Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Continental Race King 2.2″ Tire: Midterm Review

June 24, 2009

The Race King tires are still being ridden here and I now have a Midterm Report  ready for you all on these new shoes from Continental. First off, a big change was made since the last report in that I have set these up as tubeless tires on Stan’s Flow rims using the CaffeLatex sealant I have been testing. The process was easy and so far the Race Kings have had no issues being run tubeless, much like the experience I had with the Mountain Kings last year.

 

Because of this change, the width measurement has gone up from the 51.3mm I got in my last report to a whopping 56.5mm! (That is 2.22 inches, so it made the claimed width) Continental’s 29″er tires seem to stretch quite a bit, and even more so as tubeless tires. This is interesting and not necessarily unique to Continental; however, their casings seem to stretch more than others I have converted or tried tubeless.

 

With that in mind, the Race Kings continue to be an eye opener in terms of traction. Climbing, braking, and cornering traction are all above expectations with this tire. Especially considering what we have for knobs here. That said, there are a couple of downsides I want to point out with the Race King tires. First, the lack of anything substantial for side knobs means that lateral traction is not good. If these tires let go, you won’t save it in a corner. Ruts, off camber, or loose rocks and wet roots reveal this weakness as well. Secondly, any “extreme” situation will quickly overwhelm the Race King. Loose rocks, steep pitches, mud, or loose over hardpack will make you wish for more aggressive tread. (But that is what the Mountain King is for) Still, you won’t be disappointed if you use these as an “all rounder” tire, or specifically as a racing tire. The performance on dry, rough to buff single track is awesome.

The Race King also impresses as a tire that is cushy. The casing seems to be a very supple one and rides similarly to a Schwalbe Racing Ralph in that you seem to be excused from dealing with small trail chatter and the odd branch or small stone with the Race King. I believe it has a lot to do with how fast these tires roll as well. Between the plush casing and low rolling resistance, the Race King might just be the best single speed, rigid fork tire for racing that there is for 29″er freaks. Obviously, it makes your suspension rig feel that much better as well.

The comparison to a Bontrager XDX has come to mind for me here. The two tires are very similar in profile, width, and in how they perform. The only big difference between the two is that the XDX is stiffer feeling, probably due to the “AR” casing that Bontrager uses to beef up the XDX tire with. Otherwise the XDX and the Race King are tires with much the same performance characteristics. My choice would be for the Continental in most situations just because I prefer the nicer ride quality. If I lived in more severe terrain though, the XDX would win out due to its burly construction.

That’s it for now. I will continue to put the race Kings through their paces and I will chime in with a Final Review in about a month.

Salsa Cycles Fargo: Conclusions

June 13, 2009

Normally after this long a period with one bicycle I would be giving a “Final Review”. The thing is- I’m not done with this bike yet. The Fargo is just too versatile a rig to put a final word out on it already. That said, I am going to give you readers my thoughts on the Fargo and tell you where I’m going with the bicycle after this point.

 

Two single trackin’ Fargo rigs.

The “Big Question”:  First of all, the Fargo elicits a strong reaction from folks. Often I get a “Just what is that bike for? Is it a______” (Insert any one of several specific bicycle types here.) The “Big Question” really should be the “Big Clue”. It means that the Fargo is, if nothing else, a very versatile bicycle that could do many tasks well. I can not possibly call out every one of the Fargo’s possible uses, but I can tell you what it is<em>really good at</em>. The other question about the Fargo has to do with its “drop bar centric” design. I’ve covered the drop bar thing in great detail, but if you have not seen any of those posts, you can check them out here: Part I Part II Part III Part IV  Part V.

 The Fargo blends in well, no?

The Off Road Fargo: The Fargo off road is a wonderful rig. It really is a fun single track shredder. One thing to remember though: The Fargo is a rigid bike with a non-suspension corrected fork that has a specific offset designed to work with the geometry of the frame. Okay, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you shouldn’t put a suspension fork on this bike. You really should stick with the stock fork as it comes with the Fargo. The good news is that this is a fantastic steel fork. The bad news is that this is a fantastic steel fork! The “rigidness” of the Fargo imparts a certain riding style and technique, a certain use that will not be suited to, oh let’s say…..<em> all mountain riding</em>. (Although, once upon a time mountain bikers rode all over the place on rigid steel rigs, ya know.) I think that the Fargo is best suited to buff single track to maybe some light technical trails. I rode it on several occasions where there were rooty, rocky descents, drop ins, and tight, twisty ascents. The Fargo can do this, and it shreds in fast, flowy trail settings. However; the Fargo has a lower bottom bracket height that may, or may not, be a problem for you. I liked it, and yes- I got ejected out of my pedals and struck things with the pedals from time to time.

