A couple of weeks ago Hannah went out to Ketchum, Idaho, to a new media event ‘Impact Sun Valley’. It was a chance for brands to get a bunch of bike journos together in one place to show off their wares and talk about their products – and in some instances give a sneak preview of products before their Eurobike launch. So who was there, and what did the event look like? Hannah gives us a run through of her trip – you might be surprised just how much is packed in.
The event kicked off in the best way possible: with food and beers in a bike shop. No ordinary bike shop though, but instead a bar and bike shop mashup. While other local bike shop owners have gone the route of coffee machines and artisan flapjack, Power House is a location that would be a great bar in its own right, even without the bike shop attached. A huge menu of tap beers – most of them well over 4% – helped journos and bike brand staff start to get to know one another, or catch up on old relationships. Fed and watered, journey weary visitors were packed off to bed in the really rather comfortable Limelight Hotel with a huge bag of swag. I’m understating this actually: it was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in.
Up early the next day for a series of presentations before riding started, visitors heard from Orbea, BMC, Specialized and SwiftWick Socks.
Based in Bilbao, northern Spain, Orbea talked us through its soon-to-be launched new carbon Gain road bike. The Gain range has been out for a year, but the introduction of this carbon fibre model is quite the feather ruffler. Nothing unusual about a carbon road bike, you might think, and at first glance this bike looks almost like any other road bike. But then do a double take and you’ll realise that therein lies a hub motor and battery. Road bikes aren’t our thing, so we’re not going to cover this bike in any great detail, but if you’re curious hop over here for my take on what this might mean for the broader e-Bike market, and where technology is headed.
This Swiss brand presented some secret new bikes that we’ll be able to tell you about later in the month. Secret sauce!
Specialized brought along a selection of Levos, and Levo Kenevos. Since I wrote this feature on the Levos last year, I rode the Levo Kenevo on the Imperial and Greenhorn trails near Ketchum. While it was nowhere near as tough and technical as the Levo can handle (See Mark’s write up from the original launch event), it nonetheless made for a great ride. In fact, it might just be my favourite trail ever. Swoopy, wiggly, natural singletrack through a mix of meadows and trees – what’s not to love. The Levo Kenevo is way more bike than is necessary for these sweeping trails, but with its near silent Brose motor it was a handy tool for getting to the top of the climbs in the thin air of Idaho.
4. SwiftWick Socks
Made in the USA with yarns sourced in the USA wherever possible, Chuck Swift, the man behind SwiftWick socks, set out to bring fabric technology to the sock market. The Flite XT range was initially designed for people like Cross-Fitters, who do a lot of different movements and need their socks to be not just breathable, but to stay in place despite a range of competing and twisting movements. The ball and heel of the sock are woven with a GripDry Fibre section, which has greater texture than the rest of the sock. This gives additional grip in these areas, and it was this that led cyclists to say that they were finding the Flite XT range (black, below) very comfortable.
As well as the Flite XT range, the Vision range offers a selection of wild patterns and colours, plus we were given a pair of compression socks to wear on the plane home – it might be coincidence, but I reckon my ankles weren’t their usual swollen sausage shape having worn the compression socks on the long haul flight back.
In between the e-Bike rides we were treated to the briefest taste of bike park action, swooping up in a gondola to the Roundhouse Restaurant for a brief lunch before swooping down the trails to our next appointment. The Roundhouse isn’t even at the top of Bald Mountain, yet at 7,700ft I found myself gasping for air as I climbed the steps between the gondola and the restaurant. This was the highest elevation I have ever been at, and it was surprising just how noticeable it was. I’d have liked to have taken the Christmas lift to the very top (at around 9,000ft), just to say I’d been there, but there wasn’t time. There are trails to ride back down from that point, however, which join on to the ones that start at the Roundhouse.
We took the new flow trail – Mindbender – which consisted of huge swooping corners and table tops. Part way down you got the choice between the River Run and Pale Rider trails – I went for the River Run on the basis that the qualifier for Pale Rider looked like the sort of thing I’d like to try after getting my eye in on a couple of runs, not fresh on a new bike at elevation. In contrast to my previous bike park and gondola experience in Innsbruck, the trails here were swoopingly rollable – stay on the brakes and you could get down at almost any ability of riding. However, the gradient did seem perfectly designed to have you at warp speed in no time, even though airborne jumping ability was not essential to get from top to bottom. I so rarely ride any kind of purpose built trail that it takes me a bit to get used to their let-it-fly nature, and I’d have loved to go back and lap this trail. Maybe there will be a next time…
Day one ended with beers and pizzas at the Sun Valley Lodge – the first hotel to have its own ski tow, way back in the 1930s. It was quite the exclusive celebrity destination then, and it still feels like a classy spot – huge grounds, gardens, an outdoor arena for live music, tennis courts, and probably the biggest collection of hire bikes of any hotel I’ve seen. There are bikes everywhere in Ketchum, making it feel quite un-American, but at the same time the scenery is straight up film set American Pie – I spent half the time expecting Kevin Costner to appear on a horse. And I did see someone wearing spurs.
