The best part about Interbike… the new bikes. We visited a few of the leading full-suspension bike manufacturers and even tested some of their bikes. Here’s the list of some of the hottest new technology in full-suspension bikes for 2003.
Azonic 2003 Mountain Bike Frames
Azonic introduced an entirely new frame line this season called the XTENSION Series. These new bikes use the fully-active Horst Link licensed from Specialized, Fox shocks, Alcoa 7005 tubing (and 6061 on the Recoil), fully sealed cartridge bearings, replacable deraileur hangers and a sweet looking polished finish. There are three bikes in the line.
Azonic XTENSION Series
RECOIL | Retail: $1,995 (frame only)
The Azonic Recoil is the new top of the line downhill bike that will sit atop the Eliminator. This new frame features adjustable geometry and a standard Progressive 5th Element shock boasting 8.5 inches of fully-active travel. The frame does require a 12mm thru-axle rear hub and is available in 16″ and 18″ sizes.
PROPULSION | Retail: $1,245 (frame only)
The Azonic Propulsion is a performance oriented cross country rocker-arm frame. This frame featues 4″ of travel under an ultra efficient travel using the Fox Float AVA air shock. It is available in 16.5″, 18.5″ and 20″ sizes.
SABER | $1,295 (frame only)
The Saber is the perfect freeride machine, built on a similar platform to the Turner RFX and Ellsworth ID frames. The Saber boasts adjustable travel from 5″ – 6″ by switching the shock mounting point on the rocker arm. This frame is ready to take out all the drops and big hits with the best of them and is guaranteed to take you back up to the top without donating your body parts to science.
Balfa, out of Quebec, Canada, has been making bikes since 1990 and has typically taken a different approsach to suspension designs. While other companies are going full aluminum, Balfa stays true to their trademark aluminum front triangle mated to a chromoly rear triangle. These Frenchies sure know how to make killer bikes!
BB7 | Retail: $1,649 (frame only) | BB7 Bike Review
The BB7 continues to be the flagship model for Balfa and remains mostly unchanged for 2003. Two new additions to the frame will be introduced in 2003: the BB7’s 9″ of travel is now mated to a Progressive 5th Element shock and a floating brake caliper is now available. Overall pedaling and braking performance will be improved even more with the 5th Element shock and floating brake. The BB7 flies!
2 Step DH | Retail: $1,499 (frame only)
Balfa is taking the 2 Step to a higher level this year by turning the freeride machine into a full-fledged downhill rig. This is achieved by moving the lower, front pivot just behind the bottom bracket, thus increasing clearance and overall travel. If the new 2 Step DH rides anything like the BB7, this 7″ travel DH bike will be a dream to pedal and ride. The word is that it will go into production for 2003 sometime in the Spring. This bike will be configurable to accept a front deraileur or chainguide.
2 Step | Retail: $1,299 (frame only) Read Review
For 2003, the 2 Step continues as Balfa’s go-anywhere, do-anything bike. Set up with 6-inches of rear travel and beefy construction, the 2 Step will satisfy all but the full-on DH riders. The word is that the winner of the 100 Miles of Moab won the thing riding a 2 Step with a Boxxer up front! This bike can climb and descend with the best of them. This is a true trailbike for those who love to go big. Of note this year is that Balfa will no longer warranty this bike with a triple crown fork.
B.C.-based Banshee Bikes is coming onto the freeride scene with their tank-like bikes: The Scream and Morphine. These frames will “never be the lightest bike you own, it’s probably gonna be the toughest,” says Banshee. After reading reviews of the Scream on NSMB.com, this bike is the North Shore’s equivalent of Shangri La. You can beat the Scream to a bloody pulp and if you ever break it, a 10-year warranty is in place to stand behind every drop, every huck and every stunt you can hit.
SCREAM | Retail: $3,199 w/Jr. T complete bike
The Scream boasts up to 8″ of adjustable travel and enough beef to keep you tracking downhill even when the going gets rougher than you can handle. This near 13 lb. frameset is most likely the burliest huck machine you’ll ever own.
