Archive for November, 2008

Fisher HiFi Deluxe and '09 Reba Team Fork: Impressions

November 29, 2008

Many comments were coming in to me by way of the Reba Team post and from e-mails and it would seem that there are more than a few of you curious as to how the Reba Team 120mm fork plays with the HiFi Deluxe, which was developed around a different fork geometry. This post will discuss my riding impressions and give a few insights as to how the geometry was affected by this fork change.

Reba  Team on the HiFi Deluxe

First of all, let’s take a look at how the two forks differed. The stock Fox Shox F-29 100mm travel fork versus the Rock Shox Reba Team 120mm travel fork. The obvious difference is in the fork offset. The Fox being optimized for Fisher’s exclusive G2 Geometry at 51mm of offset. Rock Shox revamped their line of 29 inch compatible Reba models and the offset was changed in the process from 38mm to 46mm. So, a net difference of -5mm of offset is achieved by going to the Reba versus the Fox Shox F-29.

In the axle to crown category, we have the Fox measuring out to 500.8mm, the Rock Shox at approximately 530mm. (my measurement) This obviously affects the head angle, which on an unsagged stock HiFi deluxe is 71 degrees. On my example, with the 120mm Rock Shox Reba Team, it measures out to 69 degrees. The bottom bracket height was also raised slightly in the process.

The handling, which on a stock HiFi is more “XC-ish” went to a decidedly “trail-bikish” feel with the Reba out front. Gone was the steer by the hip feel and the slightly “nervous” feeling in longer descents. Of course, climbing, a stock HiFi’s strong point, was decidedly more sluggish feeling, and I felt that the front end wanted to wander just a bit on longer steeps.

The rear shock seemed to become even more plush than before with the slight change in geometry. The Reba is also very smooth feeling and plush as well. So far, I have not changed my rear shock settings, but I am going to now that I find I am blowing through all the travel on a regular basis with the longer Reba up front. (I even knocked the “o” ring right off the shock shaft on one occaision!) Another thing: With the stiffer Reba and my stiff Gordo/Hope Pro II with Maxle Lite 20mm through axle set up, the rear of the HiFi now feels woefully inadequate. Even with my relatively stiff Gordo/Hope rear wheel, the swing arm flex now seems amplified, since the rest of the bike is so much stiffer.

Reba on the HiFi

On the front side, the Reba makes me want to sit down and spin climbs now. Even with the fork locked out, the geometry begs for a seated climbing/spinning style. I will admit that when I get my rear suspension dialed better, this may change slightly. When things get bumpy, the Reba simply erases the trail obstacles in my way. Descents are easier, as well. I have been searching out more radical lines now, because the descents that were once sketchy on the hardtail are now a piece of cake with the HiFi set up this way. The stability imparted by the Maxle Lite is palpable. Steering precision in techy descents is much better than before with the Fox. The front of the HiFi is definitely one stiff, precise package with this Reba/Maxle Lite on board.

In conclusion, this combination of parts has changed my perception of the HiFi as a great FS XC design to a perception of the HiFi as a decent trail/AM rig that has some limitations inherent in the frame. Namely the swingarm. If the HiFi had a stiffer swingarm with more generous tire clearance, this could be a great trail/AM rig. Of course, another inch of travel out back wouldn’t hurt either.

That said, the HiFi is very rideable, albeit with a totally different personality in the guise I have mine set up in. No longer a fast XC FS machine, it now has more “play-bike” leanings. I have been having a lot of fun with this set up. The thing is, I know it could be better. Rides on other brands that have purpose built long travel 29″ers have this dialed in much better than my set up. Much stiffer chassis with much more refined handling traits are already out there. I wouldn’t recommend doing this to a HiFi to get a trail/AM bike, not because it results in a bad bike, but because there are choices out there that do trail/AM 29″ers far, far better.

Now going to a 100mm travel Reba would be a fine thing to do, and maybe extending your travel for a vacation trip to Moab would “get you by”, but as a permanent set up, this only rates as “good” in my estimation. Especially in comparison to what I have ridden out there.

Look for further updates on the Reba in the coming weeks.

Thanks for the links!

November 29, 2008

It’s often that my Google Reader pleeps me of track backs of Most time I comment or email to all that write about to thank, give feedback or whatever.

Here’s a cool site that did a short little write up on and borrowed some photos.

