Rather than making the long trip to the sunshine of Reno, Nevada, for this year’s Interbike trade show, we stayed home in the comfort of Todmorden rain and let roving reporter and almost-local Fahzure risk the wildfires of the American west to make the trip to Reno on our behalf. Check out our Instagram story for more of what Fahzure spotted while there, and this report of what Interbike might – or might not – be about.
If you’ve ever listened to Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter From America’, well, this is like that might have been, had Alistair Cooke been replaced by Hunter S. Thompson…
8 Top US Metal Acts From 2018 Interbikapalooza That My British Friends Missed Out On
Interbikapalooza has always been a gathering of tribes and culture, and certainly the presence of Rivendell, Floyd’s of Leadville and Green Guru have kept the bicycle freak flag flying for 2018. Regardless of what Interbike is or may become, one of the best things about the show is seeing the US metal acts and their finely crafted bicycle objects and since Singletrack editors would rather spend their time and money riding about the U.S. rather than writing about it, I am picking what you should like. While I was initially ambivalent about plastic MTBs and components, I have come to regard them as fragile, disposable, mass-produced glass houses, perfect until you want something uniquely private or encounter rocks, making metal offerings far more likely the subject of attachment theory. Pretty much from day one, MTBs have been the beneficiaries of American smithing, where durability and purposeful design are part of the trade. And, while the glory days of 3-D Violet and turquoise anodized CNC bits is long gone, there appears to be plenty of making big chunks of metal into smaller ones and a welders arc light on the US and Interbike horizon. Let’s get metal!
1. TiGR Locks
Let’s not lead with our right and, instead, focus on something small, great, overlooked and fresher, like Fugazi: TiGr locks. These locks are in their second generation, having initially launched from a Kickstarter offering. No one likes waiting around with a bike locked outside where you can’t see it, so these locks are made of a Ti alloy making them remarkably strong and cut resistant (have you ever tried to machine or even drill for water bottle boss rivnuts on a Ti frame?), while the flat bar shape retains Ti’s springiness, enabling one to open the loop to grab whatever anchor you need. I’m a pretty fair-weather rider and spend wayyy too much time in bike shops, so for you all, I will note: of course Ti never rusts, gets old or fails to be well received at the bike shop, like Fugazi! It comes in two sizes/shapes and has a clever lock that snaps quickly in place.
3. Santana Bicycles
Like Carlos, calling Santana Bicycles metal is a stretch, especially as their flagship is a perfectly uninteresting shapeless plastic bike but, like the axe master, these tandem builders are and have metal influences. Santana has been making the rare single, tandems, triples, quads, quints and even hexes since 1976 in a wide array of price points and styles, lately becoming more road and travel focused with many frames having couplers for travel disassembly. Topping their metal charts, the Exogrid Synergy, is really a head turner. Constructed with Ti tubing that has been perforated (with logo and diamond patterns in this case, but the possibilities are endless; you may now, for a moment, mourn Titus), then lined with a carbon fiber sheet, which is compression molded, keying it three dimensionally into the perforations an resulting in a hybrid carbon tube that is weldable. They claim the result is a rigid, light, organic tube which rides great and is readily weldable at the ends. For you Singletrack readers, this metal is probably not dirty enough, so know that Santana supplies these tubes to a select few other companies (Dean) who know WTF they are doing when welding a tube with integrated carbon.
3. Efficient Velo Tools
Like a Danny Carey track, Efficient Velo Tools (EVT) is the maker of a wide range of very metal specific creations crafted in a new meets old-world fashion. The unifying theme in Tool is precision, something EVT sought to achieve in one of their first products the (now, Ultra) Tru-Arc derailleur alignment tool/guage. It is phenomenally smooth and play-free with an indicator rod that pivots to move around stays. Even though I can’t recommend it because it only works with skinny valves developed for road bikes Wil reviewed the EVT Bleedin’ Guage here and found it to be flawless, so will you, too, especially if you ride plus or fat bikes where pressure is critical to performance. For those operating at higher pressures, incomes and weights, like ebike owners, EVT makes an ingeniously counterweighted Ez-lift repair stand that provides 18 lbs of pull on the clamp arm. Like with Maynard and the boys, using common instruments of creation and some off-the-shelf components, one is left wondering how does EVT craft things so precisely? I really like those pokey nail set looking things, that are actually precision machined spoke nipple grabbers, making all wheel building, but especially on deep section rims (note that extra-long one for really deep), much faster.
Merlin is the Black Sabbath of power metal titanium mountain bikes. Pretty much the first maker of durable Ti and MTB, after some abandonment and a time at Real(ly)/Competitive Cyclist online, it has found its rightful modern home and will be back to full-custom capability. Dean Bicycles, for more than 30 years a maker of titanium frames and components, has purchased Merlin and, much to the delight of everyone, put together classic designs with “modern” tech, just like the Sabbath ’85 Live Aid show. While only eight of the classic Newsboy cruisers will be produced, coming with any finish/graphic/mount and whatever-you-want geometry at $5000 each, only seven are left because I placed dibs on one for Chipps. Can’t afford that princely sum or worry about axle standards (cause, really, do you want to ruin your Ti bike with slider/multi drops?), then you should consider a wrist friendly Ti stem/bar combo. Alternately, check the more to-the-point Motorheady Dean’s surprisingly affordable and comprehensive lineup of n+1 bikes. Here is a highly questionable idea: Merlin should make a Trimble inverted 4 cyclocross frame and call it the War Pig.
