Archive for August, 2009

Niner Carbon Air 9 Update

August 31, 2009

Well, some good build pics of Niner’s new carbon fiber hard tail frame have been published to Niner’s FaceBook page. Here’s a look for you…..

The new SRAM XX group features heavily on this bike with American Classics newly updated 29″er wheels which we are hearing are tubeless ready.

Large cross section carbon fiber shapes lead us to think this will be one stiff frame.

The top tube flows seamlessly into the seat stays. Straighter carbon fiber strands are stronger, which Niner also takes advantage of in its new carbon fork.

We’ll post more as we get the information. Stay tuned………

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: Update

August 30, 2009

The Bigwheeled Ballyhoo for 2009 is going to be held on October 10th-11th at Potter’s Pasture, near Brady, Nebraska. (See the link for details) I was there just this past weekend and will be filing a special report on the riding and on the bike I rode there later in the week.


Let me just say now that Nebraska is anything but flat! Stay tuned for a preview of what to expect, and some of the shenanigans we’ll be planning for this end of the riding season blast.

News And Rumors

August 27, 2009

It is time for another News And Rumors post, so without further delay, here are the latest tidbits to come across my desk recently…..

Cielo 29″er?- That’s Right!: Many of you who are fans of the handmade bicycle shows will recognize Cielo as the marque brought to life by Chris King. (Yes…..that Chris King!). Most examples of Mr. King’s handiwork have been in the form of classically inspired road rigs. Well, news has reached me that two Chris King employees will be cruising Eurobike next week on handmade Cielo 29″er single speed hard tails. One of those two belongs to Chris DeStefano, who was kind enough to forward a couple images to me.

That is a new Cris King Inset in a steel frame with some cool detailing on the head tube, and of course, the head badge.

S&S couplers make traveling with this bike a snap.

And a view of the entire rig.

If you happen to be at Eurobike, be on the lookout for this one. (Thanks Chris for the pics!)

Thievery In Europe: Speaking of Eurobike, Santa Cruz, who planned on showing the new Tall Boy 29″er for the first time, had the rig pinched, (along with a slew of other cycling gear and bikes) from a U.K. warehouse where it had been shipped prior to the show. Word from Santa Cruz’s Mark Ferrentino is that this was the first complete, ride able Tall Boy in the world, so it won’t be easy to hide this carbon fiber rig. You can read the details here. Of course, if you have any leads on the whereabouts of this rig, get a hold of Santa Cruz directly: Tel: 831.459.7560
Fax: 831.459.7561

Blackbuck Gets Bigger and Smaller!: One of my personal favorite 29″ers, the OS Bikes Blackbuck, is rumored to be going back into production for another run of frames. Only this time there will be more than one size.

If the original size didn’t fit you, maybe one of the two new sizes will.

Word is that there will be one size smaller and one size bigger than the original Blackbuck size, which I would characterize as a Large. Some may recall that there were a few 650B wheeled Blackbucks made in a size smaller than the 29″er, but this will not be done again. All the future Blackbucks will be 29″ers. So, if you are one of the lucky few to have grabbed a 650b Blackbuck, you have got a rare one!

Eurobike Next Week: This show, which has gained pre-eminence amongst the trade shows for bicycles, is grabbing more of the limelight when it comes to 29″ers. As previously mentioned, the first ride able 29″er Tall Boy was to have bowed here, and Niner Bikes new carbon hard tail is being hand delivered to the show to make its very first appearance to the public. surely there will be a few more tidbits, such as American Classic’s new wheels that are reported to be tubeless ready, and probably some other things we don’t know of. Check out this space next week for any bits we get forwarded to us in the coming days.

Origin 8 2X9 Cranks: Final Review

August 27, 2009

I have been putting the Origin 8 2 X 9 cranks through their paces all summer and here are my thoughts now on this drive train option “geared” (sorry for the pun!) towards the 29″er riders out there.

moreaugust09 005

The cranks have performed flawlessly over the course of the test. Shifts have been good. Not super snappy, but not bad either. I used a SRAM X-9 shifter with the derailluer limited out to travel just far enough to allow the use of the 29T and 44T rings. I would characterize shifting performance as on par with what I had on the bike previously, which was a TruVativ Stylo crank. Pretty much standard for most trail riders.