Stan’s 650b wheel

50b is an intermediate wheel size – it’s bigger than a standard 26″ wheel but smaller than a 29″.  650b wheels are actually as old as the hills; French touring and utility bikes have used this wheel and tyre size for decades however with mountain biking branching out from traditional 26″ wheels it looks like the 650b will be resurrected.

Those who sing its praise claim the 650b has the smooth rolling characteristics of a 29er but without the extra weight and inertia.  650b wheels fit in some 26″ forks (like the Fox F-series this wheel is used in) and there are a handful of manufacturers producing 650b frames.

Tyres seam to be the limiting factor as only a few brands and models are available.

All in all it’s an interesting development but I’m certainly not predicting the demise of the 26″ wheel ;-)

Specialized Eskar 2.3" 29"er Tires: Mid Term Report

November 26, 2008

Note: This report is filed by Grannygear from Southern California.
As you may recall from the Eskar’s Out Of The Box article, I had mounted these on the SS Monkey using the DT Swiss 7.1TK rims with tubes. I was looking for a bigger tire than the Ignitors I had been using. I figured that if I needed more air volume and a bigger contact patch on one of the two 29ers I have, it was on the hardtail SS. I inflated them to 25psi as a starting point.

So, I have to say that I was disappointed in the non-2.3 size I ended up with. The numbers were not significantly larger than the 2.1 Ignitors, although they were sporting some pretty aggressive rows of knobs. Since tires can grow a bit when they have been mounted up a while, I re-measured them after a half dozen rides or so. They went from a 2.025” casing (sidewall) width to 2.06”. Tread width grew from 2.085” to 2.2” and height changed from 2.80” to 2.95”.

Overhead of the Eskar

I went to ride my normal Tuesday night loop, a 90 minute combo of pavement, sandy fireroad, steep climbs of hard packed clay covered in sand, and a long section of singletrack that winds across a ridgeline and then dives in and out of a dry wash canyon bottom.

As I hit the pavement, I could hear the tires making quite a bit of noise. After the Ignitor front/Crossmark rear combo, these sounded like mud tires on a 4×4. So, it was not a fast, smooth tire on pavement, but the SS is not all zoomy either, so it was OK. Hitting the sandy and flat fireroad, they did fine in the soft patches and seemed to have lots of drive and reasonable float.

The first loose, rubbly climb was very nicely handled with the Eskars. I could lean forward pretty far and stand on the pedals and the rear tire would hook up, and if it did break loose, it hooked back up again right away instead of continuing to spin till I hit the bottom of the crank stroke.

Riding along and looking at the tires, it is obvious that it has a certain profile that typically has a certain handling result, mainly when used as a front tire. It is square-ish, with a tall center row of knobs, a pretty big gap off to either side, then a smaller but still aggressive side row of knobs that sits lower than the center knobs. It has been my experience that this type of tire likes a certain type of riding style to get the best results. Straight up is all good, but when you want to turn, it works best to snap the bike over so you transition from the center knobs to the side knobs quickly. Hanging around in the in-between zone is kinda vague and odd, especially on hardpack.

I usually avoid this type of profile tire as I am more of a lean back and carve kinda’ rider and I spend a lot of time on sand over hardpack terrain. So, when I was running through the hard baked trail section, the bike was hunting around as the front tire debated which set of knobs to run on. Not squirmy like a low tire, just vague, like there was a hinge in the bike somewhere. However, when I leaned forward, elbows out, and drove deep into the turn diving for the apex and pedaling out, the tires felt great. That is just not my typical riding style.

Also, when the soil was loose and rocky, they felt very good, much better than the Ignitors. I could ride very aggressively without skating around much at all.

The next significant ride was in the mud following a big rainstorm. The Eskars hooked up well, seemed to clean out easily enough, and leant a confident feel to the ride. I think it would make a good winter tire, although I will defer to Guitar Ted here as he actually HAS a winter with real mud, snow, etc.

Mud and Eskars

So, to sum up:
-What is up with tires that are not the size they say on the sidewall? This has been going on for years. If I am going to put up with a slower rolling, aggressive tire, I want it to be a big fella. If I had ordered these expecting a bigger, true 2.3 tire I would have not been happy.

-If you like to ride aggressively, have a poster of Mark Weir over your bike rack in the garage, and dive into corners rather than carve a smooth line, you will probably like this tire. It would be a good tire for Downieville in my opinion.

-If you ride in loose conditions and need a tire that will punch down and hook-up, this is a good choice.

