Garda Bike Festival has reached the ripe old age of 25. Whilst it may not be as big as its European brother Eurobike and misses out to Core Bike in showcasing all the springtime product releases, it’s still pretty big as MTB expos go. Plus it has the added advantage of being smack bang in the middle of some pretty epic trails in the Dolomites so visitors get to do some pretty ace riding as well as looking at ace pretty things.
Although Riva del Garda is in Italy, the area is as Germanic as you can get and the festival is too. It’s even scheduled to fall each year on the weekend of a German bank holiday. So where the festival loses out to some others in terms of big brand launches, it definitely wins when it comes to showcasing bespoke German engineering and geekery with accompanying Italian flair.
There was lots and lots on show, too much to try and cover whilst ensuring gelato and pizza saturation was achieved, so rather than an encyclopaedic run down, here are the top six offerings from the smaller companies that caught the eye. If you want more we’ve also got a roundup of SRAM MY19 kit and the unveiling of the new Focus Compulsion 1 full suss Enduro beauty and the Abus MonTrailer helmet.
First and second up are two contrasting bike packing brackets both from small German start-ups run by some very enthusiastic young things.
Designed and modelled by Laurenz Dann the HOOKABIKE is a simple system to help you shoulder your bike and take the weight on your rucksack during those hike-a-bike moments. All very useful for low-skill, low-strength porters like myself.
The HOOKABIKE consists of two pieces: a shaped PPE plate with a large slot which attaches to the top of your rucksack by four Velcro straps and a big stud on a Velcro strap which you fix to your bike near the BB.
As ably demonstrated here you lift your bike by the crank and base of forks and upturn it onto your back, slotting the stud of the bike strap into the cut out on the plastic plate.
Et voila! – or should I say Da Gehst Ihr! – you can now hike-a-bike hands free. The system will take up to 18kg of weight although this is more a limit to stop you falling over backwards like an overlaiden DofEer rather than the strength of the system itself.
These were first launched in December 2017 and we’ve got one to test out in the UK. If you can’t wait that long then they’re available direct from PUSH for €49.99
Just two tents down from PUSH was Outentic with an even newer system which was launched at the end of April. Outentic’s more elaborate bike carrying set up is just one of the modules of their rucksack system.
To carry your bike with this one you’ll need the 8 litre base rucksack. On the rucksack are four anchoring points to which you can add a second dry-bag style 15 litre bag or the bike carrying hook. On the bike carrying module there are two big hooks which you hang your bike on once you’ve lifted it onto your back. The bike weight limit for this system is 25kg.
As you can probably tell by looking at it this system costs a fair bit more than the PUSH hook. The base rucksack is €196 and it’s another €100 for the bike module. If you want to add the extra 15 litre bag instead of the bike hook, that’s another €85. All available direct from Outentic.
Another small German company at the expo was Dirtlej with its new range of Dirt Suits and shorts. First launched last year the Dirt Suit is somewhat like a waterproof baby-gro designed for filthy mountain biking, it seemed a little out of place in the bright sunshine.
This year there is Pro Edition (€249) added to the range in both men’s and women’s fit, which has a higher level of water resistance than the Classic (€199) version which is only available in a men’s fit. There’s also a new downhill version (€340) which has full length removable arms and legs – the Pro and Classic are full arm and half leg – it’s also a looser fit than the other versions.
There are also some pretty nice looking shorts in both water resistant (back panels made from DWR) and non-waterproof versions (RRP TBC). All are available direct from Dirtlej as well as a few UK dealers which are listed on the website.
Next up is something rather more refined with Italian designed and made mountain bike kit for women. Following the tongue-in-cheek naming system of Fat Lad At The Back, Chicken Line is more about celebrating women riding rather than suggesting that females will take the easier route down the trails. Chatting to company owner and designer Elena, I rather liked her attitude of knowing that not everyone would see the funny side and being happy with that.
All the kit is designed to mix and match using a few base colours. In total there are four different jersey designs in short, mid and long sleeves, thermal and standard gilets, a couple of length of shorts in four colours and gloves, socks and buffs. Many of the colour schemes are more suited to Italian sunshine than UK rain but we have some more appropriately coloured kit back in Blighty for testing. Jerseys are €55-59 and shorts €69 all available direct from Chicken Line.
Staying on the Italian side of the border but moving back to engineering, we have Formula’s Neopos spacers. These 35mm spacers made from compressible closed-cell foam are designed to add some high-speed compliance to your Formula 35 or Selva forks or, for that matter, anything else with a 35mm stanchion – like the Pike.
We’ve got a set of these back in the UK and already under the weight of Tom Hill who will be seeing how they change the ride of the Formula Selva he reviewed back in March.
The Neopos spacers aren’t available to buy yet so we’ll update you on pricing and availability when we have it.
Last but not least we’re back where we started with PUSH Components, this time with a prototype of the DROPAFORK fork travel reducer for those steep climbs.
Like the HOOKABIKE this is beautifully simple, it comprises of a strap that hides in the fork steerer tube when it’s not being used and a small loop on the fork crown. To engage ,you simply load your forks, pull the strap out the steerer, and hook on. Depending on the length you set it to, it will reduce the length of your fork by 15-20%. Unlike travel reducer systems that are part of your fork adjustments, designer Laurenz claims that this better maintains the performance of your fork whilst weighing a mere 25g. The DROPAFORK should be available direct from PUSH later this summer.
Rachel’s travel and accommodation were paid for by Abus.