Although the Sea Otter Classic is more known as a mountain bike event, the road side of things didn’t disappoint, large in part to Calfee Design deciding that the four-day festival would be the ideal launching ground for their prototype Manta (as in manta ray).
What Calfee has in the pipeline isn’t just an updated Dragonfly; no, this was an all new platform and fresh territory for the Northern California-based builder. Oversized carbon tubes, a tapered steerer, and a massive 65mm bottom bracket shell housing a Look Zed 2 crank are all highlights of the new frame, but that’s only half the story. A pivotless rear suspension tucked into the mono-seatstay that allows 1cm of elastomer dampened travel is really what the new design is all about.
Calfee creates the molded headtube, bottom bracket, and seat tube lugs in-house, while the tubes come from Utah-based ENVE Composites. In a first for Calfee, the Manta uses a tapered 1-1/8 to 1-1/2 steerer.
French frame-builder Look granted Calfee the use of their Zed 2 one-piece crank which uses a massive 65mm bottom bracket shell. This allows enough room to insert a Campy EPS battery unit into the downtube for those wanting EPS, but not the unsightly external battery.
A Zed 2 crank typically has mounting locations for both compact and standard cranks, but Calfee cleaned up the look by removing the option for compact.
Colorado-based Dash is doing some really cool things with carbon. Their unique mounting location and minimalist design put the Saddle Post Combo around the 120-gram range-yeah, that’s light!
Calfee’s BarStem uses the CNC-machined arm from K-Edge to create a functional and cool
The smoother your pedal stroke is, the more fluid the rear-end feels as it eats up the road’s impurities, but as you jump out of the saddle it doesn’t have the same snappy feel as a rigid rear-end. This isn’t to say it’s less efficient in terms of power transfer, it’s just a different feel. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting more time on it on our home roads with a power meter (and Strava) to truly quantify what we’re feeling.
Even though the Manta is still in the prototype phase and could see a couple small changes in terms of tubing thickness, what we rode is for the most part, what’s going to be hitting the market in a very short time. The Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod, and Trek Domane all have made a name for themselves and continue to push the boundaries of what’s considered compliance and what’s suspension. Calfee’s Manta ups the ante in terms of offering a true suspension design on a traditional racing geometry-and only time will tell if the performance benefits are enough to win over the ‘hardtail’ crowd.
For more info visit Calfee Design at www.calfeedesign.com