According to the self-destructing tape, my mission, should I decide to accept it, was to cram as many 40-minute private meetings with company reps into three days, with afternoons left open for roaming the open-air expo and riding demo bikes on the lift-assisted Deer Valley trails and/or local pavement. Networking at happy hour and dinner, for good measure.
My trip was courtesy of the manufacturers in attendance. What did the folks who picked up the tab expect to get out of the gig? Other than the opportunity communicate their brand’s message via face-time with influential mover-and-shaker journalists such as myself, ahem? In a word: copy. Ink, blogs, Tweets, and so on. Not a problem, in and of itself. As long as there’s information worth reporting. To be sure, our readers tell us that they look to us to learn about interesting products and the companies that make them. To that end, below is part one of my effort to filter through three days worth of information overload, and post up the interesting nuggets. Part two to follow shortly, after that glaze melts from your eyes.
Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) has a rich history in mountain biking. Several years ago Freedom by WTB was created as a way to focus more attention on designing tires, wheel systems, saddles and grips for pavement applications. They’re big into advocacy. Freedom’s sister non-profit organization, Transportation Alternatives for Marin (TAM), in cooperation with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC), authored the Safe Routes to School Program which has grown into a $612 million national program. TAM and the MCBC authored the Non Motorized Transportation Pilot Program which awarded $21.5 million to four communities throughout the United States with the purpose of demonstrating the extent which “bicycling and walking can carry a significant part of the transportation load.” On the product front, I liked the looks of their Ryder commuter/hybrid tire that feature a dense tread pattern for fast rolling on pavement combined with edges for gripping loose terrain on the bike path or dirt. The Ryder has a rugged Urban Armor Casing and comes in 700×32 and 700×38 sizes.
Dahon was born out of the gasoline crisis of 1975. Dr. David Hon, the company founder, was waiting in hour-long lines to buy gasoline for his car, pondering the world’s dependence on oil. After brainstorming for solutions to lessen the world’s dependence on oil, Dr. Hon settled on his primary mode of transportation from college—the bicycle. However, the bicycle, as it existed at that time, needed to integrate more readily with other forms of more environmentally sustainable transport, like trains and subways. Dr. Hon’s solution—a portable folding bicycle. Dr. Hon worked evenings and weekends in his garage over the next seven years, trying to perfect a folding bicycle that would maintain the riding performance of a regular bicycle but would fold quickly. In 1982, introduced the first Dahon folding bicycle. Our Bicycle Times staff is testing the Dahon IOS P7 (below) and the review will appear in a future issue.
Lazer has been making motorcycle, bicycle and paragliding helmets since 1919. In 2010 Sean van Waes (division manager) and Peter Steenwegen (sales manager) purchased the bicycle helmet division of Lazer SA and formed a new company, Lazer Sport NV, based in Antwerp, Belgium. Rather than pick one of Lazer’s helmets to highlight, I’ll spend my word-count singing the praises of their Rollsys Fit System. Turning the easy-to-reach thumbwheel located on top of the helmet adjusts the cinching mechanism. What I like about the Rollsys design is that the cinching mechanism surrounds the head completely, for even pressure and a comfortable, snug fit. Strictly butter.
In 1853 American Hiram Hutchinson set up a tire factory at Langlée, near Montargis, France. Hutchinson started production of bicycle tires in 1890. The Toro is a brand new MTB tread courtesy of the venerable tire-maker. Available in either 26" or 29" diameter by 2.15" wide, the Toro passes my eyeball test as a good all-around tread design. Low knobs on the top of the tire are designed to optimize grip and help shed mud. Hardskin sidewall reinforcement for resistance to tears and cuts. I’ve got this tire on my radar for a full-blown Dirt Rag print review.
Saris, which also owns CycleOps, is headquartered in an old farmhouse just off the bike pathway in Madison, WI. Their production facility is located out back. They’re into cycling advocacy in a big way. Their annual Saris Gala raised over $500,000 for Bike Fed of WI. The Saris product that caught my eye was their updated Thelma hitch-mount rack, which is now compatible with 29" mountain bike wheels. Universal hitch mount, folds next to vehicle when not in use and comes in 2, 3 or 4 bikes models. Thelma’s simple, elegant and functional design strikes my fancy.
Founded by entrepreneur Skip Hess in 1974, Mongoose is now part of Cycling Sports Group, the same company that owns Cannondale, GT and Schwinn. I had a chance to throw a leg over the 2011 Mongoose Teocali Super for some groovy lift-assisted runs at Deer Valley Resort. For 2011 the rear FreeDrive suspension’s travel on the Teocali gets bumped up to 150mm and the all-new hydroformed aluminum alloy frame sports a 1.125" to 1.5" tapered headtube. With a RockShox Revelation RL fork paired with a Monarch 4.2 in the rear, the Teocali smoothed over the rough spots as well as any bike I’ve ridden with 150mm of travel. Mine was a limited test session, but I came away enjoying the bike’s coosh, bottomless feeling.
Shane Cooper started DeFeet in 1992 with a single knitting machine given to him by his father. Cooper experimented and devised a knitting method that was essentially the reverse of traditional methods. His first product, the Air-E-Ator, started a revolution in athletic socks that continues today. In addition to socks, DeFeet also makes Un•D•System™ baselayering apparel. With "compression" apparel all the rage these days, I was happy to score a pair of DeCompressor socks. I used them on the airplane ride home, after a 10-day road trip. They made my legs and feet happy. I’ll be giving them some additional testing.
Just so you know that it’s not "all work and no play" on these grueling press camp trips, I offer the following evidence of the sweet trails at Deer Valley.