Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Gary Fisher Bikes Rumblefish: Update II

August 17, 2009

Several folks were wondering what the differences were between the Rumblefish 29″er full suspension rig and the HiFi line up, which at first glance seem to be the same bikes with different names. Here I will dissect the two models using the Fisher 2010 catalog I obtained by courier today. Let’s take a look….

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The Rumblefish: Okay, let’s take a look at the spec on the Rumblefish and the geometry chart for it afterwards.

The Rumblefish II starts out with a Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheel set shod with 29-3 tires. The fork is the Fox F120 FIT RLC 29, 120mm travel, 15QR, and G2 of course. The rear damper is a custom tuned Fox Float RP23 with the exclusive DRCV canister. Featuring a boost valve and a three position Pro Pedal switch. The drive train is all XT with a direct mount front derailluer. Things get whoa-ed up with a set of Avid Elixir R model brakes.

The Rumblefish I goes with a set of Duster rims laced to a front “Bontrager” 15QR specific hub and a Shimano M529 rear hub. All this topped off with the 29-3 tires again. The front fork goes to a F120 RL 29, 15QR, G2 offset. The rear damper is a custom tuned Fox RP2 with the DRCV canister again featuring a two position Pro Pedal switch. The drive train is mostly SLX with a M542 crank and is all stopped by Avid Elixir 5 brakes.

Both models feature the same 6011 aluminum frame with the E2 tapered steerer compatible head tubes, ABP braking pivot, and hydroformed tubing. Both models also receive the new Shimano 12-36T cassette as well.

Geometry is as follows for head tube and seat tube angles with trail figures.*
Static: Head Angle-70 degrees, Seat Tube Angle- 72.6, Trail- 80mm
Sagged: Head Angle-69.1 degrees, Seat Tube Angle-71.7 degrees, Trail-86.3mm

*Note: Fisher gives figures for each size. I averaged out the numbers from Small to XXL.

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The HiFi Line: Okay, now let’s compare to the HiFi line up…

The HiFi line consists of three models again, the HiFi Pro, HiFi Deluxe, and the HiFi Plus. All three share the same frame with a 6011 hydroformed main frame and stays, E2 tapered steerer compatible head tubes, and ABP braking pivot. The HiFi gets a traditional 11-34T cassette and 100mm travel forks.

HiFi Pro:Wheels similar to the Rumblefish II shod with XDX tires. The fork is a Fox F100 FIT RL 29 with G2 offset and E2 tapered steer tube. The rear damper is also a Fox- the RP23 with a three position Pro Pedal. The drivetrain and brakes are similar to the Rumblefish II.

HiFi Deluxe: Wheels again are similar to the Rumblefish I shod with XDX tires, The fork is a Fox F100 RL 29 with the E2 steerer and G2 offset. The rear suspension gets the Fox RP2 with the two position Pro Pedal switch. The drivetrain and brakes are again similar to the Rumblefish I.

HiFi Plus: Wheels go to Shimano 525 hubs on SSR rims shod with XDX tires. The fork is a Fox F100 RL29 with a standard 1 1/8th steer tube. The rear damper is the same as the Deluxe model. Drive train highlights are a mix of SRAM X-5 and X-7 with a SLX direct mount front mech.

Here’s your geometry for the HiFi line.*

Static: Head Angle-71 degrees, Seat Tube Angle-73.6 degrees, Trail-73.5mm
Sagged: Head Angle-70.1 degrees, Seat Tube Angle-72.7 degrees, Trail-80mm

*Note: Fisher gives figures for each size. I averaged out the numbers from Small to XXL. Also, the same figures for the HiFi are given for the Superfly 100.

Conclusions: Curiously, it would seem that the HiFi and Rumblefish lines are only separated by the front fork travel. Perusing the Fisher 2010 catalog, it is hard to find any spec on travel for the rear suspension of the Superfly 100, HiFi, or Rumblefish. (Or the 26 inch wheeled Roscoe, for that matter.) I had to resort to the official dealer book to find that the rating for the Rumblefish is 110mm rear travel and the HiFi is 100mm.

Is the full suspension line then really just a mix of “HiFi Lite” and “HiFi Heavy Duty”? The Fisher company line is that the Rumblefish is the “long travel” 29″er in the line up. Obviously the front fork lives up to the billing, and affects the geometry in a way that fits the category to some degree, but what about that rear travel? Of course, looking at numbers and geometry charts is one thing, riding is something completely different.