Morphine | Retail: $2,079 w/DJ2 complete bike
The Morphine hardtail is like the Swiss Army knife of freeride hardtails. It can be mated with any fork between 4″ – 8″ travel, single or double-crown. On top of that, it can be run with dual 26″, 24″ x 26″ or dual 24″ wheels for a super burly dirt jumper.
For complete specs and details, visit BansheeBikes.com
Cannondale, the innovater in the modern “freeride” market has really hit it right on with the Gemini series of bikes. These frames offer adjustable travel from 5″, 6″ and 7″ with an allen bolt. Honestly, the single-pivot design has been around for a long time. It is tried and true, and has had some limitations, but with proper tweaking and the right shock, a single-pivot design can feel like some of the best 4-bar bikes out there. I was absolutely amazed at the Romic-equipped Gemini at Interbike. It was by far the most fun and best all-around bike I rode all day.
Oh yeah, Cedric Gracia’s Gemini was on display too, with a custom Fox shock that looks just like the Avalanche.
Gemini 2000 | Retail: $ 3,499
The badboy of the line, the Gemini 2000 exudes speed and drops. With 7″ front and rear, Marzocchi Super T, beefy wheelset, Romic twin-clicker shock and a trick autumn leaves paintjob, this bike will climb with the best of them, thanks to the Romic and it will descend like a banshee!
Gemini 1000 | Retail: $ N/A
The 1000 is the lightweight freeride specialist with a new Lefty featuring 5″ of travel and a lightweight package, the Gemini 1000 is destined to become an epic trail bike for all-day adventures.
Gemini 900 | Retail: $2,199 | Read Review
The Scream boasts up to 8″ of adjustable travel and enough beef to keep you tracking downhill even when the going gets rougher than you can handle. This near 13 lb. frameset is most likely the burliest huck machine you’ll ever own.
For more info and complete specs, visit Cannondale.com
Giant has been making bike frames for themselves or other companies for years. Originally a third-party frame manufacturer, Giant decided to make their own bike lines and the rest is history. Because of efficient production runs and sheer volume of sales, Giant is able to produce some pretty amazing bikes for less money than other manufacturers.
New this year is the VT series and some major improvements on the AC line. Most notably is the introduction of the use FluidForm technology to shape and strengthen the ALUXX SL frame tubing. Basically it makes for weldless gussets and killer looking frames.
These bikes use a newly developed suspension design built around a near vertical wheel path and the new Manitou Swinger air shock, which uses Progressive’s 5th Element Technology. With on-the-fly adjustability between 5″ and 5.75″ of travel, these bikes are the best choice for all-day epics.
VT 1 | Retail: $3,050 | Read Review
The VT 1 is the flagship model in the new VT suspension line. Decked out to the hilt with RaceFace cranks, RockShox Psylo Race, Hayes hydros and Mavic CrossMAX UST rims, this bike is nimble and light enough for the longest climbs and stable enough to take the abuse going back down.
VT 2 | Retail: $2,000
The VT 2 uses the same frame and shock as the VT1, but comes in at a better pricepoint with Avid mechanical brakes, RockShox Psylo XC and Mavic X223 rims.
The All Conditions bikes are Giant’s entry into the freeride market. Now in their third full season of production, these frames use a proven 4-bar rocker-arm design, combined with the new FluidForm frame technology. New for this season is the Quick Drop seat tube design and increased travel from 6″ to 6.5″. The 4.5″ travel option has been eliminated in place of 5.5″ and 6.5″ travel options.
AC 1 | Retail: $3,000
The AC 1 comes decked out with the new Manitou Sherman Firefly fork. Though not the 1.5 steerer version, this fork still boasts a 20mm hex thru-axle and adjustable travel from 4.3″ and 5.1″ on the fly. Continuing with the UST tubeless rims on the top-of-the-line models, the AC 1 gets the same treatment with Mavic’s new freeride UST wheelset and Hutchinson Octopus tires. Replacing the RockShox shock for 2003 is the Manitou Swinger coil over shock with piggyback. Using the same technology as Progressive’s 5th Element shocks, this should be a great performer.
