Airless Moon Tires, Inverted Push Fork: MTB Tech Spottings from Sea Otter 2023

When it comes to mountain bike tech, sometimes it's the little things that are the most interesting. Here's some of the coolest stuff we saw at Sea Otter.

Smart Tires

Back in 2021 we wrote about the airless bike tires being developed by The Smart Tire Company using NASA space technology. At Sea Otter last week we got to see a few samples in person, and it appears the tech is getting closer to viability. For starters, the exposed metal gridded structure seen in early photos and on NASA rovers is now covered in a plastic shell with a grippy rubber strip glued on top of that.

Smart Tires feature a wire grid at the core that’s constructed using a special shape memory alloy material. The material is deformable but returns to its original shape, much like a traditional pneumatic tire, and is said to have very low rolling resistance thanks to the material’s ability to return most of the energy lost as it flexes. Based on the layout and wire shape, Smart says tires can be tuned to mimic a range of tire pressures so mountain bikers can buy, say a 20psi-equivalent tire.

Since the tire tread is simply glued in place, there’s less waste (and expense) once the tread is worn; buyers can just purchase another strip. There’s no air in the tire which means no flats, and even if a few wires are damaged, we’re told the tire should keep its shape.

There’s still no word on availability, though it sounds like pricing could be around $110 per tire, and buyers should be able to install them at home on a standard rim. In the future it’s possible the structure could be integrated directly into a rim as a simple and complete package.

Daysaver multi-tool system

Daysaver is working on another multi-tool system as a follow-up to the Essential8, and the Swiss founder has created a unique method for customizing the bit selection. Most of us are carrying around a multi-tool with one or two tools that we don’t need for our bikes (and it’s probably missing one or two other tools that we do need).

The solution: allow users to customize bits by connecting the pieces they need, and leave everything else at home. Tiny magnets click two sides together, and we’re told once connected, it’s almost impossible for them to come apart. Which is good because we’ve lost plenty of tiny tools and bike parts while making repairs on the trail over the years!

Pirelli makes it easier to cut your tires

Pro racers have been modifying their mountain bike tires for many years now, though the practice hasn’t traditionally been endorsed by brands. Now Pirelli is making it a little easier to cut select knobs off tires like the Scorpion Race Enduro T shown above, by scoring certain knobs for a cleaner cut. The process still isn’t for the faint of heart, as there are a lot of knobs to cut, not to mention the risk that you’ll damage the tire. Still, some buyers will appreciate having the option.

We got a sneak peak at Pirelli’s upcoming gravity tires. They’ll have a wide range of gravity tires with heavy duty casings for both enduro and downhill. They’ll likely weigh between 1,200-1,500g and the samples we poked at are very sticky. We’re hoping to learn more about them later this year.

Inverted fork from Push Industries

The premium shock brand is very tight lipped about their forthcoming inverted mountain bike fork, but that didn’t stop them from showing it off at Sea Otter. No specs are available at this time, and we’re told the guards seen in the photos were 3D printed and that they will be injection moulded once the fork is released.

More ways to attach more things to your frame

Several years ago mountain bikers were lucky to get a single set of bottle cage mounts on their frame. Today, we’re seeing an explosion of mounts, trap doors, and anchor points for holding just about everything. One of our favorites is the tool roll spot on the Salsa frame shown above. The perch features a rubberized coating to keep your roll from sliding around, and there’s a channel for a Velco strap built right into the frame.

In-frame storage on the Liv Intrigue LT Advanced Pro.

In-frame storage is pretty great, though many of the options out there aren’t easy to use or intuitive to figure out by looking at them. This trap door on a Liv frame uses a simple knob that’s obvious and simple to twist even with gloved hands.

This Reverse Components can holder that was on display at the Outbound Lighting booth is pretty slick, making it easy to carry a Coke, fizzy water, or non-alcoholic beer to enjoy at the top of the climb.

Vittoria Air-Liner Light is, well light

The Vittoria Air-Liner Light is designed for XC racing where weight is a factor and a flat tire can mean the difference between winning and losing. The material feels softer and squishier than the other Air-Liners we’ve seen, and unlike earlier Vittoria tire inserts, there is no zip tie involved, promising a quicker and easier installation process. It’s designed to work with 25-30mm wide rims and like other liners, it adds lateral stability to tires and additional damping characteristics.

1UP e-bike rack can hold big bikes, adds wheel stabilizer

If you need to haul heavy e-bikes — and not just Class 1, but electric motorcycles — this new 1UP e-bike rack has some nice features like a ramp and an optional wheel stabilizer to keep everything secure while using the traditional tire-hold design. We’re told the 1UP XD tray is rated to carry bikes that weigh up to 125lb.

Selle Italia has a 3D-printed saddle cover that feels great and looks pretty cool too. 3D printing allows designers to dial in firmness and softness where it’s needed, and the cover is glued to the base for a seamless look. Sister brand San Marco has a 3D-printed saddle as well.

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