Since 1987 Ive owned mountain bikes from Yeti, Rocky Mountain, Cannondale, Giant, and Opus – and Answer bars have graced the cockpit on every one of them at one time or another. I still remember when MTB bars were measured against the performance of the Answer Taperlite and Hyperlite models. Just recently I came across an old Answer mountain bike circa 1993 at my buddy’s shop (pics below – yes those are slicks… don’t ask).
I got a chance to chat with Tom Porter, Product Manager for Answer Products, and we discussed some downright sexy new products the company is introducing to the Gravity / 4X / DJ scene. It turns out he and I share many of the same interests and hobbies as well a passion for mountain bikes and the surrounding technology. Tom shared a bit of his background and how he came to where he is at today at Hayes Bicycle Group, home of Answer Products, Manitou Suspension, Hayes Disc Brakes, Sun Rims, Sun Ringle Wheels, and Wheelsmith Spokes.
Coming from a family where Dad raced vintage sports cars and even a Can-Am car, Tom felt the need for speed at an early age. Being handy with a wrench, Tom started working at a bike shop around the same time mountain biking was taking off as a sport. Moving around in the industry with a stint at Waterford Precision Cycles (formally the Schwinn Paramount Factory), Tom then went to work for the Motorsports Composites Company making carbon fiber and kevlar body work for prestigious racing teams like Pratt & Miller and TWR for applications in 12-24 hour endurance racing. Thenin 1999, Tom moved to Hayes with a role in Technical Support. Quickly adapting to the new corporate model and with a firm understanding of the bicycle industry, he began managing and overseeing various aspects of MAG brake production which is highly regarded as one of the best hydraulic bike brakes ever made.
As Hayes continued to grow, Tom’s next opportunity was in the acquisition and integration of all the new brands and products that are now part of the Hayes Bicycle Group. Once this job was complete and feeling a connection with the Answer brand, Tom has returned back to the product side of the business in his current position as product manager for Answer Products. Just 15 months in, there are super cool components available and more great things coming!
Here’s what Tom had to say during our conversation.
How does Answer investigate and prioritize what has to be done to improve specific products?
We identify technology advances through the following process.
- Benchmark program of key competitor’s products and market trends.
- Internal FEA testing of models and extensive lab testing.
- Utilization of HTP (Hayes Test Program) Riders for the Research & Development of new components.
What kind of new products and other stuff are in the works for Answer?
We have a list of new components that we are launching throughout the year, starting off with the PRO Taper Alloy Bars.
Pro Taper alloy bars (are made from a) new 7050 alloy material (using the) same proven (4×8 degree geometry). Rise was lowered and width increased based on market trends and rider feedback. Goal: Lower mass/quicker steering input & comfortable riding position in a bar that looks hot and has a reasonable cost.
Pro Taper Carbon bars: geometry same as the 720AM bars but 33% lighter! By using Pro Taper technology we can put the material in the bars where it is needed most: the clamp and the rise areas. Goal: Lightweight, strong, comfortable bar for all-mountain use that looks the part.
I noticed that the bars pictured above are more geared towards the trial / DH rider – do you have plans to produce a flat XC version?
Yes we have a Pro Taper XC straight bar in the works. 660mm carbon flat bar with 3 degree back sweep. This will be available in early summer.
Along with the bars I noticed that you also release a few stems.
We have two at present, the first one, the Rove DH is made from 7075 alloy material with multi-position 45-50-55mm offset (reach) which allows the rider to adjust the position of the bar. (The) short position allows the rider to get weight over the rear wheel for steep trails and the long offset allows the rider to get weight more forward over the front wheel and suspension to increase front end grip. It also has a 62mm wide face plate which creates a stiff stem & bar interface. At 150 grams it’s one of the lightest DH stems on the market. With a 30mm x 50mm bolt spacing, this allows you to fit the stem on all 2005 Boxxer standard forks as well.
FEA screen shot depicting the loads on the stem.
The second stem in our lineup is the Rove DJ / 4-cross stem. Made from 7075 material with 35mm and 50mm offsets (reach) available. This stem can also be used on DH bikes as well with 1 1/8 steer tubes. 62mm wide face plate and a 10mm stainless steel star nut thru bolt for hydro hose routing for bar spins. Our goal with this stem was to create a tough, versatile stem carrying the Answer DNA.
We have a third stem in the works, our Rove all-mountain stem. Samples will be released soon. Check out the web site for more info.
A while back I had a few pedals sent my way did you want to mention them?
We have our Rove FR pedals – 16mm 6061 deck with concave shape. That allows great shoe interface on the platform deck. A 105mm x 110mm deck creates nice platform space for all shoe options. 10×10 pin deck with alloy pins are great for grip. Hex head pins allow for easy service and replacement with a metric socket wrench. Our goal was to create a durable, easily serviceable pedal with lots of rock clearance.
You also sent over a pair of grips that I personally liked very much, did you want to elaborate on the grips?
Yeah. We worked with ODI on development of 2 new sets of grips. The cross section on the Fall Line XC has a profile from thin to thick to thin (an ODI first) that reduces hand fatigue dramatically.
The DH grip features thin material and allows for easy hand position changes. Goal: consistent feel / sticky grips / with proven lock-on mechanism.
What other products are in the works. Will you have a seat post or something along those lines?
We have a seat post patent from many years ago that we have been reviewing. Once the above process (#1 above) is completed we will move forward with development of a new Answer seat post.
Are you planing on any other colors in the up and coming year?
Yeah. White is now available in the alloy bars and you might see a new gold bar that looks like the Hayes Prime Brake set to launch this June.
Keep your eyes peeled for these and other cool products from Answer in the very near future. Not only have they come back, but from what I have seen I feel that there are going to be a few folks out there stepping up their game as well.
I would like to thank Tom Porter for his time and insight.