Posted by Editor on 04/12/99
Disc Brakes - everybody's got a disc brake, including Shimano. The only people seeing the Shimano stuff at this point are bike designers and product managers, but the word from them is that the Shimano unit is particularly hot. It is a hydraulic unit, with extremely smooth modulation. The weight is good, and it is priced competitively with other manufacturers. Among those manufacturers are newcomers RST (the suspension people) and Avid. RST has introduced an affordable cable actuated unit with a dual piston design and stainless steel rotor. It is available for both front and rear, and uses a Hayes bolt pattern for instant compatibility with existing disc hubs. Expect to see it mid-summer. Similar in price point to the RST unit is the Diatech (aka the Diacompe people) Spiral Stop unit. It is a cable actuated fully mechanical unit with an extra large 185 mm diameter front rotor (better stopping power). The rear unit is 160 mm (Hayes compatible). It is called Spiral Stop because the brake pad is on a cam that rotates as it approaches the disc, offering extra stopping force. It will be appearing on bikes as low as the $1000 retail range, is available in most fork mount styles, and the pads can be replaced with just a 5mm allen key. A smart, affordable option.
Further up the price scale, Avid's unit is particularly sweet, but many of the design features are still being finalized. It will be dual piston, full hydraulic and very easy to mount (no need for shims, as with most others). There will also be an adjustable engagement dial on the lever, so that you can tune the amount of lever travel and braking modulation. The manufacturers are expected to see it in September, with aftermarket units appearing a few months later. The price will be in the same range as Shimano (expected to be 15%-20% higher than Hayes). Hayes is offering some upgrades, such as an interchangable lever for either left or right hand use. The lever also sits closer to the bar than in the past, and is more adjustable. Hayes also revealed that they are working on a mechanical brake for 2001. It also appears that Hayes has become the industry standard for rotor bolt pattern (6 bolt) - too bad they coud not have patented that pattern!
Another indication of the popularity of disc brakes is the interesting bit of news that all the major brands of fork manufacturers are making every model of suspension fork standard with disc brake mounts. The industry really seems to feel that disc brakes will take off in more than just the downhill market next season. The amount of research going into the designs means that we are going to get models that require less effort to set up, more tune-ability, and lower prices for stuff that actually works.
More Forks - RST has made a number of upgrades through their mid and entry point models. At the top (XMO, XXL downhill model) there have been relatively few changes, but just below that with the Alfalfa models - XL (DH) and TL (XC) - there has been a change to a one piece magnesium casting for the lower slider unit. (Ed. Note: Magnesium is going to be the 'hot' alloy for next season, judging by the number of companies using it somewhere in their products)
The Mozo models have been replaced by Delta, and get the 1 piece magnesium sliders also (the Delta HL dual crown unit takes the place of the Hi 5). Further down the line, the 381 models get a 1 piece aluminium cast slider, and disc mounts. RST also has probably the most extensive 700c lineup on the market, for road and hybrid use. It has received a number of upgrades (1 piece magnesium or aluminium sliders on most models), however, we probably won't see much of it over here in North America - lack of demand. If you want a suspension fork for your road bike though, you should check into RST.
Marzocchi's most obvious change is a new, sculpted looking brake arch that is lighter and stiffer. It is incorporated through much of the line. Disc brake mounts are de rigeur through the line, natch. At the top, the Superfly lightweight XC model will be available in 80 or 100 mm travel versions. The Atom 80 replaces the Atom Bomb and Z.2 Bam. The Z.1 CR replaces the Z.1 Bam, and adds compression control to the existing rebound control (guess where the CR came from...). It will be available in a 20 mm axle version, called the QR 20 better suited to disc brake applications. The Superfly and a double clamp version will also be available with the 20 mm axle configuration. Marzocchi will be offering their own 20 mm hub and axle (but you do not have to use their unit). The Z.3 Bam gets the new arch design, a forged alloy leg and knob preload adjuster. The Monster T is untouched. Crowns and arches are going boltless - more rigid and lower weight - and Easton stanchions are used on every model except the entry level Z.5 . Marzocchi is also introducing their own grips, a branded Flite saddle and a full clothing line.
Rocky Mountain will introduce two models of RM6, based on the high end RM9 downhill full suspension design. The RM6 DH will be a full race ready bike with an expected retail of under $4000, while the base RM6 full bike (suited for cross-country and less extreme downhilling) is expected to come in around the $3000 mark.
The other trend of note is electric bikes. They continue to grow, in both number of manufacturers offering models and in sophistication. The prices are starting to drop, to the point where they are becoming a viable alternative for recreational riders looking for something to assist them on the hills and longer rides. In Europe there is great excitement about the market. Unfortunately, in Canada we have to sort out Transport regulations (at both the federal and provincial levels) before going anywhere with this market. For the industry it is time for a wakeup call - we are in danger of being left behind. Even the United States is ahead of us on this one, with a number of states recognizing the market, and allowing electric bike use. As an example of how backward Canada is: in Ontario one distributor was told by provincial authorities to get his sample out of the province, or it would be seized!
For some photos of the new stuff, go Here. Please keep in mind that many of these units are prototypes, and could change drastically in the next 4-5 months.
That ends our coverage of the Taipei show, and an introduction to what sort of stuff you can expect to see flowing down the pipeline over the next 4-8 months. I am on the road for the next 2 days, so you are in the capable hands of our editoress!
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