Bike junkie wish list 2017: Best frames, gear and outerwear
October 17, 2016
September can be like Christmas for cycling fans as bike companies begin unveiling their new wares for the next season. Like any kid on the good list, we've been eagerly awaiting the newest rides of 2017, and they're finally here.
Bike companies are on a quest to create "the bike that does it all," and the latest in that evolution is the plus bike. You thought all the talk about wheel sizes was confined to diameter. These days, you can choose from 26-inch, 29-inch and finally 27.5-inch wheels. However, throughout the past couple of seasons, we've also seen wheels and tires getting wider.
We're not talking fat bikes or the typical 2.2- to 2.5-inch-wide tires. Plus bikes fall somewhere in the middle, boasting 2.5- to 3-inch-wide tires. The result is a cushier ride and increased suspension, without the added weight of a bigger fork.
Other hot trends have continued, with bikes showing off slacker head angles and longer top tubes. SRAM has debuted its new 12-speed Eagle drivetrain, featuring a single chain ring in front and a pie-plate-sized 12-speed cassette in the rear. Expect to see the Eagle on all of the top-end bikes of 2017.
We won't keep you waiting — read on for our favorite bike gear for the coming year.
This is the first new iteration of the Firebird since 2012, and Pivot has come up with a sleek, enduro machine made to eat up technical descents, yet stay surprisingly snappy going uphill. Riders will discover that the reach is a bit longer, and a 65-degree head angle is meant to help you stay nimble when you decide to finally try that big drop.
The Firebird boasts 170 millimeters of travel, along with Pivot's innovative dw-link. Bike maker Scott touts that this suspension system nearly eliminates bobbing when you're pedaling hard out of the saddle, giving the bike additional traction. The race build for the 2017 Firebird comes in slightly less than $5,000 manufacturer's suggested retail price.
Yeti SB5 Plus
Yeti took a step back from the plus-bike craze the past couple of seasons, but in 2017, they'll debut their latest creation, the SB5+. Fans of the Colorado-based bike company will notice that the backend of this bike looks completely new, and that's because it's designed to accommodate a 3-inch-wide wheel while still staying short and compact.
"We were experimenting with the plus bikes as more companies were doing it," said Matt Fisher, Yeti demo manager. "Some people had bikes that you could switch out different sized wheels, but we felt that created too many compromises. This is a bike that can do everything a trail bike can do but with increased capability and a comfortable feel."
There's a new SB5 Beti for ladies, too, featuring the company's lowest stand-over height yet (perfect for short-legged folks) and a women's-specific tune. That means smaller women can ride on suspension purposely designed and built for lighter weights. Look for the Yeti to arrive in early October.
Spot Rollik 557
Fans of boutique bikes should check out Spot's latest line of mountain bikes. The Golden-based company is introducing its first full-suspension, all-carbon mountain bike, the Rollik 557. Spot's founders have long been known for mechanical innovations and their hardtail bikes. The Rollik, with a silhouette reminiscent of an Ellsworth (another boutique company), is definitely made to bomb downhill, with 140 millimeters of travel in the rear and 150 millimeters in the front.
There are several unique features you'll find on Spot bikes. First, some bikes feature a belt drive made of a rubbery material instead of chain links. The belt requires less maintenance and lasts much longer than traditional metal chains, said sales director Paul McClain.
Spot created a distinctive suspension system when they designed the Rollik, incorporating a Living Link. The system has a slightly flexible solid link on the backend that allows up-and-down movement while maintaining stiffness. The Rollik's suggested price ranges from $5,699 to $7,149.
Scott Spark Plus
Featuring a slacker head angle, longer top tube and chubby 2.8-inch tires, plus the option to swap out 29-inch and 27.5-inch wheels, Scott boasts that this is the bike that does it all. It's also lightweight, with the medium-size build weighing in at about 25 pounds. This trail machine has cross-country riding in mind, but allows for some versatility with its plus-sized tires. We also love its sleek, slightly retro orange, teal and black color scheme.
"The tire just conforms more to the ground, and it rolls better than a smaller tire," said Scott sales rep Wade Gasperson. "You definitely notice the difference with a wider tire."
The light weight, geometry and suspension simultaneously allow for pedaling over loose rocks, hugging a turn and climbing, all without losing momentum through the pedals or when going over bumps. The women's version is the Contessa Spark Plus, so there really is an option for everyone in this fleet.
These bikes also feature Scott's three-suspension system. With a flick of a switch on the handlebar, you can toggle between climbing, trail and downhill modes without taking your concentration off the trail. The Spark Plus starts with a suggested price of $2,500.
Smith Route and Rover helmets
You've probably seen Smith's candy-colored helmets on many a rider over the past few years. The brand is about to get even more popular with its 2017 versions, which cater to a lower price point while incorporating the style and technology that has made their helmets such a hit.
The Rover mountain bike helmet is a stripped-down version of the best-selling Forefront helmet. On the two sides, the Rover has Smith's honeycomb technology, a perforated, stiff layer of protection that the company claims is far more effective in preventing head injuries than the traditional helmet. The liner holding the helmet to your head moves around, allowing both movement and comfort. The Rover retails for $150, compared to $220 for the Forefront.
The Rover has a sleeker, more aerodynamic road cycling cousin, as well — the Route. It features the same technology and interior but is lighter and made for the pavement. The Rover had a more appealing look compared to its slightly nerdy road counterpart, but we suspect some roadies will like the unique look of the Route.
Qloom winter riding jacket and pants
Cycling and active-wear company Qloom began nearly a decade ago in Switzerland, building a brand on comfort, functionality and fresh, bright designs. Today, Qloom's American headquarters are in Boulder, specializing in mountain-bike, Nordic and lifestyle apparel.
Qloom's new winter riding line caught our eye with its high quality and attention to details. Another Colorado winter is right around the corner, and the brand's winter riding jacket and matching pants are perfect for 30- and 40-degree days. The jacket features softshell Primaloft fabric, an extra high collar for hunching over the handlebars, a drop tail in the back to protect against wet roads, and a double cuff provides some hand coverage and a thumb loop.
The pants also feature a higher cut for riding, are waterproof, and have expandable bottom openings that are Nordic boot-friendly, as well. The men's version is called the Steele jacket ($269) and pants ($219), and the corresponding women's line is the Cayley.
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