-My brief time in the mud seemed to work well, but I live where mud is pretty rare.

-I ended up running them at 22lbs or so and that worked well under my 180lbs or so.

They would not be my primary long term choice on the hardpack fireroads we have, especially since I spend a fair amount of time on pavement and, on the SS, I would prefer a larger, rounder tire with lower, closer set knobs. That reflects my needs better, but if the areas that the Eskar shined describe your needs/wants in a tire, the Eskar deserves a try.

I am strongly considering running this as a rear tire only and a Captain Control on the front for the Lev. A much larger tire than the Eskar would be a tight fit on the chainstay of the Lev, so that may be the hot setup. For more on the Captain Controls, look for our follow up on those as well.


Schwalbe Racing Ralph : Preview

November 25, 2008

We took delivery of brand spanking new Schwalbe Racing Ralph 650bx2.25 tires.

During Interbike I had some concern about the staff’s knowledge of 650b and it’s purpose.  I’m very excited for these tires and think they will be a great all arounder due to the volume and tread.  I really have enjoyed the tread on the Pacenti Quasi Moto but the volume has left me desiring more, especially on a fully rigid bike.  These tires should really fit this bill.  Plus this Racing Ralph used to be one of my favorite 29″ tires.


Yummy, triple compound!

The tread looks good from here.

Newswire: Fox Warns Against Modifying Its Forks

November 25, 2008

Recently Fox Racing Shox has learned that there are individuals modifying its forks for use with 29″er wheels. The company sent out this notice, which is also posted to their website, to warn folks that this is dangerous.

Note also that Fox takes this opportunity to remind folks that the use of 650B wheels in its forks is also forbidden. Fox does not make a fork model that will accomodate this wheel size safely.

Fox asks that any rider wanting a 29″er wheel to fit in one of their forks to consider the F-29 as the companies only option for that wheel size. For the whole story, please click on the link and read the information on Fox’s web site:

Rock Shox Reba Team: First Impressions

November 23, 2008

Well, after a few rides on the Reba Team with the Maxle Lite, I don’t mind cutting to the chase: This fork is miles better than the old Reba! How it stacks up to the competition is a bit different, and there are a couple of nits, but this is a huge improvement upon a classic 29″er fork.

The Reba Team

I mounted the Reba Team to my HiFi Deluxe and converted my Hope pro II front hub to the 20mm through axle caps to be compatible with the Maxle Lite. The Maxle Lite is really easy to use and it isn’t any more trouble than my quick release front wheels. The added rigidity is very different though, and is apparent when things start getting crazy on the trails. With the new chassis and Maxle Lite, I could not detect any lateral movement in the fork at all. The older Reba I could get to flex easily. Not so this new version! It is very stiff laterally. Off cambers and down hills are much calmer now with a fork that isn’t flexing and trying to spring you off line.

another look...

The fork also is easy to set up. I looked at the recommendations for my weight and made the adjustments with the positive and negative air chambers, exactly as you did with the old Reba. I also used the old trick of going with slightly less air in the negative chamber versus the positive chamber. My pressures were almost exactly as they were with my older Reba, as well. The performance was also very good with the air sprung Reba feeling very plush and active right out of the box.

The Reba Team on the HiFi Deluxe

The comparisons to a couple of other forks I have here are unavoidable. Of course, the original Fox fork that came with the HiFi is an excellent product. My biggest nit with the Fox was that I had some difficulty getting all the travel milked out of it The Reba seems to be better at this, although I will have to do some fine tuning, as I am only seeing about 105mm of travel at this point. I can certainly say that the Fox is very nearly as stiff, but not quite. I also have a Manitou with the Absolute damper here and it too is a very stiff chassis, but the fork’s action is so different with that damper. I will say that if the click were not there in the Manitou it would be a top shelf fork, but in a different manner than the Rock Shox is.

Handle bar remote

Our test model came with the handle bar mounted remote. I have to say that the set up is a bit critical with it, since simply attaching the cable end at the “wide open” point on the compression adjuster will not net you a locked out fork when you depress the lever at the handle bar. The cable pull isn’t enough. This is fine by me, but it seems a bit strange that you can’t have wide open and locked out with the handle bar remote. It also would be nice if the lock out lever worked like a friction thumb shifter, so you could have any setting inbetween “on” and “off”. As it was, I didn’t really feel the need to have the fork locked out, the Floodgate control seemed to keep me satisfied for now. I will adjust the control to get a lock out condition before my next ride though.