Day 2 was a mixture of gravel riding and bike park trails, but before we were allowed to head out and play, the day started at 7.15am (just thought I’d slip that in there, in case you thought it was an easy life) with presentations from some more brands.
The makers of the motor which features in many Specialized e-bikes, Brose explained how they’re working towards greater brand recognition. With a background in the automotive industry, the company believes it has a reliable product which has some clear benefits over their competitors. Firstly, for manufactures, there’s a benefit because it’s an ‘open source’ system, allowing bike companies to manipulate the motor performance – in contrast to the ‘black box’ approach of, say, Bosch. Secondly, their motor is carbon belt driven, uses nylon planetary gears, and has no gear-to-gear contact, which makes for a much quieter ride. Out on the trail, particularly if you’re alone trying to absorb your surroundings and be at one with nature, this trait is really noticeable.
Brose may not be such a familiar name in the e-bike market as, say Yamaha, Bosch, or even Shimano Steps, but it’s hoping that as word spreads of its quiet – and frictionless – motors, bike shop customers will have the name ‘Brose’ at the top of their requirements when buying an e-bike. As well as talking us through the technology, Brose gave us a sneak peak of the new motor which they subsequently revealed at Eurobike.
Kings of fabric geekery and obsession with detail, this brand from Squamish (7mesh derives from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh word that means ‘Squamish’ in the written language devised to help preserve the little spoken local tongue) has only been offering product to the market since 2015, but listening to them talk about how they designed their products and why makes you really appreciate what at first glance can seem like quite simple garments.
Unlike some brands, the guys from 7mesh ride in all weathers, and are more than familiar with the various properties of rain that us in the UK so often struggle to explain to technical clothing manufacturers. We were given the chance to ride in some of their shorts and jerseys, as well as getting the chance to handle a range of other samples.
The women’s range is relatively small compared to the men’s range, but designer Ian explains that this is due to him finding it much easier to design for a man than for a women. Since he cuts and sews many of the prototypes himself, it’s and easy matter for him to whip up and idea, and go out and ride it himself to see if it works. The same can’t be said for women’s clothing! It is something they’re working on however, and we’ve put our name down for a test pair of the women’s waterproof shorts, which they reckon are truly waterproof.
To experience some of the depth of Ian’s fabric knowledge and passion, check out this video, and read the full article here.
Reynolds has recently been concentrating on simplifying its product range and focussing on carbon, plus publicising its warranty and assurance options. Across all disciplines, they now take a ‘good, better and best’ approach to carbon wheels, with three corresponding price points of $1,299, $1,549, and $2,099.
Since we’d published a feature on carbon wheel crash replacement schemes, but hadn’t been able to get an answer from Reynolds, we got them to record this message for you. Hop on over here for the full article on crash replacement schemes.
Tyre manufacturer Maxxis gave us a sneak peak of what was to come at Eurobike, as well as giving us the first chance to ride the new Rekon Race XC tyre. For all the details on that new tyre, check out the first look article here. The Turner frames were completed with Reynolds wheels and Maxxis Rambler tyres, while the Specialized Stumpy 29ers we rode at the Bald Mountain bike park were also shod with Reynolds wheels and the new Rekon Race at the back, plus the not quite so new Ikon up front.
A short presentation was provided about a new tubeless sealant from Squirt. Designed to be environmentally friendly, as well as being easy to peel out at the end of its lifespan, the sealant has the curious inclusion of ceramic beads, which arrive in a packet like salt’n’shake crisps. You pop the bead on the tyre, tip the beads in, and then add your sealant as normal. Curious? We are. We were given a sample to bring home, as well as dinky little wax lube samples which will be ideal for trips away from home, or keeping in the car ‘just in case’.
Other brands who provided product samples but didn’t give presentations included:
10. Wattie Ink
Originally a triathlon brand, Wattie Ink has been making triathlon gear since 2009. As such, the company has always made road kit for training in, but has recently seen an upturn in demand for its riding kit for use on gravel roads. It seems that triathletes in the USA have had enough of close passing and car encounters, and are looking to gravel to get the miles in without the stress. At present the range is still lycra focussed, but with a range of loud and punky (founder Sean Watkins was inspired by skate and sleeve tattoo designs) as well as more classic designs, there will likely be something in their offer to appeal to most.
Duly informed, it was time to ride. The visiting journos were split into two groups – one riding the Moots titanium bikes, and the other riding David Turner’s new titanium all road bike. I’d have loved to have been able to ride both, but there wasn’t the time. I did however manage to speak to both brands.