AC 2 | Retail: $2,200
The AC2 uses the same frame and shock as the AC 1, but comes in a more price-conscious spec. It still comes spec’d with the venerable Hayes 8″ discs, but the fork is swapped out for the RockShox Psylo XC.
For complete specs and details, visit GiantBicycle.com.
Intense is one of the winningest frame builders in existence. The M1 is arguably the finest DH rig ever built, with more World Cup and NORBA wins than you could count with a supercomputer. Continuing to mate the Progressive 5th Element shocks to their already bomber builds, Intense is committed to providing the best bike to get you to the podium or down the hill in one piece. Totally new for 2003 is the Intense Spider XVP, a OnePointFive steerer on the SLX and the BMX line.
M1 | Retail: $2,499 (frame only)
The M1 will continue to win races and awe onlookers. Dialed in with the Progressive 5th Element shock and the Romic twin clicker as an option, a new Hydroformed Monococque Design, FSR pivot and adjustments for head angle and stroke progression.
Uzzi SLX | Retail: $2,149 (frame only) | Read Review
New for 2003 is the OnePointFive steerer option on the stellar Uzzi SLX. This frame has been the standard for performance freeride frames since its introduction in 2001. With 6″ of plush travel and the ability to climb uphill with the best of them, the SLX is a great all-around freeride machine. Now with the option of the 1.5 steerer and adjustable travel between 6″ and 7″, the SLX stands atop the crowd of plush, yet pedalable freeride bikes.
Spider XVP | Retail: $ n/a
Under a joint venture with Santa Cruz Bicycles, Intense has introduced their own version of the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) design. Aimed at the hard-core XC racing crowd, “slack” isn’t anything used to describe the geometry of the XVP. Boasting 4″ of efficient travel and super lightweight tubing, this bike will start winning XC races like the M1 does downhill.
Kona continues for 2003 as one of the staple purveyors of bombproof freeride machines. Using the Turner 4-bar suspension with the long rocker-arm, Kona’s have a distinct look — especially with the angled and elevated chainstays of the Stab line and the all-new Stinky 9.
Kona’s are built for abuse and are hammered on the Shore every day. Factory rider, Robbie Bourdon, goes HUGE at the Red Bull Rampage every year and is always featured in the films. No doubt, Kona has the reputation and quality product to stand up to serious abuse — they will kill it this year!
Stinky | Retail: $1,599
Think of this as pretty much an entirely new bike for 2003. This bike is for the freerider on a budget, but don’t think this bike is cheaply built! All the parts have been picked perfectly to make this bike fit in at its incredible pricepoint. Beefy tires, Marzocchi DJ3 fork and Hayes discs round out the package to deliver a quality frame at a price you can afford.
Stinky Dee-Lux | Retail: $2,599
Finally, the Stinky Dee-Lux gets decked out with a triple-crown fork and 7″ of travel front and rear thanks to the Fox Vanilla RC and Marzocchi Jr. T with QR20. This bike looks sexy and with a 67 deg. head angle it will descend like a dream and you can be sure the efficient 4-bar linkage suspension won’t rob you of your power when climbing. This bike is without a doubt one of the best values for someone who will dish out serious abuse on the descents, but still wants to climb back uphill for more.
Stab Primo | Retail: $4,999
Billed as Kona’s flagship DH rig, this bike has been trusted by Robbie Bourdon and other Kona factory riders to take them to the bottom of the hill in one piece. This is a no-holds-barred full-bore DH machine decked out with the new Fox DH shock yielding 8″ – 9″ of plush and the venerable Marzocchi Shiver DC up front with every other goodie you could imagine.
For complete specs, details or to purchase, visit KonaWorld.com.
Busting on the scene at last year’s Interbike, Paul Turner’s Maverick American bicycles continues to be one of the most efficient all-around suspension designs for those with discriminating tastes and fat wallets.
Also totally new this year is the Maverick American Fork. With 150mm of ultra-lightweight travel in an inverted, triple-clamp design, this fork will balance out any 4″ – 6″ travel bike. The fork also features a true quick-release 24mm front axle and tips the scales at a scant 3.25 lbs!