The rings themselves have held up well, and they look great still, even after some pretty muddy sessions, what with the wet year we have had. A plus in the execution of the system for sure here. The arms with the ISIS interface is solid, and also came through looking great, but I will say that I am not one to rub crank arms with my shoes, so some folks results may vary accordingly.

moreaugust09 001

Now, as for the whole 2X9 thing, these are my thoughts and not all necessarily related to this particular product. The way you use the front rings with the rear cassette is different. I thought a bit of a closer ratio between the two front gears would be optimal. I probably would go with a 42T versus the 44T that the cranks were supplied with. This would have lent me the opportunity to shift from the outer to inner chain wheel without shifting in the rear so much to find a close cadence to where I had been before the shift. At any rate, a choice in chain wheels to match from Origin 8 is in order. Obviously, a rider in a mountainous area doesn’t need a 44T so much and a 29T definitely isn’t going to cut it for some. Maybe a 36T X 24T combo? Well, I have written this before, but it bears repeating.

Also, it should be remembered that Shimano’s 12-36T cassette is on its way. This would be a perfect compliment to this crank, allowing a rider to stay in either the big ring longer, or in the saddle longer in the smaller ring, instead of walking.

Conclusions: The Origin 8 2 X 9 crank is a winner in terms of functionality, looks, and gearing for XC/light trail work. The system needs to have options, and it needs to have a lighter weight version. The two piece crank style perhaps could be that version. At any rate, this idea is well executed and when you consider the asking price of $100.00 or so, it becomes apparent that the value of this gearing option for 29″er freaks is great. Not everyone will love it from a gear ratio/weight perspective, but hopefully Origin 8 will address this in the near future. I can recommend these to anyone curious about 2X9 and that doesn’t want to spend a fortune on the experiment, or to anyone that just likes high value/low cost with good looks, good performance, and a devil may care attitude about the weight.

Foes Racing B-29: Sneak Peek!

August 26, 2009

We saw the Foes Racing B-29 prototype at Sea Otter earlier this spring. However; Brent Foes said there needed to be tweaks and redesigns of some of the frame details before it would be approved for limited production. Well, it looks as though that day is nigh.

The frame has been undergoing several revisions and now will be offered as a frame with the Curnutt damper at the end of September for an MSRP of $2999.00. There is said to be a Fox RP23 option in the works which is slated to become available in January.


We are working on getting a first ride of the production frame after Eurobike next week. Stay tuned for more……

In other Foes news, the Cyclistsite, our sister website, is working on getting a ride and report on Foes racing’s commuter rig, the Pasadena. Click the links for more.

FRM´s New 29er Rims – XMD 388: Out Of The Box

August 25, 2009

FRM´s new 29er rims – XMD 388

Editor’s Note: This report comes from our European Contributor- “c_g” and we thank him for his efforts in getting this information and conducting this review/test.

I have just taken delivery of the new 29er FRM tubeless ready rims called “XMD 388 29er“ right from the very first production run (plus tubeless accessories).

These rims are yet another product by highly innovative “think tank” company FRM bicycles, based in Italy and Germany.

For years FRM has been successful at ultra light bikes and bike components for road and off-road racing. Their portfolio ranges from their own cranksets (double and triple, with FR & DH cranks just released), suspension and rigid forks, stems, bars, hubs, disc brakes, seatposts, seats, ultralight clincher and also new the lightest tubular MTB rims / wheels … basically they offer most everything to make your bike lighter (and hopefully faster).

fig 1

For a full view of their products see: (it helps if you know German, Italian French, or Dutch for the English site is currently under construction)

If in the US you have never heard about FRM bicycles – it is because they are small “insider” company well recognized by European racing professionals. Basically they are so involved in new product development projects, trend scouting and improving their products that they put little effort into advertisement or marketing. FRM Germany´s head Boris Latsch is a multi tasking workaholic, always handling various projects simultaneously, seeking perfected perfection – and their products show it. So it is also with Franco Ricci Mingani, the head and mind of FRM Italy. Expect to see some more really cool products from them in the near future (I will keep you updated).

