Local shops get in gear with latest and greatest in 2007 mountain bike fleet

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As the mountain singletrack slowly dries out, dedicated bikers' appetites only become wetter when imagining putting tire to trail.

"Spring time is big for us - the shop's busy, and I get cranking," Wheels Bike Shop owner Chris Johns said. "People want to get out of town, to Fruita, Moab or Vernal. They get their legs, come back and the trails start to open up : It's also a time of year when people aren't saving for a ski pass, are getting tax returns and starting construction jobs, so when that chairlift stops, people that want to put money into their bikes can buy better quality - you have less repairs and make it a more enjoyable experience so that you just can't wait for after work to go for a ride."

Steamboat Springs has no shortage of experts ready to set riders up with a custom cycling dream machine. The sky's the limit for locals who have the resources to hand build any conceivable bike design.

"With mountain bikes, there are so many variables," Eriksen Cycles creator Kent Eriksen said. "We have to narrow it down by asking where they live and like to ride, then they can come demo a model and we can go from there."

When the titanium tube crafter hits the trails, he prefers one of his "29er" frames that feature larger 29-inch wheels.

"There's a more gyroscopic feel on a 29-inch wheel where it's harder to tip, you can't endo and it goes through everything," Eriksen said. "I started to drop behind some of the faster guys, but with a hard-tail 29er, you can jump that gap and stay with anybody versus a regular 26-inch cross-country rig."

On Thursday, Eriksen put the final touches on a batch of six new "96er" frames that combine a 29-inch front wheel with a standard 26-inch back wheel.

But buyers who prefer to spend the $3,000 these frames cost on an entire bike still have plenty of options with the new line-up of 2007 models from a slew of top manufacturers.

"This is the best model run we've ever had," Steamboat Bike Kare owner Mike Parra said.

Parra's shop is a dealer for Trek/Gary Fisher, Giant, Santa Cruz and Scott, but during the past four years, Parra said he's been "evangelical" about Santa Cruz's Blur model line.

"Mountain Bike Action just called it the 'trail bike of the century,'" he said. "And the reason is the virtual pivot point on the rear triangle that helps the shock elongate through pedal pressure."

While the low-end of the Blur line starts around $2,500, Parra said cutting-edge competition between the largest companies finally has resulted in loaded bike packages at $2,000 that weigh less than 30 pounds and include dual suspension, hydraulic brakes, solid components and shocks with more than four inches of travel.

Take the 26.5-pound HiFi, the lightest frame Gary Fisher has ever produced, or the Fuel EX9, part of the improved Trek line that Parra rides on and which starts at $1,600.

In this same price range, Ski Haus' Todd Fellows rides on and recommends the tried and true Specialized Stumpjumper model, which is celebrating its 26th year in production

"Specialized is the biggest and the smartest, and they've got a group of cycling scientists out there to design a better mousetrap, so you can get the absolute most out of the bike," Fellows said of his shop's best-selling bike model, which ranges from the $2,200 Stumpjumper FSR Comp to the 28.5-pound FSR Pro, depending on how much you want to pay for the lighter components.

Johns looks to a manufacturer closer to home, as Steamboat's only Yeti dealer.

"It's like they're taking a Formula One race car and turning it into a street car," Johns said of the Golden-based company that exploded in Durango by offering hand-built solutions to race-specific needs.

This is the first year Johns has had a complete demo fleet of Yeti models for customers to test ride. Johns recommends Yeti's new 575, with a frame weighing in at 6.2 pounds and offering well more than five inches of travel, as Yeti's best mix of an ultimate trail bike at a more affordable price (starting at $2,700).

Brock Webster, owner of Orange Peel Bicycle Service shop, looks even closer to home. As the only Moots Cycles dealer in town, Webster said he has been selling the 29-inch wheel Mooto-X YBB's every time he can get one in.

"They're not new, per se, but they're always refining," Webster said of the custom YBB frames.

Webster's business thrives on the more niche, high-end (completed bikes selling from $3500 and up), where he brings in progressive products, such as the frames from Swiss manufacturer BMC and "builds to your dreams or budget."

For 2007, Webster highlighted the five-pound Ellsworth Truth cross-country frame with its patented suspension linkage system ($2,200).

With legs sore from his first annual ride up to the Emerald Mountain Quarry, Webster stayed busy arranging the rest of the custom, high-end demo fleet Thursday, getting ready for the other bikers who are anxiously waiting for their trails to harden.

-- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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