‘Gravel Warriors’ To Faster Fat: Innovations At Frostbike 2015

It’s the heart of winter. But bikes are on the minds of the dealers, shop owners, and reps who congregate at Frostbike, an annual trade show organized by Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minn., to give a peek at what’s soon coming to market.

We were on the Frostbike scene this past weekend to scope out new bike gear for 2015 and beyond. Here’s an inside look at a few of the two-wheel innovations we found on the show floor.

Urban To Trail — All City Cycles has evolved over the years from an urban/fixie brand into a premium provider of fast steel bikes, geared and singlespeed alike. The Nature Boy 853 caught attention at FrostBike with its carbon fork, disc brakes, and a cyclocross-geometry frame that is built to race trails, double-track, gravel, or a ride through the city.

Leaf-Spring Fat Fork — Iceland-based Lauf Forks offers a different kind of bike fork — it uses a leaf-spring setup instead of traditional suspension. At Frostbike the brand showed off a prototype fat-bike fork.

It will offer 60mm of travel and fits tires up to 4.8 inches wide. (Related: GearJunkie awarded Lauf with a ‘Top Gear Award’ for 2014.)

‘Racing Matters’ — That is the new tag line for Foundry Cycles, which makes for something of a 180-turn for a brand that launched a couple years ago as a line of “do-all” carbon bikes. The flagship model is no longer carbon but titanium, the Overland (pictured), and it’s a gravel racer that can do cyclocross, too.

Fender mounts are included. The Overland can take big rubber, with clearance for 41mm tires. It comes with a primo price tag of $4,695 complete.

Chainring Upgrades — Wolf Tooth Components’ fat-bike ready 64 BDC (bolt circle diameter) chainrings in puny 26- and 28-tooth sizes caught our eye. They are meant to mount to the inside bolts of your double (or triple) cranks. Another upgrade: The 104 BDC bash-guard can be paired with the above rings to create an ultimate bush-whacking drivetrain. (Currently available in 30-tooth or smaller; more sizes coming soon.)

Bash-guard-equipped chainring from Wolf Tooth

The company showed its chainrings coming soon in stainless steel, a great upgrade. These will be offered first in 24-tooth size.

‘Ovalized’ chainring

Finally, something that caught attention (though we only saw it in a 3D printed version in person) was the Wolf Tooth “elliptical” or “ovalized” chainring. Its non-symmetrical shape transfers power differently as you pedal. Look for a 104 BDC version in either 32- or 34-tooth size available next month (March 2015).

Gravel Warrior — Salsa’s flagship gravel grinder has been completely redesigned to improve comfort and flex profiles. The new Warbird Carbon Rival 22 replaces titanium with carbon fiber at the top tier offering. Geometry remains the same, but new thin, arched seatstays, horizontally-oriented chainstays, and a rear thru-axle are upgrades.

You won’t find bridges on either seatstay or chainstay — flex in all the right places is the aim. Fits tires up to 700×44mm and will sell for $3,500 complete with SRAM Rival 22 components.

Salsa Warbird Carbon Rival 22

An alloy version of the Warbird (6069 aluminum) allows for hydro-formed tubing, which gives lighter weight and also beats out last year’s titanium Warbird for comfort, Salsa hinted, with a claimed 6 percent gain in vibration reduction. That’s an impressive feat for a “base” model at $2,000 (with Tiagra set).

Arched seatstays on the Salsa Warbird

Both Warbird models have a lower stack height for a more aggressive position if desired. And new internal cable routing cleans up aerodynamics a bit. Still missing on this model: Rack bosses. Apparently, Salsa sees this as a race-day only rig.

Kid Racer — UK-based Early Rider makes premium kid bikes, including this sweet drop-bar model. It feels solid in the hand and looks super cool. The company notes: “Our road model with drop bars gives a lower center of gravity, enabling greater leg drive” for little rippers on the road.

The push-bikes are made for kids ages 1 – 4. The company also manufactures pedal-equipped bikes (below) for slightly bigger groms (up to about 6 years old). It has a belt drive (no greasy chain), brakes, and a mountain bike frame to cruise trails and jump.

Camo Bike — For the carnivorous types, the hunting-oriented Cogburn CB4 Fatbike is now offered in Kuiu’s trick, digi-look Verde camo pattern. Kuiu products typically appeal to the active, adventurous hunter, so a collaboration makes sense — and it looks pretty sweet, too.

Otherwise, the bike — which is marketed to hunters and can add a rack to tote a rifle or bow and arrows — remains unchanged for 2015.

Hang It Up — In the “that’s-pretty-cool-and-I-want-it” category, we found the Clothing Hangers by Velocity Wheels. The brand took a bike wheel rim, cut it in quarters, braided and bent some spokes into a hook shape, and thus designed the coolest clothing hangers a bike nerd has ever seen. Pack of four hangers cost $28.

Front To Back Fat — 45NRTH unveiled a pair of fat tires designed for use on the front and rear of the bike.

The wide, aggressive Flowbeist (front) and Dunderbeist (rear) tires are designed to be run in tandem, and they have front- and rear-specific tread patterns made for low rolling resistance while cruising along but grip while accelerating, cornering and braking. (See our full coverage in “Treaded: Front & Back Fat Tires.”)

Hard Hats — A few models from Belgian helmet-maker Lazer caught our eye. First, a price-point model, the Blade, is made for road biking and weighs a scant 250 grams.

Lazer Blade helmet

For mountain bikers, the Magma helmet is essentially the same lid, but with a visor. Both of these models combine good looks, good fit, come in three sizes, and retail for about $99.

Need for speed? The Lazer Wasp Air is a toned-down version of the original and extremely aero helmet. Gone is the full-length aero tail in favor of a more forgiving “bobbed” version.

For less disciplined riders, the shorter tail forgives sloppy form, Lazer cites. “When fatigue sets in, riders break optimal aero form and the tail can become a sail,” a spokesperson explained.

Lazer Wasp Air

Triathletes and amateur time-trial racers will love the lighter, cheaper ($300 vs. $400 for the original) model that also has flexible rubber ear flaps for faster transition area swaps.

Finally, Lazer hinted at its plans for an “Inclination Sensor” — this is a gauge that will fit into the rear of the Wasp helmet (see photo above) and warn by vibration or audio signal when the helmet is out of optimal aero angle. Riders can quickly adjust their form and stay fast. Availability and price TBD.

—T.C. Worley, Stephen Regenold, and Eric Lemke reported for this article. GearJunkie covers cycling every week on its Biking Category channel.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.