Slingshot, take III.
As your correspondent wandered past the Alter Cycles booth at Interbike a while back, the thousand-mile stare was broken by one thing vaguely reminiscent of another. Above a cluster of urban hybrids with brightly-coloured downtubes was the unique and well-ridden bike bike shown here. As the tradeshow-addled mental gears lurched into motion and the booth’s tenants began describing their flexible downtube concept, a connection was made- the Alter is a modern Slingshot reboot.
The similarity turned out to be more than superficially- especially given the presence of Mark Groendal, father of the original Slingshot (and later ERB). In short, the thread shared between the three concepts is an inchworm-like movement between the head and seat tubes. While the first two iterations used a sprung cable, the Alter make use of interchangeable leaf-spring downtubes of different stiffnesses to provide a measure of suspension and pedaling energy return. We first saw it prototyped a couple of years ago.
Alter currently has no plans to release either of the mountain bikes shown here- but there’s something compelling about the idea of a flexible carbon top tube and sprung downtube. Your man at the show was left with the impression that Groendal and company have never entirely let go of the idea of a Slingshot mountain bike- and that the examples shown felt as much ‘because we wanted to’ as ‘mountain biking is an ideal torture test.’
The following may just be nostalgia for an never-experienced design, but if the bikes ride anywhere near as well or as quickly as their fans long claimed, then perhaps Alter should keep the dream alive.