 Designed in Minnesota, Made in Taiwan

The Back Roads Fargo: This is where the Fargo starts to come into its own. The Fargo absolutely shines on fire roads, dirt paths, gravel roads, and the like. Anywhere a road bike starts to become a liability, the Fargo starts to really make a lot of sense. Of course, if you are putting the Fargo to touring duty, and you have to traverse this sort of terrain, there are not many other choices in 700c wheels that can do what the Fargo can. One thing I found is that the heavier the load, the comfier the Fargo gets, just like a nice steel touring bike for the road. Gravel road riding and dirt road riding, for fun, adventure, or racing is tailor made for Fargo owners. Call it “multi-terrain”, or whatever, the Fargo is the right tool for the job here.

 Back roads are the Fargos forte’

The Pavement Fargo: Here is where maybe some folks will have a harder time justifying the Fargo as a viable choice, but they really shouldn’t. Put on some nice, voluminous street rubber and the Fargo becomes an urban pot hole eating machine. That burly steel frame, the rider position bred from off roading, and the way the Fargo’s steel frame gives in that classic way that only steel can makes it a great choice for the urban-bound rider. Add in the fact that it can be decked out easily with fenders, racks front and rear, and any assortment of bags one could desire, and you have a sleeper of a commuter rig. Not only that, but you could spend about a half an hour and swap out rubber, remove some of the urban trappings, and be mountain biking on your favorite secret inner city trail. Going real skinny with the rubber will cause you to have a bottom bracket height that may be an issue though, so if high speed city travel or spirited club riding is in your cards, their are far better rigs for those purposes. (Perhaps Salsa’s own Casseroll model?) However; don’t discount the Fargo as pavement bike. It is a suitable heavy city cruiser capable of carrying a big load and laughing at rough city streets.

 Urban scenes are Fargo territory too.

The Fargo From Here To…: The Fargo here at Twenty Nine Inches is now going to be set up as a light tourer in more of a “bike packing” vein. Think minimalistic gear, lighter weight than full bagged touring, and capable of going off road. The adventures will wait until I can assemble the proper satellite gear, but when I do, I’ll be back with some reports.

 Going far? Go with a Fargo

The Bottom Line: The Fargo is not only a very unique 29″er, it is a very unique bike- period. It is capable of pulling off mountain biking, and doing a decent job of it. It can shine as your “multi-terrain” steed, or it can pull duty on city streets with the best commuter rigs. Is it the one bike for everything? Well, the answer to that question is “no” of course. Here’s where I stand on the Fargo: If I had to get rid of all my bikes but one, the Fargo would be at the top of my list of choices to keep.

Thanks to Salsa Cycles for providing the Fargo for review. Stay tuned for some “adventurous” updates soon.

The diSSent Papers: Single Speed Reviews By The Cyclist

June 2, 2009

Here’s your link source for all of our news and reviews on Misfit Psycles diSSent single speed.

A Captain Bob Review

A West Coast View: Update, by Grannygear

A West Coast View by Grannygear

First Impressions by Guitar Ted

Project diSSent West Coast: The Follow Up, by Grannygear

Bike Packing: Going Long And taking It With You- The Series

April 29, 2009

Join Southern California’s own Grannygear as he explores what it takes to set yourself up for the latest in bicycle touring – “Bikepacking”, or otherwise known as lightweight, minimalistic backcountry bicycle touring. Granny will go over how to get bags and gear set up, and later on will share one of his bikepacking adventures with us.

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Check into this series by clicking on any of the links here:

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part I

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part II

2009 Sea Otter Classic

April 16, 2009

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Join the crew of The Cyclist as we get sneak peaks, hear rumors, take photos and test rides on the newest products hitting the internet.