FRM has always had a keen eye on the tubeless movement and they were the first to bring tubeless ready rims to the European market where only Mavic´s UST was known until then. They introduced and distributed NOTUBES back in the 1990s. For about 2 years now FRM has been selling their first own design of tubeless ready rims, the XMD 333 for 26er, with very good success – true 318 to 335 gm including eyelets!

Now, to serve the more budget conscious racers and heavier riders the XMD 388 was introduced. It shares the same design traits as the XMD 333 but with sleeved joints and slightly increased wall thickness (resulting in a remarkable ~380 gm including eyelets at 26´ or 410-420 gm for 29er). The added material should also create a stiffer rim and push the rims´ capacity more into a light All Mountain range.

fig 2

For me the eyelets are a nice addition and it makes me believe that stress from spokes gets dissipated more evenly over a larger area, minimizing long term fatigue, but the benefits might be argued as arbitrary. Looking over the multitude of rim designs you see eyelets as often as not without being limited to the weight weenie fraction.

With this rim XMD388 FRM is giving 29ers another chance. Some Euro riders among you might remember this rims predecessor derived from the ultralight XMD 333, but like it can happen to innovative products – they simply might be too early. So it was with FRM´s first 29er rims- for most European riders considered the 29ers trekking bikes with larger tires … shame on us!!

My set of rims weighed 418 and 422 g. They measured exactly 24.6 mm (outside) and 19 mm inside width. ERD, or for the less technical ones – the inside diameter of the rims for determining spoke length, is at 602 mm with 32 hole spoke drillings available. These numbers are fairly standard for lightweight cross country oriented rims so I am expecting no big surprises there. Recommended tire width is 1,75 to 2,3 – again nothing unusual. Like all FRM rims, apart from the tubulars of course, they feature a tubeless specific cross section and bead construction.

From my past experiences with FRM rims I am expecting a positively strong bead/rim interface. The high and almost level “inside shoulders” are to provide a tight and burp free seal down to the lowest pressures. (but keep in mind these features vary strongly from tire to tire – my suggestion: always use tubeless ready tires for best results!)

fig 3

In contrast to its tubeless ready competitors with comparable dimensions the XMD 388 is designed with an asymmetrical cross section allowing both for equal length spokes on drive and non-drive side and higher spoke tension. This asymmetry is especially apparent with the spoke drillings on the inside cavity. Smoothing the very sharp edges on these drill holes are the only indication on the rims that even perfectionists can´t control everything. Once the tape is installed all is concealed and therefore remains a minor complaint.

There still is a weight limit on the XMD 388 of 90 kg for the 29er rims (100 kg for 26´´) but it can safely be considered conservative. (I have ridden the XMD 333 prototypes at 315 g for a long time and they held up well to my 85 kg and more rigid riding.)

Having learned from some riders who were using the first line of 29er rims as training rims with road tires and roadie like pressures – there is a 4 bar maximum pressure laser etched to the rim to avoid failure due to abuse.

Like other tubeless ready rims they accept a tubed setup or can be converted tubeless with a rim strip / sealing tape.

Apart from the rims themselves – one thing worth noting are the tubeless kits recommended with this rim. There is a 5m role of 21 mm width sealing tape (also available in 25 mm for wider rims) which has proven to be very strong and reliable. There are no Kevlar reinforcement worked into but the tape seems very resistant to any type of mistreatment and has no apparent stretch when mounted. Only when working overly hard with my steel mounting levers did I get to break the sealing tape but with a bit of caution this can easily be avoided. This FRM proprietary tape rim strips is called “White tape”, adds approximately 5 g per wheel and can be purchased separately.