The HiFi and Rumblefish do have some impressive features, like the sub-18 inch chain stays, the tight wheel bases, and major improvements in the swing arm area. All very welcome things. In conjunction with the new front triangle, I am hopeful that Fisher has made the frame to be stiffer laterally and torsionally than the previous HiFi efforts. The ABP brake pivot and E2 head tubes will definitely point things in that direction, (and I felt the old HiFi had a very stout front triangle.)

Now if the Rumblefish can somehow make an additional 10mm of travel feel like an extra 20, then we’ll really have something here. Time will tell.

Carbon 29"ers: "Black Magic" Or "Sliced Bread"?

August 9, 2009

The recent leaks and press releases about 2010 big wheeled bike introductions has largely focused on several carbon fiber wonder bikes. Full suspension and hard tail, single speed and multi-geared, it seems to have become the choice for companies high end models in the coming year. This leaves us with several questions. Durability and affordability seem to be at the top of that list.

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Racers like National Champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski have readily accepted carbon fiber frames as being an advantage. (photo from JHK’s Twitter pics)

Carbon fiber mountain bikes are nothing new, frames made from carbon fiber were showing up in the late 80’s. The technological breakthroughs in manufacturing and design have pushed the black fabric and resin concoction to the forefront of cutting edge bicycle design. Along the way barriers have been broken in weight and strength, but have the barriers been pushed back too far? This and the processes that are engaged to produce the material leave the average trail rider scratching their heads in wonderment. What frame or component is going to last and what one isn’t? Even though tougher testing standards have been implemented by the European Union and others in the bicycle industry, the question still remains a concern for many riders.

So why all the carbon 29″ers? Well, it is technologically the best material for the job, for one thing. It can be tuned to be stiff, compliant, light, and still remain strong. Many of these attributes play well into what makes a big wheeler a better bicycle as well. Torsional frame stiffness will be much improved along with the handling aspects that in the early production 29″ers was lacking, especially when compared to 26 inch wheeled bicycles. The carbon fiber 29″er has now made racing and winning at top levels of competition a reality. For racing, it might become the only frame material choice that makes sense for 29″ers.

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Companies like Santa Cruz believe that carbon fiber is the way to go for trail bikes of both wheel sizes. Here is the upcoming 29″er Tall Boy. (from Santa Cruz’s blog)

On the other hand, will carbon fiber become a viable choice for the trail/all mountain/or free ride categories of 29″ers? Now 29″ers can be made to perform like their 26 inch predecessors both in weight and lateral stiffness, it is a possibility. As mentioned, testing standards are more stringent than ever. It is possible that used in the context that the frames are designed for, riders could expect that the bikes will hold up underneath them and deliver performance that was only wishful thinking for 29″ers just five years ago.

AIRCARB_Main_Vann
Rumor has it that Team Niner Ergon rider DeJay Birtch will be riding this frame at the Leadville 100.

Then one has to wonder how much these carbon frames will cost. If rumors are to be believed, most of these in complete bike form are going to be in the $4500-$8000 price range. In these economic times, the question is whether the market will support the new technological marvels. Time will tell, but the timing would appear to be a bit off in terms of where we are at with the economy. Keep in mind though that many of these projects were in the works long before the trouble hit late last year. Niner Bikes says they were working on their new Carbon Air 9 for the last 12 months, as an example.

Since performance promises to be a marked improvement, and if riders get a taste of the new benchmarks being set, it may be that a way will be found to subsidize riders desire for the best big wheeler money can buy. Carbon fiber is a labor intensive material to produce into a bicycle frame and unless technology can be used to replace the hand labor necessary, carbon fiber will not likely come down in price much if at all.

Is carbon fiber going to be the top tier material for all 29″ers then? Will the market forsake the other metal frame choices in favor of this man made wonder material? Not likely. The expense and riders mistrust of carbon will assure a market for other materials far into the future. That said, carbon fiber will be the material a lot of companies use to push the performance limits of 29″ers. However; some manufacturers have not given up on making metallic 29″ers to perform at high levels. Titanium and aluminum will still have their places, and perhaps even steel frames will still be tweaked further than we have yet seen. Twenty Nine Inches has learned that possible advances in aluminum forming technologies may one day rival carbon fiber for weight and strength. That is hopefully going to be a less expensive alternative as well, but we will have to wait and see.