Rebound knob

I also found that the rebound adjuster was terribly stiff and nearly impossible to turn by hand. I managed to wrap a bit of rag around it to make my adjustments pain free as possible. Thankfully this isn’t an adjustment I make frequently, but if it was, I wouldn’t be too pleased about the difficulty of turning this knob.

So far I would say that this is a fantastic fork with a few nits. Still miles above what the older Rebas were. This 120mm travel Maxle Lite fork makes some of my descents into mere childsplay though. I’m going to have to go hunting for something a bit more challenging. That’s something I never would have said about the first generation Reba!

Specialized The Captain 29"er Tires: Mid Term Report

November 21, 2008

Note: This post is filed by Grannygear from Southern California.
See this signature right there on this tire?

That is right, Ned Overend. Deadly Nedly. The Lung. The Captain. I remember standing alongside the race course at Mammoth watching him put the hurt on a much younger group of racers like Tomac, Weins, Grewal, etc. Man, I could hardly walk up that hill without dying and he made it look easy.

Ned was the man. So if his signature is on it, it must be good, right? Well, marketing being what it is, that may not be true, but in this case, Ned did me right by these tires. I don’t know if he dreamed them up one night or rode thousands of miles to prove them worthy or what, but these tires rock.

To recap, I mounted them on the Leviathan on a set of Stan’s Flows and Hope Hubs, tubeless, and that was completely painless to do. I ran them at 25psi at first, but I have settled on a bit less than that for my needs.

They have a very rounded profile with several rows of smallish knobs, but with an even and generous space between the rows.

Captain's tread

They are fairly good sized, a bit bigger than the Ignitor/Crossmark, especially as they have filled out a little after some use. Tread width grew from 2.135” to 2.24”. Casing (sidewall) width grew from 2.085” to 2.21”. Height changed very little, from 2.91” to 2.95”.

The first ride was a 4.5 hour escapade, mostly singletrack, some fireroad, and a little pavement to connect the dots. The fireroad climb would have been easy on nearly any tire, but the singletrack was very tight, made of decomposed granite and it was quite off camber in places like a toboggan run. Right away I noticed the Captains had a tendency to cut into the sand a bit more on corners than the Ignitors did. Perhaps the even rows of knobs rather than an offset pattern like the Ignitors were the cause. However, once they took a set and began the turn, it was like the edge of a ski in the snow. Very controllable. I did notice the rear tire breaking away more than I would have liked in the rear, such as when riding up into the side of the toboggan groove, it would cut in and drop a few inches toward the low side. I let some air out and that helped.

It is a very neutral feeling tire and, unlike the Eskar, seemed to be very happy carving, diving, whatever, through a turn. The rear tire hooks up pretty well climbing and braking, but I really think the front is where it shines the brightest. In fact, the thing that makes it such a great front tire seems to work against it in the rear. There I would prefer a more aggressive center section of knobs and larger side knobs to keep the rear end from getting knocked sideways on trail edges, rocks, etc. and hang onto an off camber surface a bit better. Not a deal breaker, but there it is.

I hit the pavement to connect the end of the ride and I was immediately struck at how quiet and smooth they felt. Very nice rolling tire.

To sum up:
-Fast rolling tire on smooth surfaces.
-Decent casing size, now a true 2.2 by my measurements.
-Great turning and braking characteristics across a variety of hard to loose surfaces. Never got it into mud.
-Climbs and hooks up well, but not quite as well as the Eskar. Not a surprise when you look at the tires profile.
-May not be the best rear tire if you need an aggressive outside edge to hang onto off camber surfaces, ruts, ledges, etc. It may tend to lose contact and cut away.

Really an excellent all a-rounder for XC use, maybe a bit heavy in the non-S version for racing.

I really like this tire after riding it now for 20 hours or so. I think I am going to eat a bit of rolling resistance and run an Eskar on the rear with this in the front of the Lev. I bet that will be a killer combo. Expect a long term follow up in the future.

Oh, and Ned, you are still the man.


Look for an update from the Mid-West on these tires soon!

Geax Saguaro 2.2" UST and TNT Tires: Out Of The Box

November 20, 2008

Well, they have finally arrived! The rumored TNT and UST Saguaro tires are here at Twenty Nine Inches and ready for testing. Let’s take a quick look at what we have here.