The valve stems specified by FRM are the best there are – period. They are extremely reliable, seal very well with their wide base and resist rotation when tightened down by the screw. Of course they feature exchangeable valve cores and a easy to grip lock nut. Having used them for several tubeless wheelsets over the last years I have come to appreciate these little guys tremendously. (For those of you familiar with the Caffelatex valves stems – they are exactly the same.)

They have come to me as a huge improvement over the older round based versions by Notubes, which failed on me several times when tightening too hard.

The XMD 388 is offered in a fairly conservative matte black eloxal finish with cool looking laser etched logos and later on in a en-vogue powder coated white, which was not available in the first production run. By first inspection the finish looks like it would scratch easily but I will keep an eye out for this as the test progresses.

For those of you in favour of a colourful life – take a look at the XMD 333 line up and realize: There is hope for gold, red and blue also.

As a strong tubeless believer, this is the setup I will be running them

More to come when the build is finished and riding commences….”c_g”

Single Speeding And 29"ers: Which Method Is Best?

August 23, 2009

All along, single speeding and 29 inch wheeled bikes have seemed to be like “pie and ice cream”, like they just belonged together. Certainly there are reasons for that, but since a preponderance of single speed mountain bikes are 29″ers these days, it has come to my attention that the method of chain tensioning is not at all agreed upon, nor does one method go hand in hand with 29″ers.

Let’s take a quick look at the contenders for the tensioning job and point out some pros and cons.

raleighcxss 011
A stainless steel faced track end.

Track Ends: Track ends, or horizontal drop outs, are the oldest method of tensioning a chain for a single speed drive train on a bicycle. It is extremely effective and extremely simple. Most commonly used on bicycles built to be ridden in velodromes, or “tracks”, the track end got its name from this use, but now you see this type of drop out in wide use today on fixed gear bikes and some mountain bikes. Track ends require the use of bolt on axles for the most part.

Pros: As stated, these are simple. There really isn’t much you can do wrong here, unless you get the wheel bolted in crooked. The track end is mechanically sound, and speaking of sound, it is silent in use. They are durable too, and with no moving parts to get lost or futz with, these seem to be the perfect solution to tensioning a single speed bike, unless………..

Cons: Well, unless you are running disc brakes, have trouble with slipping the axle forward, and if you want to have the versatility of running gears. Disc brakes are really the biggest problem here. (Karate Monkey owners all say “Amen!”) When you change gearing on a disc braked single speed with track ends, you also have to adjust the rear brake caliper. This also may or may not come into play while removing a wheel, where some issues may arise with getting your rotor to clear the caliper. Sometimes loosening the rear caliper is necessary. Another con is having to use a chain tug, which is necessary if you are getting axle slip. This adds complexity to what is supposed to be dead simple. Not a deal breaker, but also not great. Finally, running geared will require some sort of additional piece on your drop out to accommodate a derailluer, or if the frame is like a Karate Monkey, and has a integral derailluer hangar on the drop out, you may need to use a special “plug” to keep the axle from moving from the ideal position in the track end. More futzing! Not to mention the fact that you probably will need to carry a wrench to remove the wheel anyway.

osblackbuckg-teds 008
Eccentric bottom brackets come in many variations. Here is a split shell type.

Eccentric Bottom Brackets: No, we’re not discussing bottom brackets with odd behaviors, this refers to an insert in an oversize shell with an offset threaded aluminum hole that you thread a traditional bottom bracket into. This then can be rotated, and effectively “swings” the bottom bracket in an arc that can be used to tension a chain. The method of securing the aluminum insert into the over sized shell that is part of the frame varies. Some use an internal expanding wedge, like a Bushnell eccentric bottom bracket. Some use a “grub screw”, or pinch bolt that essentially pushes the eccentric into the frame from one side. Then there are split shell eccentrics which, as the name implies, have a split outer shell that is fitted with threaded bolts that pinch down upon the aluminum insert, preventing unwanted eccentric rotation. All use a traditional vertical drop out in the back that allows for easy wheel removal and the use of quick releases.

