November 6, 2008

What will happen to the old 29ers?

I’ve been thinking about the new geometry configurations for 29er suspension forks for a while (and been designing around them for the last 6 months or so). And I’m a little bummed that more isn’t being done to keep the old-style forks in production.

Now don’t get too upset – I think both of these companies are great, and their products work quite well. I’m just amazed that reverse compatibility has been thrown out the window. 44, 46, or 51mm rake forks will generally NOT work well with a 29er with, say, a 72 or 72.5 degree head tube angle, which is what the vast majority of the older frames out there have.

Is the new rake a step forward? In general, yes. 45mm or so of rake probably should have been the original standard, but it wasn’t, and many people who bought a bike assuming they’d keep it for a long time, and be able to get replacement parts, now find themselves without much in the way of fork options. There are NOS forks from 2007 and earlier floating around, of course, and I think you can still buy 38mm rake lowers from RS if you’re desperate, but basically, if you’ve got an “old” geometry frame, sooner or later you’ll be SOL.

In a better world, we’d buy a product like a bike frame and then keep using it for a decade or so – but in reality, I think serious bike riders get a new bike every 18 months (this is a remembered statistic from BRAIN, and could easily be wrong). That means, I guess, that the fork companies really don’t care much – all of those 2005 Fisher Paragons, and almost every other older 29er will be in the landfill, or gathering dust, so there’s no need to keep making parts for them.

As an aside, I read a hilarious (well, sad) article on Bloomberg today about the poor economy/unemployment driving high sales at Walmart. Yeah, great – I lost my job, so I better go buy a bunch of disposable Chinese crap. I’m sure the economy will turn right around if we all do that…

Long story short, I’m now designing 29ers around the new ~45mm offset standard, which I think will have more staying power. I hope.