Saguaro TNT
Saguaro UST

These are in addition to the much loved Saguaro folder tires which will remain in Geax’s line. The tread is identical on these new versions. All that is different are the casings. To review, a UST casing that requires no sealant has not been offered before in a 29″er size until this version of the Saguaro. This tire should air up and stay inflated without sealant due to its extra butyl rubber coating on the carcass. This will affect weight, as we will see in a bit.

The TNT (Tube, No Tube) version is a tire with a specially designed bead and casing that can be run tubeless with the use of sealant. It doesn’t require the extra layer of butyl rubber that a full on UST casing does, so it is significantly lighter.

Saguaros in TNT and UST casings

The graphics on all Geax tires are new for 2009 and are a lot bolder looking than before. There is one other visual cue that is specific to the TNT version. It has grey sidewalls. Geax is known for their sidewall colorings throughout their history in mountain bike tires and now it comes to the 29″er side. The UST tire has a typical black sidewall and is indistinguishable from the folder tire with the exception of the little “UST” seal on the hot patch.

Grey sidewall
UST seal

I have said all along that we would not likely see a “true” UST tire in 29″er form due to the extra weight that would be added to a tire casing to do that. Well, I like my crow medium rare, please! However, it is true that the UST Saguaro is significantly heavier than the other versions. Example: Folding bead Saguaro- 660 grams, TNT Saguaro- 770 grams, UST Saguaro- 930 grams. That makes the folder version 270 grams lighter than the UST version. Is that worth it?

I think where we will see the UST version gain some footing is in areas where rocks and thorns are giving 29″er riders fits. The UST casing is obviously thicker, and will be much less prone to damage, it is hoped. That will be a huge benefit to 29″er riders who have been having rocks and thorns ruin rides on a regular basis. Although riders might be wishing for this sort of casing in a wider tire, I think it is painfully obvious where the weight would end up being at for such a beast. Time will tell if that will be accepted or not.

Stay tuned for a First Impressions post coming soon!

Beasley's are in!

November 19, 2008

From a Haro blog :

After many delays, most of which were far outside of our control, we’re pleased to announce that our first production run of Bealsey 650B bikes are in our warehouses! This is a very small run that consists mostly of 1 x 9’s with a few 20″ SS bikes. The balance of the SS bikes are due to ship any day so we should see those in a couple of weeks.

That means if you haven’t ordered yours yet, get at it!

Aherns NC Dually : Update

November 19, 2008

The other morning my blog feeder spit out information about the Aherns full suspension bike that has been in the works for a very long time.

It seems that Mike has teamed up with Devise Solutions to help build his brand and network out.  This has also caused some back time (but long term up time) in the design/build process of the bike.  With almost 24 CNC parts to make I hope he has multiple CNC teams in line!

From the blog :

Here is a brief overview:

  • Constructed with 7005 aluminum alloy
  • Compatible with both 26″ and 650B (27.5″) wheel sizes
  • 150mm rear wheel travel achieved through modified four-bar linkage
  • Rear axle path moves in an upward/rearward direction
  • Zero chain/chainstay growth is achieved through ‘Semi-URT’ design
  • Low BB height also achieved through ‘SEMI-URT’ design (as rear wheel moves through its travel, the BB height increases for additional crankarm-to-ground clearance)
  • Concentric rear-axle pivot minimizes brake jack
  • Designed around Fox 15QR front fork in 140-150mm travel range
  • Compatible with Fox RP23 and Fox DHX 5.0 rear shocks (7.875″ overall length and 2.25″ stroke)
  • ISCG-05 mount comes standard
  • Shimano Direct-Mount front derailleur (uses ISCG-05 mount)
  • Front derailleur follows swingarm path for superior front shifting
  • Shimano Press-Fit Bottom Bracket shell > 92mm width
  • Shimano Press-Fit bearings used within Main Pivot housing
  • Rock Shox MAXLE 12mm bolt-thru rear axle system for superior stiffness
  • 135mm rear hub spacing
  • Rear ‘international standard’ disc mount
  • Hand-formed rectagnular chainstays maximize heel clearance
  • Front triangle has low standover height and low center of gravity
  • Widest bearing spacing possible at every pivot point; ENDURO MAX bearings used throughout
  • Interrupted seat tube enables rocker arm to pass through for shock actuation
  • Swingarm components easily serviceable
  • Replaceable rear derailleur hanger