So for now is carbon fiber the pinnacle of technology for 29″ers, the material that will vault 29″ers into the fore as the wheel of choice, or is it just an expensive exercise in technological wizardry that will never really be an influence on the average trail riding public? The answers are not clear cut, but suffice it to say that carbon fiber is going to be a big deal with big wheeled bikes in 2010.

Going Tubeless: The Future

July 28, 2009

Here in my final installment on tubeless mountain bike technology and specifically tubeless tire technology for 29 inch wheels, I want to address some areas of concern and where I think the tubeless tire and wheel products of the future can help to make big wheel mountain biking even better.

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While Giant made the new XTC-1 29″er rims tubeless compatible with a Stan’s rim strip, the tires mounted stock are not rated for tubeless use.

Why Not Go Tubeless From The Start? : The modern mountain bike rider is pretty information savvy. Tubeless benefits and performance are pretty well known and accepted by more and more mountain bikers everyday. To my mind it makes absolutely no sense to not have your product be ready to go tubeless out of the gate these days. Why not enhance the value and appeal of your wheels and tires by offering this as an option? Yes, tubes should be supported, and I still use tubes in many applications today, but if you are a serious mountain biker, you probably will be more tempted to buy a product that supports tubeless use than one that doesn’t.

I certainly can also see why manufacturers won’t be too thrilled with doing this. The technology to develop your own system, or get UST certification is expensive and time consuming. That said, a non-tubeless rim or tire is quickly being viewed as being “off the back” by mountain bikers. I agree that tubeless tires and rims that are reliable, easy to use and live with, and reasonably priced are the future of 29″er tires and rims.

Information Please: While this series of articles is hopefully shining a little light on this subject, it is by no means an exhaustive study of all products on the market and which are compatible with each other. Getting everybody on the same page might be asking too much, but would it be unthinkable for a rim manufacturer, lets say, to recommend tires for use as tubeless on their product? (Stan’s does this already). Or how about a tire manufacturer giving us some idea of how their product works tubeless on other tubeless designed rims? The conversation is pretty one sided on this score and the user group is the only one making any real noise here. I think that is a shame. The UST standard should be either opened to all manufacturers, or another system equivalent to it, so as it is with BB30 bottom brackets, users can all be assured that “this” tire can go on “that” rim without being a living, riding guinea pig. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about sealants in this conversation either.

More Choices: With an “open standard” we could all expect more choices. That would be a good thing, since the way things are now, a tire manufacturer, let’s say, doesn’t have a clue what tubeless system the end user will try to match their product up with. Yes, as I suggested, they could test on all available systems, but as we march forward, and more rim manufacturers start offering tubeless compatible rims, this situation will need to be settled. With everyone on the same page as far as a standard, the tire and rim manufacturers would be encouraged to make product that supported tubeless use. The way things are currently, the manufacturers are not going to know which way to go in this regard, unless a UST standard becomes the accepted way to do things. (As it is for the most part with 26 inch wheels and tires)

The Bottom Line: In the end, how ever things shake out, we as mountain bikers ask only a few things: That the tires be reliable, the rim/tire interface be safe, and that the tires, sealants, and rims be compatible with each other and easy to use. If this starts to become a reality, the days of tubeless tires and rims for 29″ers will finally become like that of the 26 inch world.

What Your Future 29"er Will Look Like

July 27, 2009

Recently several new technologies have sprouted and together they are changing the 29″er landscape in a big, big hurry. In fact, these new technologies are making such inroads that racers are now showing up to the start lines on 29″ers on the national scene and doing what was unthinkable just a year or so ago: Winning.

What is going on here and how will it affect the average trail rider in the future? Let’s take a look at some of these things that I believe the best 29″ers on the planet will have as standard items moving forward.

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Tapered Steer Tubes and Through Axle Forks: It is already happening, but I am certain that these two design features will totally take over the serious trail rider segment for wagon wheelers within the next two years. Yes- quick release forks will soon become a thing of the past, and tapered steer tubes will become commonplace, especially on 29″ers. Why? Why mess with years of tradition for this perceived benefit? Is it really that big of a deal that quick releases and standard 1 1/8th steer tube forks have to go the way of the dinosaur?

Yes.

I have ridden several of these bikes and with the combination of the tapered steer tube and through axle fork, 29″er handling is transformed to surgical precision. No longer will vague, flexy handling be accepted once riders start feeling the benefits of these two features that will become indispensable. In fact, I will go so far as to say that what we are riding now will be seen as laughable in perspective to how future 29″ers will handle with tapered steer tube technology and through axle forks. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the rear end of your bike either. Quick releases will be rare in the back end as well. The way through axles tighten up the handling of any 29″er is amazing, and at the very least, systems like DT Swiss’ ratcheting skewers will dethrone traditional quick releases in short order on 29″ers.