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Continental Race King 2.2″ 29″er Tires: First Impressions

April 11, 2009

Now that the trails have firmed up in my locale, I have been able to get out on the Continental Race King 29″er tires. My set up for the first rides was tubed with FSA XC-290 wheels (Also on test). The conditions were loamy to hardpack, with a bit of sand and some mud thrown in to the mix. But first, here are some initial hard numbers on the Continental Race Kings.

Weight: 650 grams and 620 grams

Width: 51.3mm/2.02 inches

The weight was about what I expected holding them in the hand and for the claimed width. The initial width measurement is a bit underwhelming. (2.2 inches is 55.88mm for referance) My experience with the Mountain King tells me these will stretch more with time and especially if I go to a tubeless set up. That said, expecting these tires to stretch nearly 4mm would be asking a lot.  The Race King may be a bit undersized for it’s stated width, but it is taller off the rim than anything else in it’s class that I have here, or have seen. The mounted profile of the tire on the FSA rims (24mm wide) is really rounded, almost peaked.  I ran the tires at 35psi rear and 30 psi front on my first rides.

The Continental Race King isn't quite as wide as this label says.

The Continental Race King isn't quite as wide as this label says.

The width and profile of the tires made for a fast feeling tire. Going up a fire road climb was easier due to the lower rolling resistance. Once at the top of this climb the downhill comes with some tight turns and switchbacks that go into a long traverse across a ridge that is very off camber. In my mind I was thinking that these tires were not going to do well here. However; I was pleasantly surprised when the tires stuck to the trail. This section was freshly raked, loamy, and littered with roots.  The Race Kings handled the roots well. The taller profile of the tires soaking up the bumps better than some tires I have tried.
The Race King made the rigid ride that much better.

The Race King made the rigid ride that much better.

Climbing was an eye opener. I mistakenly took a little used steep climb that featured “steps” of roots across my path about every three feet in a deeply rutted track. No way around it, I had to ride right up this “nature’s staircase”.  The Race Kings absorbed the edges of the roots well making for slip free traction and a less bumpy ride up which allowed me to keep a more steady cadence. I’m impressed with the Race King as a climbing tire. The small, triangular shaped knobs seem to do more than they let on by their diminutive appearance.
The Race Kings as mounted on my Salsa El Mariachi.

The Race Kings as mounted on my Salsa El Mariachi.

The cornering performance was good. I will have to explore this further on some faster trail, but the Continentals showed no signs of losing grip in these corners. The trail did have some muddy spots and the lack of any tall knobs made for little traction in the grease. I had to dismount a couple of times when I just couldn’t propel myself forward anymore. The narrow, highly crowned profile did dig in, so if there were any hard ground underneath, it may have grabbed ahold, but this was fairly bottomless mud. The cutting in was also eveident in sand as well. I think the race King will be a tougher tire to steer through the sand traps once they fully develope this summer.
I’ll be putting these tires through more trail testing with a switch to tubeless coming. Stay tuned!

Giant 29″er Hardtail: Sneak Peek!

March 30, 2009
This Giant 29"er design utilizes their "Alliance" technology.

This Giant 29"er design utilizes their "Alliance" technology.

Giant Bicycles utilizes social media and has a Facebook page which they use to drop hints of upcoming product and new models Just recently this image popped up there showing a hard tail 29″er design.Several interesting things are evident here. First is the use of Giant’s “Alliance” technology which is a mating of carbon fiber to hydro-formed aluminum structure. Check out the image here and I bet you can about guess which parts are carbon and which parts are not!

The frame also features a tapered steer tube and replaceable drop outs, lending credence to the theory that it could be a single speed with a drop out swap, or due to the bolt on seat stays, a belt drive bike. We o not have any further details but with this amount of development, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 2010 release for this model. Stay tuned!

Update 4/4/09: We now have some pics of the Giant aluminum hardtail and an actual prototype being tested for your perusal. Take a look and we’ll add more as updates come in…….

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Some views of the aluminum hardtail

Some views of the aluminum hardtail

Abio Folding Bikes

March 28, 2009

There is a pretty new company to the folder line up, Abio.  This company is based out of New York City and has produced two different folder models since 2007.  We will soon be previewing their belt drive, VerdionI have a soft spot in my heart for their shaft drive, Penza, bike due to the purple color.