Reposado | Retail: $2,694 (frame only)
Totally new for 2003, the XC-specific Reposado is as dialed in as any XC racer would ever want. With 80mm of travel and no disc brake tabs, it is meant to be built up light — fully built at less than 24 lbs! With the beautiful craftsmanship of all Maverick frames, this bike will definitely be quick for the XC crowd.
ML7 | Retail: $2,694 (frame only)
The ML7 continues with the promise that it will become your best friend after an all-day epic ride. It can be built up like a lightweight, but offers only disc brake tabs. Another cool feature is the integrated headset cups, thus eliminating the need to set the cups and remove them, which is always a pain.
Inventors of the first monococque MTB suspension frame in 1991, Mountain Cycle has stayed true to its roots and continues to refine and perfect the monococque frame design. The legendary San Andreas frame is still one of the finest single-pivot designs to date. With their beefy front triangles, Mountain Cycle frames are hard to miss.
A slick new feature this year is the Steerer Stop (San Andreas, Shockwave and Shockwave 9.5) which prevents frame damage from a triple-clamp fork by stopping the stanchions from hitting the frame. Committed to full-length cable routing, Mountain Cycle has designed its frames to allow for all cables to run full housing, thus lowering maintenance and keeping everything clean and smooth.
Shockwave 9.5 | Retail: $ n/a
The totally new Shockwave 9.5 is the bike for serious DH racing and freeriding. With the new Reactive Link System 2, this bike features 9.5″ of bump absorption. Combined with the Progressive 5th Element shock, this bike will go over anything, while remaining active and pedalable.
San Andreas | Retail: $1,199 (frame only)
The mainstay of the Mountain Cycle line has been improved for 2003 with a stronger swingarm and the ability to accomoodate a piggyback shock like the Fox Vanilla RC and the 5th Element. Available as an aggressive XC bike or as a freeride/DH setup, this bike will take you to a higher level.
MOHO SLiX | Retail: $1,149 (frame only)
A new XC bike built for the real world. With 4″ of active, rocker-arm served travel and a huge dosage of Mountain Cycle panache, the MOHO SLiX is set to become a great all-day performer. A true epic bike using a proven suspension design in a great package.
For more info and complete specs, visit MountainCycle.com
Basically a one man operation in the States, Nicolai is making serious waves in the USA with some very radical suspension designs on the verge of changing the way you think about mountain bike design. Designed and built in Germany, there’s some serious engineering going on here. With an integrated Rohloff Hub providing smooth shifting and performance, you’ll wonder why we even have deraileurs.
Talking with Danny Kaey of Nicolai USA, he was so empassioned about getting rid of the chain, I almost felt like I was at a revival of sorts. Granted, getting rid of the chain would provide some obvious benefits, it doesn’t come cheaply. The two frames using this design both retail for over $3,500 for the frame only.
I took a spin on the Nucleon ST down the aisle and it amazed me how effortless the shifting was. I could shift whenever I wanted and it just worked. Pretty sweet!
Nucleon ST & FR | Retail: $3,999 & $3,699 (frame, shock & hub)
Using a very unique placement of the included Rohloff hub, this bike gives new meaning to clean shifting. Fully effortless shifting is possible while stopped or pedaling hard for the finish. This frame boasts some serious World Cup DH features and is as plush as ever!
The FR is a versatile all-mountain bike made to take serious abuse. It can be fully built up at 35 lbs. to allow you to ride it uphill with the best of them.
For more info and complete specs, visit Nicolai-USA.com.
NORCO Performance Bikes
Probably the top selling bike in Canada, Norco has had a limited presence in the states until the North Shore exploded onto the scene. Norco bikes are built to take serious abuse and have lifetime warranties to stand behind them.
The Shore and Fluid series of bikes offer beefy framesets ready to take all you can handle and a proven FSR suspension linkage to ensure pedaling efficiency. To keep you from killing yourself, all bikes in the Shore series feature Hayes hydraulic brakes with 8″ rotors.
