Over the last few years, the term “trailbike” has taken on new meaning for the bike industry. It refers to the 5-6″ travel steed that’s not light enough for XC racing, but not quite burly enough for DH racing. Many of these bikes do a pretty decent job at everything, but I’d like to suggest that there’s really no need for such a bike. As suspension designs are refined and new shock technologies are introduced, 6-8″ travel bikes are becoming more and more efficient every day. And, most importantly, once the trail points downhill, nothing beats 6″ or more of plush, oil-damped suspension… NOTHING!
This spring and summer, we’ll get our hands on a few stellar bikes that fit into what I’ll call, the “new class of trailbikes.” If you’re going to have an all-around suspension bike, you might as well maximize the fun factor and get one that will give you the confidence to go faster, bigger and harder than before. You want a bike that will get you out of sketchy situations and make you feel like a king… you want one of the real trailbikes!
NORCO PERFORMANCE BIKES
NORCO Performance Bikes is the largest bike manufacturer in the Great White North–home of maple syrup and beer. These guys know now to make bombproof bikes at great prices. And, with the exchange rate, they come in at great prices. Tested and proven on the North Shore of British Columbia, Norco bikes will stand up to heaps of abuse.
With a new frame design last year, the Norco Shore returns for 2004 refined and ready for punishment. This rig has been used on British Columbia’s North Shore for years. Decked out with Specialized’s patented Horst Link for smooth pedaling and braking, the Shore is ready for any climb and can bomb any descent your body can handle. Adjustable from 6-7″ of travel, the Norco Shore will dial in any trail.
New for 2004, the Norco Six is based on the trail-friendly Fluid platform, but is extended just enough to be a free-trail bike. Boasting 6″ in front via the ultra-smooth Marzocchi Z150 and 6″ in the rear using the proven FOX Vanilla RC, the Norco Six is relatively lightweight, yet strong enough to handle anything you and dish out. If you think this might be the steed for you, you’d better act quickly–word is that Norco totally sould out of this baby before January!
For 2004, Kona continues to push their proven rocker-arm suspension design into more travel options and styles. This year, same type of high-quality bikes they’ve always been known for. The Kona Stinky has been the staple of Kona’s freeride offering for years, now they are introducing his little brother, the Coiler.
Kona Coiler Dee-Lux
Brand new for 2004, the Kona Coiler Dee-Lux sports an even 5″ of travel front and rear. This bike represents the low end of the spectrum in travel, but that doesn’t mean it lacks the squish or that it can’t hang with the best of them. Coming in at a svelte 33 lbs., this bike could run circles around nearly every other bike featured here, yet still hold its own on the downhill. Based on the popular Stinky, the Coiler is also a great value at $2499 MSRP. Decked out with the solid Marzocchi Z1, the Coiler Dee-Lux will be smooth going up and down your local trails.
Headed by Pippin Osborne, Banshee Bikes are “Built to Last Longer than You” and that’s no joke! Every frame that leaves the Banshee factory comes complete with a 10 YEAR WARRANTY! They even say on their site that they subscribe to the “send parts now, ask questions later” warranty replacement policy! The bottom-line is that Bansee Bikes will stand up to all the punishment you can dream of, but if you do run into problems, they will take care of you. Built in British Columbia, but ready to ride anywhere, you’ll be stoked in the saddle of a Banshee.
The “Chappy”, as many like to call it, is the perfect mix of DH, North Shore and trail riding. If set up with either a FOX or Progressive coil-over shock, the Chaparral provides an adjustable 5″-6″ of super-smooth rocker-arm travel. The rocker-arm design is used by top frame manufacturers like Turner, Ventana, Ellsworth and others because it provides one of the most supple and smooth rides while maintaining a level of torsional rigidity strong enough for He-Man. The Chaparral is no lightweight frame (around 10 lbs.), but it’s on par with most bikes in the category. Most of all, with such a quality product, this might be the last bike you’ll ever buy!
FOES Racing is no stranger to competition. In fact, the fabled Mono frameset has won way too many DH races to begin counting. Tested by many pro riders, Foes framesets have proven their worth many times over. New for this year is the long-travel trailbike, the Inferno. Also in the freeride/free-trail category is the Fly.
The all-new FOES Inferno is touted as an all-day epic trailbike with enough travel to make all your saddle woes disappear. With 7.5″ of squish powered by a slick Curnutt shock. The Curnutt shock is the gold-standard as far as shocks go and on the Inferno, the Curnutt produces big-time. Using a modified single-pivot design and floating brake to reduce brake-jacking, the Inferno should prove to be a solid, all-around, low-maintenance machine. Lighter than the Fly, climbing should be a breeze.
Santa Cruz Bicycles has consistently produced high-quality, durable bikes for years. Last year marked the introduction of the VPP design to the masses with the Blur trailbike. This year, the VPP is being extended to the freeride market dressed as the VP-Free
Santa Cruz VP-Free
The VP-Free crushes the freeride competition with a whopping 8.5″ of rear wheel travel. Course the VPP design provides nearly 2 inches of negative travel with over 6″ of positive squish. Still, it’s that negative travel that makes the VP-Free feel so smooth and connected to the trail. Every bump… every drop feels like nothing on this rig. Though its cousin, the Blur, will climb with the best of them, the VP-Free doesn’t yeild ascents without sweat. You’ll pay the price on the climbs, but be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams on the down. This bike is fun and will quickly have a loyal following for those who can wait their turn to get one.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN BICYCLES
Rocky Mountain has been king of the freeride scene since the early days of the North Shore. But, after many years of obscurity, Rocky Mountain has a strong following in the States and a proven line of freeride and free-trail bikes to suit any taste. With powerful riders like Wade Simmons, Richie Schley and Thomas Vanderham, Rocky Mountain bikes have been proven time and time again.
Rocky Mountain Switch
The Rocky Mountain Switch has been much improved for 2004 and is now offered in three trim lines: Switch Pro, Switch SL and Switch. It’s also available as frame-only as the Wade Simmons Signature Model. With 6″ of rear travel and three shock options, the Switch offers bombproof quality and sound suspension design to deliver a capable all-around bike. The Switch Pro features the all-new Manitou Sherman + SPV 1.5 fork and the Manitou Swinger SPV shock. This year’s Switch Pro will definitely deliver.