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650b has traction at Sea Otter

Published April 23, 2012

MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN) Monday April 23 2012 9:05 AM MT—Retailers remain divided over whether 650b is a good thing for the bike business, but product on display as well as booth talk at this year’s Sea Otter Classic expo reaffirmed that the in-between wheel size is gaining broad industry acceptance.

Intense and Norco each had prototypes in 27.5-inch on display, expo-goers were eager to learn about the four models offered by Jamis, and KHS’ new five-model lineup was well represented at its booth.

Sal Crochiola, MTB product manager for Jamis, said the company is nearly sold out of its two 650b hardtails for 2012. While he acknowledged seeing some complaint from dealers about taking on a third mountain wheel size in addition to 26- and 29-inch, Crochiola said that’s far eclipsed by retailer enthusiasm.

“We have way more that have been on the bike and believe in it,” he said.

While Jamis will maintain its current count of four 650b bikes going into the 2013 model year, but that number could grow to 10 models for 2014, Crochiola said.

At its Sea Otter booth, Norco showed a sturdily built prototype 650b bike with 160 millimeters of travel, and plans call for an additional 2013 model with less travel, said Dustan Sept, PR marketing coordinator for the Canadian supplier.

Intense Cycles displayed two new 650b bikes, based on its Tracer 2 aluminum and Carbine carbon fiber 26-inch bikes.

While the 160-millimeter (at max travel) Tracer 27.5 was a wholly new design built at Intense’s factory in Southern California, the 152-millimeter (also at max travel) Carbine 27.5 uses the front triangle and swingarm of its 26-inch brother. Since the 26-inch Carbine has replaceable dropouts, Intense engineered and new dropout that moves the rear axle rearward and upward, creating enough room to keep a 2.35-inch tire from hitting the seat tube and keeping the bottom bracket low, said Intense founder Jeff Steber.

RockShox did not display its coming 650b Revelation fork, but some booth bikes, including Intense’s Tracer 27.5, were outfitted with it. The fork is due to go into production in June and come in three models, said RockShox product manager Jed Douglas. Travel will range from 130 to 150 millimeters.

Magura, meanwhile, showed its new TS8-150 fork for 650b, with 150 millimeters of travel and Magura’s distinctive dual-arch lowers. The company will have production forks available to ride at its press camp in Sedona, Arizona, next month, said Tony Ballantine, sales manager for Magura USA.

On the wheel side, Enve showed its high-end carbon 27.5-inch wheelset, and DT Swiss, responding to strong OE request, also has 650b wheels on the way, though it did not display any at Sea Otter.

Tires, once available in only a handful of options, are no longer a barrier to entry for 650b, with models available from such Sea Otter attendees as Kenda, Schwalbe and WTB.

Vee Rubber has six 650b tires in its current catalog, but Jim Wannamaker, the company's North American bicycle sales and marketing manager, expects to have 10 available by the time the Eurobike trade show rolls around this summer. In the meantime, he said requests for 650b tire samples are flying in from numerous bike suppliers, both in North America and Europe.

“It’s here. It’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Related: All BRAIN's coverage of the 2012 Sea Otter Classic

—Toby Hill
thill@bicycleretailer.com

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