The top 3 bikes in the Shore line have been entirely re-designed for 2003 and the rest of the Shore line has been re-tooled. The biggest improvements: increased standover clearance in all sizes and a new, beefier paint finish to stand up to the abuse you’re going to dish out. You’ll notice re-tooled seat stays and a curved chainstay — all results of increased standover and lower bottom bracket heights.
Norco makes great bikes and you can’t argue with their prices… if you can find a dealer in the US. They’re out there, just look hard or check Norco.com for an updated dealer network.
Team NS | Retail: $3,999 complete
Decked out with the new Marzocchi Monster T and 8″ of plush travel, the entirely new Team NS is a no-nonsense huck machine. Built for the North Shore huckster or downhill racer, this bike looks beautiful and is built for abuse. With added standover height and a killer new front triangle, this frame will soak up anything you can throw at it. And, if you’re interested, it will also accommodate a front deraileur.
Shore | Retail: $3,349 complete
An absolutely beautiful bike for the everyday freerider. Decked out with 7″ front and rear made possible by the sweet new Marzocchi Super T with the unified lowers, you’ll go bigger than ever before! The all-new Shore comes standard with the slick Axiom telescoping seatpost–allowing enough shock clearance for long climbs and steep descents.
For more info and complete specs, visit Norco.com
Santa Cruz Bicycles
Santa Cruz is fully committed to the Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) design. The new Blur is an example of probably the best implementation of the VPP to date. In a recent test, Mountain Bike Magazine said, “The Blur establishes Santa Cruz as the current suspension leader.”
Well, the HUGE line at the Outdoor Demo to ride one is definitely evidence that the Blur will be one of the top-selling bikes of 2003. I’m sure Santa Cruz will have a difficult time keeping up with the demand — especially because Santa Cruz bikes are always very competitively priced. Sometimes they are downright outrageously cheap for what you’re getting! Check out the sweet new colors for 2003.
V10 VPP | Retail: $1,800 (frame only)
The first production VPP model from Santa Cruz continues pretty much unchanged for 2003. Hopefully we’ll see more of these bikes around as production was pretty scarce this season. The V10 promises 10″ of total travel with 4″ of negative travel. Unfortunately, my first impressions at the Outdoor Demo were so-so at best. I much preferred the Balfa BB7 to the V10. It is quite possible that the shock wasn’t set up properly for my weight, but still…
BLUR | Retail: $1,350 (frame only)
The Blur enters the super-efficient XC market the same year as the Specialized EPIC and the similar Intense XVP. Though not exactly aimed at XC racing, the Blur just might prove to be the best of the bunch for all-around riding. Initial reports are that it is the best full-suspension design to date. With 4.5″ of travel and a near lockout feel when climbing, this bike should take the position of the best suspension bike on the market!
For more info and complete specs, visit SantaCruzBicycles.com.
Not to be outdone by the Santa Cruz Blur and Intense XVP, Specialized has introduced an entirely new twist on their patented FSR design. First featured on FeedTheHabit.com the day it was introduced, the new Specialized Epic FSR has caught some major attention from riders and spin doctors alike. Using the proven FSR linkage and mating it to a totally new Fox air shock, Specialized has achieved the full-suspension nirvana everyone has been chasing for years.
EPIC FSR | Retail: $n/a
The Brain Technology uses an intertia valve to sense input from obstacles and distinguish them from your pedaling action. The shock was a Specialized design that Fox created. Available in 5 different trim levels with various components, the EPIC FSR boasts 90mm of active wheel travel and is destined to become the XC standard on raceday.
For more info and complete specs, visit Specialized.com.
Titus is one of the top names in the custom bike market. Long-known for their titanium frame creations, their aluminum full suspension bikes are proven winners. This year, Titus introduces refinements across the entire full suspension line.
Loco-Moto | Retail: $1,150 (frame only)
With adjustable single-pivot travel between 4″ and 4.75″, the Loco Moto comes with an entirely new front triangle. The shock can be mounted in one of four positions to change both travel and spring rate — customizing the performance of your bike. As usual, Titus offers a myriad of colors and shock choices with your Loco.
