By Tom Jow — Whether it’s cars, computers or bikes, there is always some new technology to ooh and aah over. This wow(!) factor is one of the things that keeps many of us interested and purchasing products. For the 2016 bike season, there are many new exciting products, as usual. These products often have an industry changing effect on designs of frames and other components. Usually these changes are for the better. One example would be the hydration pack. Because of the hydration pack, mountain bike frame design was suddenly free of needing room for water mounts. However, many riders actually like using a water bottle.
Shimano’s new flat mount disc brake is another such example. With the approval of disc brakes for international road racing use, Shimano has redesigned their road disc brakes to use a lower profile fork mount and a frame direct mount (for 140mm rotors). The benefits of this are lighter weight, better aerodynamics and more powerful braking. The drawback is this new mounting standard is not directly compatible with current brakes. This requires frame builders, other brake manufacturers and the cyclist to adapt to this new standard.
On the other hand, an exciting new product that will make both building and riding bikes easier is the SRAM eTap wireless electronic shifting system. With interchangeable batteries between front and rear derailleurs and proprietary wireless operation the group is pretty impressive. It shifts smoothly and quietly. The batteries are claimed to last for 60 hours of riding. It is also lighter than the Shimano electronic shifting system. Equally as important is its ease of installation. No cables or wires and syncing at the press of two buttons.
There is also cause for mountain bikers to be excited as well. What seems to be the most exciting is the new 27.5+ wheel/tire combo. This new “mid-fat” of 3 inches will offer perhaps the best of all worlds for many mountain bikers. It is capable in all conditions: sand, snow, dirt, pavement. It is suitable for all types of bikes: hardtails, front suspension, or full suspension. It is competent for both trail and touring. For bikes with enough clearance, it is interchangeable with 29er wheels..
What makes the 27.5+ tire possible are a new frame and fork standard. These two standards, affectionately known as “boost”, increase the width of the frame and fork dropouts to 148mm and 110mm respectively. The extra width allows for several improvements. Where 27.5+ is concerned, it allows more clearance for the larger tire. The wider dropout also increases the stiffness of both the frame and fork. In addition, hubs for the boost standard will have wider flanges which, by creating a wider spoke angle between the hub and rim, produces a stronger, stiffer wheel. Wheel stiffness has arguably been a weakness of mountain bike wheels larger than 26 inches, especially for 29 inch wheels.
This time of year is always an exciting time for cyclists. It’s a time when many of us are busy planning for the new season. This includes not only places but parts and bikes too. And there is much to be excited about. These four new designs have the potential to have an incredibly positive affect on our riding this year. Until they are widely adopted, however, assuring compatibility of components and bikes will be a challenge. One thing we say in the shop about standards is: “the only standard is there will always be a new standard”.
Got a bike question? Email Tom at [email protected]