5. White Industries
Classic and around forever, White Industries, like Van Halen, has always been known for their bold looks, usually in high polish finish, certainly fancy enough for any blinglespeed you might roll to the opera. In fact, their whole lineup of fixed and free single (and double (!), I think they invented this for Hebbard ) represents the absolute best in quality and durability with features like nickel plated, case-hardened steel cogs and an eccentric axle, single speed-converting Eno hub, which together interface through a MUCH stronger spline, rather than threads. Are you a Diamond Dave spline and whine kinda person, cause you’ll like the sweet sound of the 48T ratchet ring and the Ti freehub body made ultra light with skinny splines. But, even if you aren’t lining up for Single Speed Worlds with a mullet and spandex and have whatever other hub loyalty, White Ind. cranks, hubs, BBs (standard taper available even!) and headsets are made with the best American billet (see their note on dumbass tariffs) and stainless steel bearings for all that single pivot weather starting where you live in 3, 2, now.
6. Crown Rollers
I certainly know that my friends across the pond, like you, hold in high regard the craftsmanship associated with royal jewlers, like Garrard, and Crown Rollers (Utah!) is looking to deserve the mark by taking over the roller world like Zepplin did with your head in I, II and III. This Salt Lake City company has turned your bike into a CVT, tapering the gold (duh) anodized roller diameter away from center, resulting in an axial profile of an ellipse. This means that while riding rollers, as you do starting this time of year in Todmorden, the speed/cadence increases when your wheel track/tire moves off center. Thus, you receive immediate feedback from pace, encouraging you not to wander or to just really rip the gutters if you’ve got the skills. Hoping to dominate the roller charts, this immigrant, upstart’s products are something to follow up on with some serious testing. Can anyone say Wednesday night at the Rose [We could have added any number of notes to this report, but this reference we’ll explain: the Wild Rose was apparently often the scene of drunken roller racing, which sounds terrible on many counts – Ed]?
Like AC/DC, most rear hub manufacturers rely on a distinctive noise as a trademark for their brand and an easy for their customers to keep their noses and attitudes cast up. Onyx takes a different approach entirely, providing an instantaneous engagement, nearly drag free, silentsprag clutch for would be Robin Hoods poaching that grouse reserve. And, like Back in Black, it’s hit after hit, with every axle/drilling combo, four double shielded sealed bearings, a stainless freehub shell and double sprags, which means their MTB rear hubs will not care about the flooded basement caused by those damn heather burns. With a little heft and plenty of loud-color options, yes, they are heavy and metal, even where this metal is this unamplified and smooth.
8. Mountain Racing Products
Mountain Racing Products (MRP) is the Witch of the western slope of Colorado, manufacturing a range of high-end, gravity-oriented drivetrain and suspension products, designed for (hopefully not) head banging lines. Taking the best of trad coil sprung burliness and integrating it with in-house machine fab, MRP, like Witch, nods to past, but updates their offerings with modern tech and quality. If you need a chainguide, lightweight dual crown Bartlett or Hazzard (Thank you, Nate McKay and TJ) progressive coil shock (hear that, UK single pivoteers?), this is the only US metal act. Of course, they have the popular Ribbon available in every 27.5/29/air/coil(!) configuration but, they also have freakazoid forks like the Baxter, a 700/40c 27.5/2.5 40mm fork that will work perfectly for 80% of everything you don’t ride on your MTB. Got a recumbent, child or super tricked out mini wheel commuter bike? Then you need a real fork like the 20” fully-featured Rustler. Sure, you could say that Witch is a J Mascis reboot of Sabbath, but as with your Fox 34 or five year old Orange, MRP can help out bring out the best of your classic genre with Ramp Control air caps and precision machined through axles. Far beyond the Lyrics, MRP is the best US metal you can get for stoney lines found in Dinosaur (Jr.) country, and beyond.
Interbike had some solid metal acts, but with the exception of Dean/Merlin, sadly, there weren’t any MTB frame headliners, much less those spouting dually drums and bass suspension. What with my existential plastic crisis of confidence and environment, I’m left looking your direction for a new steed. My riding buddy/boyfriend (yes, his fiancé knows) and I both eschew single pivots for their limited tunability range and poor performance in the chunder, common in the West, where there is no topsoil. Thus, in seeking high-performance, long-travel metal options, I am left with nothing at Interbikapalooza (and perhaps the US, generally, though I know we have the skills, just look at that bar) and it seems that I may have to throw myself at the mercy Sick and their Flippin-Perfect-For-Fahzure XXL Death From Above. I know that, despite the offer of global shipping, I would want to meet these Sick folks (apparently wandering around Interbikapalooza and I missed them), which would entail a trip to the UK, something no one at Singletrack Towers thinks is a good idea. Please, US metal makers, save your favorite magazine staff from my burden, seize this moment, steal a trick from our UK metal smithing friends and get on with some solid dually production. I hope to see that, you and more metal acts at Interbikapalooza next year.
Here are a few bonus metal bits while you drift off to Sleep.