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Sweating The Small Stuff At Crankworx 2019: Part 1

Photos Andrew Major

Crankworx 2019

I'm back up at Crankworx for a day of indulging my obsession for differentiating small gear details. There is much to talk about this year with brand new bikes from a few brands making their much publicized debuts as well as a number of products I haven't had a chance to lay my hands on yet.

I'm boiling it down to a three-part series of highlights and as always please hit me below with any questions or comments!

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Jeff from Bikeroom & Wheelthing (seen here reminding Unior/Devinci Factory rider Kirk McDowall about that time in 2011 that he lost to Jeff by 0.1 seconds at the Bear Mtn DH) joined me for a day of checking out cool stuff.

Retro Forward Design

Aesthetics are as personal as bike fit, but I'm absolutely into the latest long travel 29ers from Rocky Mountain and Specialized. There's been an abundance or art and ink already sacrificed to the new Slayer and Enduro so I won't go into great detail but suffice it to say I really dig the throwback 2XS/Pipeline and Demo 7 details on these new rigs.

It's a relatively young sport, but I hope seeing these bikes drives more companies to look at designs cues from their older bikes in the uphill battle of making bikes that don't look like a Session.

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Pedal up and crush trails on the way down. The coil-shocked 1998 2XS shares more than a passing resemblance with the new Slayer.

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The new Enduro harkens back to the Demo 7. Weight is kept as a low and centered as possible while the linkage configuration is designed to uncouple wheel path and shock progression.

A small detail I'm excited to see is both Rocky Mountain and Specialized touting that their new long travel bikes as dual-crown compatible. The air version of Formula's Nero DH fork can be lowered between 200mm and 170mm of travel and I predict other manufacturers will follow suit.

Polarizing Paintwork

There are some interesting colour palates and accents at Crankworx this year. Many are boldly polarizing for production bikes, perhaps none more so that than goes-with-nothing pinkish-red linkage highlight on Knolly's new gen-5 Warden bikes. Apparently I'm not the first to have asked, and yes it can easily be swapped out for a black one.

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When I think Knolly it's always a clear-over-raw aluminum frame that springs to mind. This golden-yellow is intensely more 'interesting'.

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The pink-red or red-pink on the Slayer is getting lots of affirmation. You really have to see it in person. (Yes, it would look better with a black spring)

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I think the new Demoduro looks freakin' awesome. I love (and own) pink bikes. I wish they'd recycled this stunning acid pink/acid lava finish instead of going flat matte.

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Marin calls the fun fade finish on this Alcatraz 'Miama Vice' and I think it's a great flagship for their drive to make budget bikes that aren't boring.

Suffice to say that pink is the colour for the 2020. It isn't one dominant pink but rather every company seems to have their own spin on using the colour, whether it's full gloss, full matte, highlights or just a bit of a hue mixed with red, it's everywhere. Notably more so on man-specific bikes.

The other paint trend that seems to be gaining traction is metallic finishes on carbon frames. Giant and Trek both had interesting examples that caught my eye with the new Liv Hail having one of the more interesting metallic-to-matte blends.

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To each their own, but I think Giant is boldly following Santa Cruz's lead by choosing women's paint finishes that are way better then their man-specific ones.

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My favourite finish at Crankworx is this murdered out Knolly Delirium. The crow-tastic graphics will be cleaned up for the production framesets.

A Bit Of Brilliance

Speaking of paint, I didn't know that Formula's signature purple fork lowers - which I love - are painted by one gentleman in Italy. Hence the small price difference between their black lowers and purple lowers. Heck, learn something new everyday. More interesting than that is the package that comes stock with an aftermarket Selva. In the box there are tools to remove the top caps and to remove the compression stack, the axle is convertible between tool-free and flush, and in a throwback to yesteryear there's even a shock pump included.

The compression stack is swap-able without taking the fork apart - zero oil loss - which makes it the easiest fork to custom tune on the market. The folks at Alba told me when they ship forks they come pre-tuned with their valving recommendation for a rider's weight, bike, and terrain.

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Formula's bled damper is the easiest to revalve on the market. It's a zero-oil-loss operation that can be performed without removing the damper from the fork.

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Pump the fork to 100psi, remove the blue compression dial, and swap out the valving with the included tool.

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The Selva's included axle can be run as a QR setup or a bolt-on requiring a 5mm to remove. This a 15mm Boost setup.

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The lowers are identical between the Selva and Nero and can be run with 15mm or 20mm Boost hubs by changing the axles.

Not everything interesting is new, or retro-forward, sometimes a changing context brings an interesting relevance to an existing design. Case in point, long travel dropper posts require a lot of space inside a frame and at the same time for shorter riders tire clearance and seat tube length both become fitment issues.

I can remember Noel Buckley of Knolly explaining the unique look of his Gen-1 V-Tach to me sometime in 2004. He wanted to pair a full length seat tube with room to slam a 410mm Thomson seat post while maintaining clearance between the rear tire and saddle when bottoming the suspension.

As many of the shortest riders I know are looking to 150mm dropper posts, and the giants are shopping 200mm+, and 29" wheels continue to swallow more market share, and pedal-able long travel bikes* are poised to make a massive comeback it will be very interesting to see how companies address the competition for space mid-bike.

*Can we all just agree to use the word freeride again?

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This gorgeous Liv-Giant is a placeholder for any number of frames where the linkage interferes with seat post insertion. I just happened to take a lot of photos of it.

