Oh dear! It’s Sea Otter 2016 time and once again I find temptation everywhere I look. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s caught my eye…
First of all, there’s the bikes. Lots of very interesting bikes to tempt the owner of a 9 year old Orange Five, with some interesting twists as well.
The truth is, my Five runs fine. It doesn’t goes as quickly as more modern equipment but then, neither does its’ rider. However, over the past six months I’ve started to really notice the plethora of great looking bikes currently on the market. It’s like they’re telling me something (and by the way, how satisfying is it to use the word ‘plethora’? It sounds so close to the word ‘pletha’ which I think means ‘all twisted up’!).
Anyone who took a wrong turn in that last paragraph (this author included) might care to get back to the point pretty quickly. Which bikes, announced either at, during or near the time of Sea Otter 2016 caught my eye. Well first of all, there’s the YT Jeffsy. I know, what a stupid name for such a great looking bike. First of all, it’s not a Plus bike, it’s a 140mm 29er and it rocks some awesome specs for the price (the top end model is ‘just’ £3,500 or so even with our current Referendum-skewed exchange range). It has short the modern necessity of a slack and adjustable front end, a tight rear and is suitably Boosted.
The sweet spot in my view is the Jeffsy CF Comp 2 – Carbon frame, Pike RCT fork and Monarch rear shock, Shimano drivetrain and brakeage, a Reverb fork and RaceFace finishing kit for £2800. ‘Bargain!’
Next up, the Norco Optic, another trail bike of 29er flavour which has the added bonus of being 27.5 Plus-able. Again, it’s similarly long, slack and very well-specced and it’s hard not to be attracted to this 110mm travel bike; in carbon form a decent spec is again available around the £2700 mark in the Optic C9.3. Whether you prefer the YT or the Norco really depends on your riding style but both would rip the Surrey Hills for sure. Hmmm 29er full suss…
I recently had a brief ride on a Devinci Troy thanks to Darren which really opened my eyes to the benefits of modern trail bikes. Compared to my Five (which is admittedly running flexy wheels), the Devinci tracked beautifully on the run down to Waggledance, going exactly where I needed it to. Pikes forks and stiff wheels are awesome (I’m not even sure the Pike was Boosted) with the Troy available in the UK courtesy of Freeborn for similar prices to those mentioned above, with a similar spec. I’d seriously recommend people try out the Troy if they are in the market and as with all these bikes, they are available in alloy versions for far fewer beer tokens than these prices.
Of course, I haven’t really mentioned Plus bikes or even their more girth-some brethren but Trek have continued to push their product line in the fat bike direction with the Trek Farley EX. If you want to rip around on a bike for all seasons then this could be for you – 27.5 wheels, 3.8 inch tyres and ‘friendly’ geometry by which I mean a bike that will get you out of trouble time and time again. I’d hope. I’ve a lot of respect for Trek bikes but I’m not sure this would be my first choice to be honest, but it’s certainly an interesting area.
The final pick from me is the Whyte T-130RS which as most people in the UK will know is What Mountain Bike’s Trail Bike of the Year. It’s a similar price compared to the models mentioned above but and hits the mark in terms of geometry and spec. I really like the look of the bike but what was significant about the Whyte at Sea Otter is the announcement of a direct sales operation into the US which opens them up to a far wider market.
With product like this Whyte have a strong chance of succeeding but it also shows how the market is dramatically changing – Canyon too are now doing direct sales in the US, YT have driven this model, Whyte are on board and even Trek do direct sales, albeit with a requirement to collect from a dealer. Bike shops need to compete against this which I look forward to. Building a strong local community round the shop; setting themselves up as expert fitters; accepting and embracing that people shop online; getting together with other shops to build a warehouse operation to deliver their own online sales channels… we’ll see how shops respond. But as these bikes prove, there’s not a lot wrong with the product.