Moots is a relatively small brand based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that started life in 1981 building steel frames, but for the last ten years has been specialising in titanium. Using tubing from American mills, which have consistent tubing thicknesses and strength, Moots builds beautiful bikes with a choice of subtle graphic finishes. To the event, they’d brought a fleet of drop bar bikes from the Routt range: the Routt RSL is the top of the line race machine, the Routt 45 is the go-everywhere adventure model with clearance for up to 45mm tyres, and the Routt is a less aggressive ride position than the RSL, but with similar tyre clearances. All models make use of 3D printed titanium drop outs in order to achieve flat mount brake mounting, while the RSL can be customised through 3D printing to accommodate things like internal routing for Di2.
For more information on this range and the Moots brand, check out this video with Jon, in charge of Moots’ marketing.
Moots – titanium bottle openers and bikes!
David Turner presented his own new drop bar bike in titanium, designed around his desire to have one bike that with three different sets of wheels would cover most of his ride needs, apart from big mountain biking days out away from home turf. He explained that, riding from his house, the trails around him aren’t technical enough to need a mountain bike, and that he enjoyed the additional challenge that the drop bar bike introduces on these local trails. At the same time, he wants the bike to serve for local shop rides where the purpose is to ride fast and hard on the road. With the CyclosisCXR, he thinks he’s built the answer.
Difficulties with swapping brakes round to the UK rear-on-the-left meant I had to stick with riding the wrong way round – something I’ve done before and don’t mind too much usually. However, I also found myself assigned a bike with tyres that were on the skinny side of gravel, so between them, the deep drifts of gravel, the brakes, and an unfamiliar gear set up (a double on the front with SRAM e-tap), there was rather a lot to think about. Plus, with the air being super dry my contact lenses were threatening to shrivel up and my depth perception went all to pot. For future trips I’m definitely going to add eye drops to my ride pack – being able to see is quite handy!
Despite the technical difficulties meaning I couldn’t really make any firm judgements about the bike, it was a pretty special experience, riding along proper gravel (not just fire road hard core) road, with full on snow capped mountains to one side of you. Once again, it was a taste of trails I’d like to revisit.
Finally, we were given a chance to do a quick lap at the Galena Lodge trails, on those secret sauce BMC bikes we’ll be able to tell you about soon. This was the first true climbing I’d done on a bike (without e-assist) since landing in Idaho, and I wasn’t sure if I was just terribly unfit or the altitude and heat were getting to me. Luckily I caught up with another journo who seemed to be in the same boat as me, and the fact I caught up with him made me think maybe I wasn’t doing quite so badly after all! Descent duly earned, I swapped my way back to the trail head where it was time to do some work – no more time to play on bikes.
In addition to the brands above, there were a bunch of others who provided products to make the trip run smoothly:
All the bike journos were give a huge 70litre Descent Duffle Bag, packed with products from all the other brands. In addition, everyone in attendance got one of the hip packs from the Dakine range – I got the Hot Laps pack, complete with CrankTank logo so no-one in the office is going to get it mixed up with their own. It’s already proven very handy in the UK’s hot weather…I like to carry kit but I could be being swayed to the way of the fanny pack.
14. Beyond Coastal
Essential lip balm and sun screen were provided by Beyond Coastal, a brand launched by a keen surfer and skier. As you’d expect, their range provides protection from the sun even when sweating and swimming, and rubs in nicely so you’re not coated in thick white stickiness.
15. R.e.d.d Nutrition
When you’re eating breakfast at 7am you’re going to want a snack before lunch. These vegan friendly energy bars also contain vitamins and protein, to keep you going between doses of proper food.
16. Rudy Project
The Italian makers of loud sunglasses provided us with both sunglasses (including the Sintryx we’ve reviewed here) and helmets for the event. With plenty of ventilation in the helmets, plus sweat absorbing liners, they were well suited to the climate.
17. Five Ten
I was given a pair of Five Ten Kestrels in a women’s last, but since I already have shoes coming out of my ears I’ve passed these on to Amanda so she can try out riding clipped in. Watch this space for
amusing videos of her falling off awesome feats of agility.
18. Lizard Skins
Nice tacky grips from Lizard Skins were provided – but with all the bikes we were riding in such a short space of time there was no room for swapping these out to try them.
19. Sawtooth Brewery
And finally, perhaps the most important brand of all, Sawtooth Brewery. This local brewer sponsored the event, providing beers at various points, including at the Draft Meetup – a community advocacy event which combines bikes and beers. Held at the Limelight Hotel and open to all local residents, it was a chance to discuss the positive impact that cycling tourism can bring to the area, while giving some consideration to the potential conflicts between riders (especially e-bike riders) and other trail users.
Of course, you’re probably going to have to go to Idaho if you want to sample the Sawtooth beer, but on the basis of my brief taster of both trails and lifestyle, it’s a trip that would be well worth making. Fingers crossed I win the office thumb war to go back again next year…
Crank Tank Impact Sun Valley Media event covered travel and accommodation costs for this trip.