My My My My My My My Poker Face

So however this entire brave new world of standards comes out, we are more the tree than the wind.  To actually become the wind, it takes either a phenomenal market presence or just an absolutely undeniably superior technology/approach.  The primary venue in which we are on the influencER side of the equation rather than the influencED side is in how we approach the business.  We've arranged our business in a pretty unique way and while it's not the answer for the industry as a whole, it can be a very good answer for a significant segment of the market.  That's exactly as we've planned - we never want to be everyone's bike company.  We have been and are super focused on providing racing stuff to racers, and people who want to ride on racing stuff. 

Disc brakes for road are irrelevant to us from a sales perspective until they become legal to race on the road.  We think about it, we try hard to become educated about it, and our wheel business is in a great position to go either way with it, but we aren't looking to press the issue forward or to define the bleeding edge of the state of the art. 

Carbon frame construction was the most recent REALLY profound change in the road bike manufacturing game, and it changed everything.  Among other things, bike manufacture had never been as capital intensive as it became with carbon.  You want to braze up some steel-tubed frames, you need a few hours to make some jigs, buy the tubes and bam you're in the game.  The big barriers to entry were skill, experience and reputation.  In 1992, American bikes (which at that time would have meant actual American-built bikes, even if they said "Huffy" but were built by Serrotta) weren't exactly ruling the Tour de France peloton - they had a small toe hold.  Fast forward 20 years and the only company (off the top of my head, here) that had a bike in the 1992 Tour that has a real shot at having its bike win the Tour this year is Pinarello (Voeckler might slap me with a glove if he were here to do it).  Specialized, Trek, BMC - they might have existed back then, and they might have been getting pretty big, but they were NOTHING like the behemoths they are today. Big disruptions often put new players at the table. 

Do disc brakes look like changing things that much?  Probably not.  They didn't change the pecking order that much in mountain bikes when they took over there.  Even the move from 26" mountain bikes to 29ers, while it's been better or worse for some companies, hasn't caused a wholesale shakeup.  What I expect you will see is companies going in directions where they can differentiate themselves somehow, and staking out that ground.  That's what I see American Classic and Cervelo doing now, per my previous post.  It's funny to me that Scott is the company which has the first world cup race winner on a 650b mountain bike, simply because their 29ers are VERY well thought of, and having a great success for the company.  I guess they aren't waiting around for anyone to move their cheese. 

On the 650b thing, it may have come off as me being anti-650b, which I'm absolutely not.  Honestly, I'm totally ignorant about the bikes, having never ridden one.  The going argument for them seems mostly along the lines of a bike built around 650b wheels fits a range of rider sizes better than either 29 or 26.  Whoever you ask, at 6' I'm personally in the rider height/bike size range where 29ers are thought of as having a decided benefit.  I can tell you that my old hardtail 26" bike beat the living heck out of my back, and I can ride harder, more aggressively, and longer on the 29er and be way better off afterward than I ever was on the 26.  Other people might have the same experience at other sizes - my wife (who's a very very good mountain biker) isn't convinced that she prefers 29er over dual suspension 26".  But she would never use a 26" hardtail, she's watched that movie and hated it.  If the difference between either 26 or 29 and 650b is as profound for a guy who's 5'8" as a 29er is versus a 26 for me, then by all means the 650b needs to be in the picture.  I just suspect that it's not, and wish in any case that gear didn't need to be as specific.  It's a lot more challenging for the world to supply, sell, and buy highly targeted solutions than it is to do one size fits all, but if that's the way it must be, c'est la guerre.  

In any case, our focus is just going to be on sourcing and supplying great options for people to get what they want to use.  We aren't in the game of making a case to tell you what to use - we're editors, not writers.  Whatever twists and turns come up in what equipment looks like and how it works, we'll try to make sense of it from a "what would a racer want to race on" perspective and pursue it from there. 

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I'm curious about your experience of a 29er being more comfortable at your height. At 6' myself and riding a 26 dually, I find myself quite comfortable, even riding in roughly the same position as my road bike. Does the more upright geometry of the 29 give it the edge over the 26?


Theory says you could use a 650b on a 29" frameset. Will there be any issues though? Let's say a 29 suspension fork and a hard tail frame…. The way I see it, any 29" frameset owners have now the advantage of using a 650b or 29" wheel set…. Am I right with this?


Mario – In theory it could work, the issue would be that the bottom bracket would be lower. But what people are pursuing with 650b is "smaller frame with the biggest wheels." A 29er front end is necessarily pretty high – the downtube has to clear the front wheel when the fork is compressed. The guys on 650b want to get the front ends lower than they can on 29ers. Smaller wheels and tires can be lighter as well, and they claim improved tight maneuvering. Steve – I think it's the front end being higher, which in my case gave me handling benefits as well as comfort benefits (I had too much weight on the front on the 26), and also (I think mostly) the calmer back end. The calmer back end would get taken care of with suspension too. On the hardtail 26 man was it a rough ride. I'm also comparing a mid-grade aluminum frame to a high end carbon frame, which was certainly a good trade for me in this regard.

Dave Kirkpatrick

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