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Interbike Tech: Outdoor Demo, day 1

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Sep. 12, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:52 PM EDT
The full-carbon Specialized Camber Pro is a good-climbing, nimble-descending lightweight cross country bike with a full 120m of travel and a 100mm-travel Command Post BlackLite “dropper” seatpost. Photo: Lennard Zinn © VeloNews

BOULDER CITY, Nev. (ST) — The trails at Bootleg Canyon for the Interbike Outdoor Demo are, as always, dry and hot (high 80s to low 90s), but at least they’re not as hot as they were a couple of weeks ago (over 110F!). But some new bikes and components are hotter than ever.

Specialized bikes and post

I rode the mid-travel cross-country Specialized Camber Pro carbon 29er on some of the dusty, rocky, volcanic trails here and came away impressed. It climbs great, and when you consider that it has 120mm of travel, it’s especially impressive. Steep grades don’t put you in the back seat; the suspension stays high and, while it’s quite active, gives no sense of bobbing and sucking up your pedaling energy. Going downhill, it’s not super plush, but it has enough travel to give lots of control on rough trails at high speed.

The bike is quite light, also belying the long travel (remember when 120mm was as much travel as the biggest downhill bikes had?) and big wheels. There is still an S-Works model above this one that’s even lighter, but there are no samples of that one here. There are also three more Camber models below the Pro, to fit more pocketbooks.

“This is the Stumpjumper for the East Coast,” quipped one Specialized mechanic. And with the Stumpjumper now at 140mm travel, the Camber 29er now takes over the fast, lightweight, long-travel cross-country (“mid travel” overall) niche.

The handlebar-remote-controlled Specialized Command Post BlackLite has a number of features shared with no other adjustable-height seatpost. Like most others, it is (adjustable air) spring-operated, but unlike them, it is not hydraulic. Rather than the rider sitting on a column of oil (and having infinite position options within the travel range), this one has a mechanical collet opened by pull on the remote cable. The collet locks into one of the three height positions, and its self-adjusting dual keyway is supposed to eliminate side-side play of the saddle.

The red cylindrical cable clamp and cable ferrule pulled out of the cable hook on the linkage and the cable stop of the seatpost head, respectively. Now the Command Post BlackLite seatpost can be removed and installed in another bike that already had the cable set up this way. Photo: Lennard Zinn © VeloNews

A totally unique feature is the quick-release of the cable, which allows the rider to have a single, expensive ($300) Command Post BlackLite and multiple cables and remote levers connected to various bikes. The cable can be disengaged and re-engaged without tools. Due to a slotted cable stop on the head of the post and a cutaway on one side of the cylindrical cable-hook hole at the end of the release link, you can pop the cable out and then rotate the cylindrical cable clamp until the cable disengages from the top of the release linkage. You then pull the cable clamp out of the link, freeing the post to move to another bike.

The Command Post BlackLite I rode has 100mm of travel; the Enduro model has 125mm, and the XC model has 75mm. As advertised, this one had no side-side slop, although it’s probably brand new, too. It drops instantly 100mm with your weight on it when flipping the bar lever, and it snaps back to the top instantly again when flipping the lever with your weight off of it. The middle, “cruiser” position is much harder to hit, however. When riding on a smooth surface and carefully dropping your weight with the button released, you can find the middle click. But it’s hard to do anything other than go right past it in either direction on bumpy stuff. It’s a useful position when you can hit it, though; you’re likely to use it under conditions where you can find it. The frictional clamp with the crosswise through-bolt requires a lot of torque on the bolt, however, or it will slip when hitting a big bump sitting on the saddle on one of the low positions, tipping the saddle back.

Neon is back!

The FSA Gravity Light line of aluminum stems, bars, and seatposts brings back the neon green we’ve all been missing so much. Now if we can only find one of those old neon green Suntour MTB groups to go with it …

Now that's a bright green seatpost! Photo: Lennard Zinn © VeloNews

Kurvy
The Fizik Kurve saddles have applicability for on-dirt conditions. The front “tuner” is really a little shoehorn piece that allows the rider to compress the “Mobius” loop-shape saddle rail and put the saddle under tension. The “soft” tuner is shorter than the “hard” one, so the saddle is under less tension with it. Especially on the soft setting, you can feel the saddle moving and complying under your sit bones; the “TwinFlex” woven fibers surrounded by a carbon frame allow that area to move.

I really liked the feel; I chose the one shaped like the Antares, which is my favorite saddle currently; Kurve is also offered in the shape of the Arione and Aliante as well. I can imagine applicability for both adjustments of the saddle and would probably use both tuners frequently. I liked the feel of the saddle on the soft setting riding a hardtail on rough trails, and I liked the feeling of the hard setting on the road bike on smooth ground. I could imagine using it for a cyclocross bike or a hardtail cross-country bike and adjusting the saddle flex to the course. The one downside was that it creaked with the hard elastomer in there; I would try it again with some grease on it next time.

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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