers and pure cross-country riders than the more versatile Altitude 29. A tapered head tube will be included here as well for improved strength and steering precision while Shimano’s new Direct Mount front derailleur interface will allow the seat tube to be dramatically flared at the bottom bracket for additional drivetrain rigidity. Adding to that will be the BB92 bottom bracket shell with press-fit bearing cups.

More budget-oriented 29” riders will also have a Rocky Mountain Hammer 29 at their disposal built with Reynolds 725 chromoly tubing.  

All of Rocky Mountain’s new 29” models will be available this fall.

New rigs from Commencal

Commencal celebrate Gee and Rachel Atherton’s twin UCI World Championship wins with a new Supreme DH WCS frame. Though essentially just a special paint job, the commemorative frame is still an impressive bit of kit with 200mm (8”) of rear wheel travel via Commencal’s Contact System linkage system, an adjustable head tube angle (64 +/- 1), micro-adjustable rear dropouts, and an 83mm-wide bottom bracket shell to maintain a good chain line with the 150mm rear end.

Slopestyle riders can opt for the new Absolut SX, still in prototype form but apparently fitted with 140mm (5.5”) of rear wheel travel via a concentric bottom bracket pivot and supplemental shock link mounted beneath the top tube. Interchangeable dropouts will easily accommodate either singlespeed or geared builds and the tapered head tube is ready to accept the latest crop of aggressive long-travel single-crown forks.

For trail riders, Commencal will offer the Carbon Meta 5.5, a lighter and stiffer version of the company’s proven aluminium version. Claimed weight is 2.68kg (5.9lb) with the included Fox Racing Shox RP23 air shock and interchangeable rear dropouts will fit either standard 10mm quick-release, 12mm thru-axle, or Maxle thru-axle systems.  

Spotted! A sneak peak at SRAM’s upcoming XX brake in the flesh

While we were in the Specialized team pit area at Sea Otter getting the scoop on the company’s new 29” models, we also couldn’t help but notice that Burry Stander’s S-Works Epic happened to be fitted with SRAM XX hydraulic disc brakes – conspicuously camouflaged with strips of electrical tape.  

Now that we’ve seen the 2010 Avid Elixir CR Mag though, it seems that the XX brakes are essentially the same save for a few upgrades. Stander’s brakes were fitted with a full complement of titanium hardware and the 160/140mm front/rear rotors feature stainless steel brake tracks riveted to alloy six-bolt carriers.  

We’re still wondering about the caliper material – magnesium, perhaps? – but will have to continue to wait until the official launch later next month.

Check back for more Sea Otter Classic highlights this week, including video!

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