Steamboat Springs Newer, more comfortable, stronger and lighter all work. But the easiest way to describe the new wave of products showing up in local bicycle shops this spring is just to say they're better.
The new Rocky Mountain Altitude bike, available starting at $3,499 at Ski Haus in Steamboat Springs, is an example of the continued progress of the mountain bike industry.
"It has a deep seat angle, so you sit more forward and centered on the bike," James Koch, of Ski Haus, explained. "With a traditional mountain bike, your position sags when you sit on it, and the pedals get to be more in front of you. With this one, they sag into a sweet spot, so you can continue to push down on the pedals instead of out. It gives you a lot more pedal power and traction, especially for steeper climbs."
Outside of the facts that both have handlebars, two wheels and snazzy paint jobs, the Altitude bears little in common with its predecessor, also available at Ski Haus for $2,274.
A swept-back frame has replaced the more traditional design.
"This is a complete new design," Koch said. "It's definitely going to climb better for a longer travel bike. Instead of having super-short travel cross-country bikes, you can have a comfortable, longer travel bike that climbs just as well. The suspension and geometry are much more efficient."
Elsewhere, older technologies have started to filter down to lower-priced bikes.
The Dixon, by Swobo, has the rough, gray metal look of a Detroit factory. As premium mountain bikes go, it's a very reasonable $1,099, too. But tucked into the tame-appearing frame is years of innovation. The bike features sealed disc brakes and an internal shifting system.
"Internal shifting is going to become much more mainstream, as it's become more reliable and lighter weight," Orange Peel's Essam Welch said. "You don't have a derailer to kick around and mess up the settings on. It takes less maintenance. It's safe from the elements."
A $2,100 carbon fiber framed bike, also at Orange Peel, is another example of formerly out-of-reach technologies filtering down to become reasonable for the casual rider.
"That's the lowest price we've ever had a carbon fiber model at," Welch said. "It's not new at all. It's been around in bikes for years, but a highly tuned, nice carbon fiber bike is now within the general public's price point.
"It's unmatched as far as performance goes by any bike in the last 10 years made of other materials."
Development hasn't been left just to the bikes themselves.
The Lazar Urbanize N'Light bike helmet, available for $100 at Orange Peel, incorporates a set of lights into the helmet.
A small, bright LED light looks out the front while a larger red light is in the back. It won't replace a lighting system meant to show the way, but the system could make a late-evening ride along a road safer.
It doesn't have the sleek, aerodynamic design of a $180 racing helmet. Instead, it might be ideal for the around-town commuter.
The Kinetic trainer, available for $349 at Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare in downtown Steamboat Springs, was new to the market last spring. Still, Ski and Bike Kare's Bill Kipper said they have proven to be hot items again this year. The idea is to allow bikers to get a good, long ride in, no matter the weather. The device picks up the back of the bike frame and offers resistance to the back wheel, adding a little workout to a winter living room ride.
Plus, the model is built so as not to leak oil or grease onto an owner's carpet, a problem that has hampered similar devices.
"It's a self-contained unit, so you have no chance of oil ever escaping out," Kipper said. "A lot of people use trainers over the winter or when they can't get out on the trails here."