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Love it or lump it aesthetically, Knolly has long held the keys to combining full travel with full length seat posts thanks to their 4x4 link and forward seat tube offset.

Ferda Groms

There is a plethora of interesting product being released for the growing mid to high-end grom market. From full suspension kids bikes to companies like SDG and ProTaper releasing systems to get around the minimum grip diameter of a 22.2mm* bar.

Brands like Scott, Trek, and Specialized are all making really interesting rigid kids bikes with plus sized tires instead of suspension forks, but none of those brands appeared to put any focus on these machines at Crankworx. By contrast, Commencal's booth showcased some awesome rides for little humans.

*7/8" if you ride moto or are a Cooper-level pedantic.

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This disc brake equipped runner is in contention for best looking bike in the Commencal booth and that's taking nothing away from their other entries.

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Textured foot support. Is it for cruising downhills, pumping the bike at the track, or chilling while getting a push up a steep climb? Yes.

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I applaud Commencal's brand managers for finding a legit application for the Level brake. I'd still like to see Codes on every other SRAM build.

There's an interesting mix of companies finding ways to pry open wallets for performance kids bikes and creating value by trying to make them last longer. From flip-chips at Spawn making their bikes compatible with multiple wheelsizes to Manitou's shot across the bow of the world of performance kids bicycle forks.

Hook 'em young. I suspect Manitou will look back on the Junit as their re-Genesis when they look at their OE and aftermarket sales of adult-sized forks in a decade.

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I appreciate that ProTaper's tiny diameter bar & grip system doesn't require a special size of brake clamp. Any 22.2 lever will do.

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Spawn is all about the flip chips to help bikes grow with kids needs. I think the next step is to combine this with a reach adjusting headset system.

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This 20" model is the third most interesting Manitou fork I saw at Crankworx. How's that for some foreshadowing?

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Spawn's crankset is using the SRAM three bolt standard so there are an infinite number of replacement chain ring options.

Don't forget to check out Part 2 now live on!

Please hit me with any questions or comments below.

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+1 Andrew Major

The last generation Knolly raw frames were just raw with no clear coat over top. I thought the current raw frames were the same.

I agree that Knolly red link has got to go. They are really into red and orange this generation of frames. If you want a frame without any red or orange on it you have slim pickings or you have to swap out parts or strip the paint off your new frame.

I like the crow design and hope they'll have one raw/black frame option for each model for folks that are not into bright colours.


+1 AlanB

I actually don't mind the pink-red-orange linkage on the Knolly frames but it's certainly a polarizing part that is easily swapped out. 

I had friends who had the true RAW Knolly frames that would oxidize and require polishing if you wanted to keep them looking mint. According to the website, the raw frames are truly raw (no paint) but it was my understanding that at least going back to the Gen.4 frames (Fugitive and on are Gen.5) there was a clear finish. 

I've reached out to Knolly to confirm.




It's great you can swap out the link, but there are other orange accents on the new Fug/Warden frames as well. I just figure make the raw frames raw/black and then go nuts with the colour pallet on the rest. Just my opinion I realize. 

My 2017 purchases raw Endo frame looks good and has never had any special attention. Maybe it's not "mint", but I think it looks as good as any 3yr old MTB that gets ridden regularly through coastal BC winters.



That’s my point re. the raw frames. Three+ years of riding - they need zero maintenance; whereas, raw mules, or the first raw frames Knolly sold, would oxidize - if you didn’t polish them up they looked dull and dirty fairly quickly.

It was late, and Knolly’s swamped with all the new stuff they’ve put out, so Noel is going to give me some more info when he has time.


Colourways, so hard to please everyone!



You're totally right Vik - there must be more to the finish story since the current raw finish is much different than the first ones; however, Noel says that the frames are raw with no clearcoat.



+1 Andrew Major

I saw the last years (?) pink Specialized Demo on the back of a car this weekend. It really stands out and looks great! Definitely a bit brighter than the new enduro’s shade.



This acid pink Stumpy fade paint job really has to be seen in person to be appreciated. I can't think of a paint job that translates worse to the web.


+1 Andrew Major

Have you seen the black sparkly rainbow coloured Liv Hail? I’m jealous.



Yep, great looking bike - I think. But then my taste in bicycle colourways has been questioned more than once!


+1 Andrew Major

Nero R is the fork I want to own. 

Formula needs to get a version with less than 50mm offset out soon. Selva R needs to go sub 46mm too. 

Wonder if Alba/Formula have any info on when/if it’ll happen.



Fork offset is far from settled in the DH world and castings cost a lot of money. I’m surprised more companies aren’t offering multiple aftermarket crowns a la Öhlins - could sell a combo pack!

The 29’er offset game is also all over the map at the bike nerd level but it’s pretty settled when buying a bike and Selva R 29” is available with 46mm or 51mm which covers the OE market.

46mm seems to have won for now whether it works better with a particular frame geometry or not.

Lowers are a significant investment so I won’t hold my breath for a lower number. What offset are you looking for?

I think the time is absolutely right for a company to start offering a front hub with multiple offset options - like Ride-9 for your front wheel. The ability to experiment back and forth removes the ‘I just bought this so it’s better’ factor and adjusting over a range instead of choosing between a few set numbers makes more sense for folks thinking that hard about offset.

Free idea for any creative machinist that wants to get cracking.


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