These unique bikes are one of a kind in the United States and I hope will catch much attention as I’m riding it around or posting photos online.  The thought of a chainless, folder with no derailleurs to bother with or maybe twist up and no chains to grease up, well it feels very free to me.  As a bike mechanic I’m always worrying about my commuter bike especially while transporting it in cars, buses or flying.

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A few things that really stuck out to me on the design of both their models so far:

  • Internally routed cables for less wear and tear.
  • Snappy full size folding pedals
  • Quiet!  The internal hub and belt drive provide a very quiet ride

I’ll be commuting on this bike for the next couple weeks and will be documenting the experience!

Touring Tuesdays: In A Blazer Of Glory

March 24, 2009

The “Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour” was over, but the travelers still had to get home………

I was awoken out of a deep sleep by the sound of the tent zipper going up. It was my wife’s head that I saw poking into the door. Wow! It was still dark out and they were here already! Steve’s girlfriend and my wife drove up all through the night to get us. Now it was time to start packing up the goods and cramming five people into a late
80’s era Blazer.

<===Cedar River, the place we thought was a town but wasn’t, on the Upper Penensula. The pickens were slim inside this joint, but we made the best of it. This was on Day Six going to Escanaba.

We were all ready to go as the gray light of dawn had just started peeking over the horizon. I thought the bikes looked naked and forlorn up on the roof rack stripped of their panniers. That was my last memory of Michigan. I climbed into the Blazer and was in a half asleep stupor for several hours afterward.

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Handmade Bicycles: The Custom Frame Experience

March 18, 2009

Editor’s Note: In this series, Grannygear introduces us to some custom frame builders and takes a closer look at the process of making and delivering a custom, handmade bicycle to a customer.

Part one: Off-the-rack: It’s a pretty good deal.

Every cyclist begins somewhere, usually at the beginning. Makes sense that way. Typically, a beginner cyclist walks into a local bike shop and buys a production bike from a major or minor manufacturer. It is considered an off-the-rack purchase, like buying a pre-tailored suit. In other words, the new bike is like all the others of its brand and model, only the size varies in a few key areas. Take for example, the make believe brand of scooters, Viking Cycles. They offer the discerning customer the newest model to hit the dirt, the Thor’s Hammer hardtail 29er. All of the Hammers have the same components and are the same color. Some will be longer and taller to fit larger riders. Some will be shorter and smaller to fit smaller riders, and so on. That is pretty much it as far as differences between the frame sizes. The frame tubes will most likely be the same in the shape, diameter of the tubes, etc. In some cases, in the range of sizes the angles built into the frame may vary such as seat tube angle and head tube angle but that is not always so.

And you know what? This approach works pretty well most of the time. It allows for cost savings to the bike manufacturer in that models are not too varied and tubing cuts, welding fixtures, and parts ordering are easy to forecast and set up. It works for the bike shop as they can offer a reasonable selection of sizes and have them readily available for sale. It works well for the bike buyer as the manufacturers typically do a pretty good job of spec’ing out the bikes. And, since the new rider has not the information or skills to design their own bikes, the hard work is done for them.

But, there exists an alternative to the ‘a few sizes fit all’ approach: The custom bike builder. Usually, by this we mean just the frame, not the whole bike, but that is out there as well. A custom builder offers his or her services as an option for those cyclists who need or desire a bike uniquely suited to their needs. You can get almost anything done within reason.

So, why a custom bike frame? If this off-the-rack bike works so well, why even offer the choice? It will almost certainly:

-Cost more than a preassembled bike, unless you are shopping at the high end of the off-the-rack spectrum, then it may not.

-Take longer to get once you order it. Off-the-rack is sitting at the bike shop or in a warehouse.

-Involves lots of decisions on your part…who do you want to have build the frame, how will you use it, what do you want out of it, etc.

Over the next few articles, we will delve into the realm of the custom bike frame. We will look at the possible reasons for choosing that route then we will ask questions of some of the best folks in the trade and listen to what they have to say and ask them why they do what they do. We picked builders who work in steel, Ti, aluminum, or perhaps all three. Some are established masters, some are the talented newcomers and no two are alike. You will want to hear what they have to say. Then, we will pick one builder and do a work-up for a custom frame order, going through the process of deciding how it should be built, the fit, etc, and then we will show the final result on paper.

Stay tuned, as we dive headfirst into the realm of torches, benders, files, welding rods and friendly shop dogs…the world of the small, custom builder.