Switchblade | Retail: $1,695 (frame only)
Totally redesigned for 2003, the Switchblade is one of the most versatile trailbikes on the planet with adjustable travel positions just one click away. The FOX Talas shock offers on-the-fly adjustability between 3.75″, 4.5″ and 5.6″, all with the flick of a lever on the side of the piggyback. Using the FSR rear triangle, the Switchblade is a proven design.
Quasi-Moto | Retail: $1,995 (frame only)
The Titus Quasi-Moto has been redesigned for 2003 to accomodate a new seat platform, linkage plate and the option of a OnePointFive head tube. It continues with its bone-crushing performance and adjustable 4.5″ and 6″ travel options. The chain and seatstays have been widened to accomodate up to 3″ tire widths. The Quasi allows you to bomb to the bottom and pedal back up with 3 chainrings.
Super-Moto | Retail: $2,395 (frame only)
Totally new for 2003, the Super-Moto is a killer World Cup-level DH machine for you speed freaks. With adjustable travel options of 8″ and 9″ via a 3-position rate adjustment, the Super-Moto will go downhill faster than you ever thought possible. Only available with 12mm thru axle dropouts in the rear, the Super-Moto will be one stiff DH rig!
Turner Suspension Bikes
Turner pioneered the rocker-arm design in full suspension and continue as the undisputed leader in that design to this day. On top of their beautiful rocker-arm designs, the Turner Sled Series of bikes offers world-class dowhnill and bikercross bikes that soak up anything in their path.
Using load-bearing bushings at all pivot locations, Turner claims these bushings are better suited for the rocking motion of suspension as opposed to the rolling motion of a skateboard wheel. Detailed features such as microlube grease ports at all bushing locations and meticulous paint finish the unbeatable Turner package.
The entire Turner line has changed for 2003 with the introduction of new bikes and refined features.
Turner DHR | Retail: $2,595 (frame only)
The DHR continues as one of the most sought after downhill rigs on the planet. With absolutely bomber construction and suspension offering 8.5″ travel, the Turner DHR will take a beating and come back for more.
Turner Lucky 7 | Retail: $2,100 (frame only)
The new 2003 Turner Lucky 7 is basically the old RFX on steroids. It features nearly the same frame, tubing and angles, but with a new 7″ rocker and different stroke shock. It also comes standard with a OnePointFive steerer. This enables you to use a 1.5 headset reduced to 1-1/8″ for use with a DH fork such as the Marzocchi Super T Pro. Now with a very versatile 7″ of travel, you can climb to the top and descend with the best downhillers around.
Turner 5 Spot | Retail: $1,895 (frame only)
Filling in the void left by the RFX, the new 5 Spot is basically a beefed-up XCE. The new rocker and shock allows for a plush 5″ of travel. This bike is best mated with a 5″ travel fork such as the Marzocchi Z1 FR. Undoubtedly, this bike will be one of the best climbing and descending trailbikes out there.
Yeti Cycles has long been building bomber dowhnill frames and trusty hard-tails. The Golden, Colorado company continues to stoke riders with their bomber Lawwill-equipped DH-9 and the new AS-X freeride machine. Not to be outdone by the single-pivot competition, the AS-X is a great option for the freerider on a budget, who still wants the wow factor of having a killer, custom-built frameset.
All bikes are available as a frame only or completely decked out with Yeti’s custom build kits.
DH-9 | Retail: $2,499 (frame only)
The DH-9 features a monococque frameset and the patented Lawwill suspension design, delivering a plush 9″ of suspension travel. The best thing about this World Cup DH rig is the pedaling efficiency and near-vertical wheelpath. The DH-9 also features 20mm thru-axle rear dropout and eccentric shock mount that allows for a wide range of setup adjustment.
AS-X | Retail: $1,299 (frame only)
Yeti really stepped up the AS-X for 2003, pulling it into direct competition with the best single-pivot freeride bikes. Dialed in with the super-plush Progressive 5th Element shock and a OnePointFive standard head tube, this frame is ready to take you to the next level. The rear suspension is adjustable between 6″ and 7″ quickly and easily. I’m sure Santa Cruz is looking really hard at its newest competition, the Yeti AS-X.