Pros: Eccentric bottom brackets allow for the use of a traditional drop out in the rear of the bike which means you can use a traditional quick release instead of a bolt on axle. No chain tensioners, no messing with disc brakes, and if the drop out has a derailluer hanger, conversion to a geared set up is a breeze. So, why isn’t this the best method?

Cons: Eccentric…creak…bottom brackets can….creak!…be noisey, which can be rectified, but usually requires a tear down of the bottom bracket assembly. Not easy. Sometimes they are prone to seizing up, which can be really annoying, and the opposite, slipping, is also an issue. Some eccentrics, especially the pinch bolt type, can cause a frames EBB shell to ovalize, thus ruining the frame. Not to mention that in general, frames are heavier with an eccentric bottom bracket.

Sliding drop outs, like the one shown here, have been widely used as a chain tensioning solution for single speeders.

Sliding Drop Outs: As the name implies, these drop outs move, or “slide” in a slot to achieve tension on a chain. Like the eccentric bottom bracket, sliders allow for the use of a quick release. There are several versions of sliding drop outs in use, but in principle, they are all basically the same.

Pros: Sliding drop outs can be set up to have the brake mount be part of the slider. This makes for trouble free wheel removal. Of course, a quick release can be used, and adding a slider with a derailluer hangar is usually an option. So why aren’t sliders the way to go?

Cons: Sliding drop outs can slip, making your chain tension go slack, and can cause you to throw a chain. Not only that, but on bikes with tight tire clearances, a slipping drop out can cause contact with the tire and frames chain stay. Getting a slider to stay tight requires extra washers sometimes, and getting enough tension on the slider bolts without stripping out threads or rounding out bolt heads can be tricky with some designs. Sliders look clunky to some, with the bolts and modular pieces breaking up the lines of a traditional seat stay/drop out/ chain stay look. Some designs are cantilevered out from the junction of the seat and chain stay to the point that breakage of the frame is a concern.

Conclusions: While each style of single speed chain tensioning mentioned here is popular, not one can be agreed upon, and each has its detractors and fans. All are in use on 29″ers. I have used all three extensively and in several variations. I have experienced problems with all three, and have had great success with all three on separate bikes. In my opinion, I like the EBB or slider best because I can use a quick release. Of those two, I like the way an EBB system looks the best, but I have ridden creaky EBB’s that drive me nuts, so that isn’t always a great way to go. That said, in my opinion, my choice for the best chain tensioning device is the split shell eccentric bottom bracket. I do like several sliding systems, and the new style that will be coming on the 2010 Superfly SS is very intriguing. That said, I’ll be happily single speeding on about any of these styles of chain tensioning devises on any given day! They are all great when they work, and besides, I like bicycles!

Making Some Changes!

August 23, 2009

Hey there folks! I just wanted to let you all know that in the coming days you will be seeing an updated Twenty Nine Inches site. We are currently working behind the scenes on the new, leaner, meaner Twenty Nine Inches.

What You Can Expect: There will be the same editorial bent, the same style in the News, Rumors, and Reviews, but some of the “fat” is going to be trimmed off that this old site had/has going on. (Actually, you might notice that some stuff is already gone.) Expect a “cleaner” look with an easy to use front page. The site should have all the pertinent data you all want and expect, but things like the Classifieds, and a few other little used features are going to be cut from the new edition in order that I and Grannygear can concentrate more on doing the job better and have more focus.

As of now, it looks like the new site will go live in the next week or two. So, if you click your link and see something vaguely familiar, but different, it is still us. I just wanted to give you all a heads up.

Note: All the old material here will not be moved over to the new site, which would be a monumental task, since Twenty Nine Inches went live back in 2005. The old material will live on and we will be providing a link to that on the front page of the new site for your reference.

Stay Tuned………….

Ragley Bikes Announces New "Alt" Bar: Carnegie's

August 20, 2009

In my never ending pursuit of bar nirvana, I am always pleased to see new additions to the fold of “alternative bars”. Brant Richards, designer at his own Shedfire company, has released details on a new update on an old theme that he was also involved in designing. (You’ll guess the name of that bar in an instant!). Called the “Carnegie’s Bar” for an actual bar that Brant walked into once in Taiwan. This bar should find a good audience with 29″er freaks.