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Wheel Technology: The difference in wheels for 29″ers today versus three years ago is already astounding, but here’s the kicker: Carbon fiber hoops will become the must have rim for 29″ers. These rims are super pricey, but I fully expect that marketing competition, and new manufacturing techniques will send prices downwards to the point that these hoops will become the single biggest performance enhancing upgrade that any 29″er freak will desire and be able to attain within reason. Carbon fiber sounds scary at first, but these new hoops will prove out to be longer lasting and lower maintenance than aluminum rims are today. Not to mention that they will lower rotational mass and increase lateral rigidity to the point that anything less will become undesirable in the realm of 29″ers. Perhaps only the wider, burlier trail/AM/Free ride type hoops will be aluminum in the future, but XC/trail riders will be gravitating towards the carbon fiber hoops in big numbers in the future. The ride and performance benefits are just too good to be ignored.

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Tubeless Tire and Rim Technology: The tires and rims on your future 29″er will all be tubeless ready out of the box. Already I am aware of several rim/complete wheel manufacturers that are going to introduce tubeless ready wheels in their 2010 line ups. I fully expect that tire manufacturers for 29″ers will also gravitate more and more to tubeless ready tires exclusively. The demand for tubeless tires, rims, and the knowledge to do the tubeless conversions by riders is getting the attention of manufacturers and this will become a standard feature on your future 29″er. It won’t be long and the thought of anyone introducing a rim that requires a tube or a tire that requires a tube will be thought to be an odd thing for a wagon wheeler.

Drive Train Changes: The future 29″er rider can also expect to see some dramatic changes in the drive train of their 29 inch wheeled bicycle. Gone will be the days when you had to worry about gear ratios that matched 26 inch wheeled bikes. The Shimano 12-36T cassette is already trickling out, SRAM’s new XX system will have a 10 speed option with a 36T low gear, and others are following suit. Several two chain ring or Hammerschmidt type front set ups will appear with new gear combinations which will eliminate the need for a triple ring crank. New front derailluer designs are already making 29″er clearances better which will allow for shorter chain stay bikes to be developed. Hub designs are changing to allow for the higher torque loads of 29″er set ups and all of this will supplant the current 29″er set ups within a short time. All things which will increase performance and level the playing field for 29 inch wheeled bikes soon.

These are the main technological differences that have vaulted top level race rigs into the limelight as respectable, viable choices for certain courses by pro level athletes. Expect this sort of technology to become standard equipment on finer big wheelers everywhere in short order!

Racers Begin To Use- And Win- on 29"ers

June 21, 2009

When 29″ers were yet seen as a curiosity, a fad, or something far worse, (some folks are still thinking all three things!), the idea of someone racing a 29″er in the upper ranks of mountain biking was not even on the radar, much less a serious thought. Now things have changed dramatically in those regards.

Of course, the Fisher-Subaru Team has raced 29″ers for a couple of seasons now at selected races. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz are regularly using the big wheels now, but that’s to be expected. Fisher Bikes is the 29″er company, by any one’s measure, so having the team use 29ers isn’t taken too seriously outside of their fan base as a rule. Now though, several others are looking at, and using big wheels in racing at the sports top level, and folks are taking notice.

Let’s tick off a few highlights just from this season…….

-Todd Wells uses a Specialized carbon 29″er hardtail to put in a spectacular ride. He breaks a chain at the start line. Fixes it, is dead last in a 120 plus man field, and rides in for a top five finish in Fontana, California.

-Niner Bikes sends riders John “Fuzzy” Milne, Deejay Birtch, Rebecca Tomaszewski, and a couple others to Italy where they dominate the Finale 24hr event. Niner takes the 8 man team category- with 6 riders- ……on single speeds against geared riders! Tomaszewski won the solo female category on her geared Niner hardtail. All against top riders in Italy.

-Salsa Cycles first Selma single speed in the U.K. is ridden to the U.K. Single Speed Championship.

-Heather Irminger wins a short track XC event on a Superfly hardtail recently with Todd Wells and JHK coming in one, two on big wheels in the men’s event.

Get the picture?