Mr. Richards states that this is a “premium product, proven under rigorous testing, and made from the best materials around.” Lots of folks praised the previous effort for its relief of wrist pain, comfort for long distance events, and for control in technical terrain. This new design should be a continuance of those traits in a burlier, strong package.

Besides the 25 degree sweep, the bar allows for mountain bike controls to easily be placed on the approximately 170mm extensions on the ends with room for standard sized grips as shown in the image below.

Look familiar?

The Carnegie’s Bar will feature a 31.8mm clamp area for strength.

Brant has this to say about the geometry of this bar.

Width is 685mm tip to tip, but puts your hands effectively in the same position as my old 700mm wide bar. Geometry is 25deg sweep with a 33mm forward wiggle to keep the controls in the right sort of place. It nominally has a 38mm rise, though this is lessened a bit when you angle the bar back and down for comfort.

Key features of the Carnegie’s Bar are as follows:

-31.8mm oversize clamp for maximum stiffness and strength
-7075-T6 triple butted construction for durability and strength too.
-Weighs in at under 300g (just under).
-Shot peened finish for stress relief
-CEN tested and passed to 200,000 cycles

The Carnegie’s Bar is available through Ragley Bikes and will run approximately £39.99 (UK) or about $57.00 USD.

Velocity Announces New Rim: P35

August 19, 2009

Velocity U.S.A. announced today a new 35mm wide rim co-designed by Kirk Pacenti. The rim, dubbed the P35, will be available by Interbike time and will be made for 26, 650B, and 29 inch sizes. Following are some images, and a Press release from Velocity.

P35 1  White Bkgd

Velocity is proud to announce the newest rim to join our line. The Pacenti 35 or P35 will be available in late September of 2009, just in time for the Interbike show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The P35 is named after its co-designer, frame builder and bicycle designer Kirk Pacenti, a nineteen year veteran in the bicycle industry; widely recognized for his work as a material supplier to the best custom framebuilders in the US and his development of the 650b wheel size for mountain bike use.

The P35 is designed for the cross country/all mountain rider craving a laterally stiff yet weight conscious rim that is still tough enough for the occasional Super – D race. At 35mm wide the P35 gives you one of the fattest footprints available which will float over the rough stuff and give you more bite and greater tread use through the turns. All of this and still weighing in at less than 600 grams in the 29er size! The P35 is 22mm deep with an inside width of 29.5mm which will accommodate a wide array of tire widths to cater to your riding preferences. In addition the P35 was designed to easily accommodate a tubeless application.

The P35 will be available in 26”, 650b, and 29”. 32 and 36 hole will be available in all sizes, and 28 hole will be available in 26” black only. We here at Velocity love giving you color options so you can customize your bike. You will see all sizes in black, silver, white, red and the very flashy antifreeze green. The decal bears the trusted Velocity name and flaunts the signature of its designer Kirk Pacenti.

Together we’ve made the rim you have been waiting for, and we think you are really going to like it.


Outside Width: 35mm
Inside Width: 29.5mm
Depth: 22mm

29”: 595g
650b: 570g
26”: 535g

The P35 will be available through QBP, BTI, J&B and as always direct from Velocity USA.

And a statement from Kirk Pacenti himself:

“Over the last couple years I have developed a great working relationship with Velocity USA. So when John Black asked me to take a look at a rim they were considering for production I was happy to offer an opinion.

We discovered that the features we each wanted in a new rim were very similar, so I offered John a couple rim designs I happened to be working on, and we quickly settled on the P-35™ design.

Working on the P-35™ rim with Velocity USA has been an incredibly positive experience for me; one that I hope to repeat in the near future with them. I could not be more please with the way the P-35™ turned out. Velocity nailed the execution of my design. Their craftsmanship, combined with the myriad of rim sizes, drillings, color and graphic options come together to create products that are second to none in our industry.”

Kirk Pacenti

We’ll bring more news as it becomes available.