Could it be that now 29″ers will be another “tool in the box” of all top pro racers? Well, maybe if the Europeans start to ride them, and with the recent accomplishments in Italy and the U.K., this may not be far off. But then again, who in their right mind would race a 29″er? It’s just silly, right?

It’s going to take more wins and top finishes, but I think that it is just silly enough it will happen sooner or later.

The Future Of 29″ers: 2009 Report Card

June 7, 2009

Back in January we were all dreaming of warmer weather and raging some single track. We were also dreaming about what equipment we might be doing that on. Here is the post where I made some prognostications and gave some thoughts on just where all this 29″er stuff might be headed. Now that we are six months into 2009, let’s see how I have done so far…..

bonty29-3-09-008Racing tires like this Bontrager 29-3 rear are already available.

Racing Tires and Wheels: I have pretty much hit the nail on the head here, I think, just judging from what I see here being tested. New tires and wheels have certainly made a splash already in 2009. I think we will see the meatier treads following now, but the reason for that will be coming up yet, so keep reading!

Carbon “Fork” Print: The carbon forks are slow in coming, but they are coming. Bontrager’s new Switchblade, which now will finally be available in G2 Geometry (51mm offset) and “regular” offset (46mm) is hitting the warehouse later this month, I am told. The Niner carbon fork should be hitting trails any day now, and Soul Cycles fork is still in development, but should see the light of day soon as well.

Will there be more? Probably. However; this segment will not see the development that suspension forks have already and are going to soon. The tapered steer tube is already a staple of many 2010 bike designs, and the 15QR through axle looks to be the “QR killer” I spoke about back in January. Look for the existence of longer travel forks to start leaking out here this summer.

On Gearing: The Deore level 11-36T cassette has already been announced in 9 speed. Now with the development and introduction of SRAM XX, look for more options in 10 speed wide ratio gearing to be introduced by Shimano in the fall. New XTR will show up as a 2 X 10 group with a wide ranging cassette to compete with SRAM for mtb dominance. I suspect that even an XT option will surface as well. This would explain the lower level 9 speed casette we saw introduced earlier and why it isn’t a higher level cassette. 2 X 10 and to a lesser extent, 2 X 9 set ups will be the hot ticket going into 2010. On the opposite end of the spectrum, look for something in a 9 speed triple with 20/30/42 chainwheels to surface as well.

A Word About Carbon: We’ll see more carbon fiber rigs and we have already seen a fair number debut already. Who will drop in the 29″er bandwagon with the black magic? My bet is that Trek, who is strongly rumoured to be entering in 2010 with 29″ers, will be offering it’s highest end hard tail with big wheels and carbon construction based upon the Madone road bike. There will be a carbon/aluminum composite from Giant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least two to three more carbon frames show up with big wheels from several manufacturers, including Santa Cruz.

A Word About Titanium: Don’t forget about this grey wonder metal. I am reasonably sure that something is going to surface made from the metal with 29″er hoops on it. I have seen at least two titanium bikes come as far as rideable prototypes only to get axed in the end, but I’ve a feeling there will be something coming out that a lot of folks will find surprising.

A Word About Full Suspension: We haven’t seen the last of the new FS designs for 2010 yet. The aforementioned Santa Cruz will debut something this fall, Fisher Bikes, which has showed its hand with the Superfly 100 isn’t quite done yet, and if Trek is bowing with 29″ers, don’t be surprised if they show up with a big wheeled FS rig. But that’s not all folks, I know of at least two more FS 29″ers waiting in the wings, and more are coming. Long and short travel. Stay tuned…………

Santa Cruz 29"er Project In The Works

May 15, 2009

It was revealed yesterday in a post from Santa Cruz’s blog that the long time 29″er hold out is working on a 29″er project due to be unveiled “before Interbike”. This would become a 29″er that most mountain bikers not into big wheelers will look to as a litmus test on the format. Santa Cruz has long been highly regarded as one of the premeir trail bike companies with models from the Bullet to the new carbon Blur XC all raising the bar along the way in the eyes of many mountain bikers.

Citing the lack of suitable trail worthy components, Santa Cruz says 29″ers have been on their radar but considered not up to snuff for them to make one. Now they claim since the materials technology, component design, and ride performance are all at a high level for 29″ers, they are going to jump in the 29″er market with a bike that will not only get them on the bandwagon but one that will be “hijacking the damn bandwagon“, in their words.

Not many details are available at this time, but the indications are that the bike will be a full suspension model with VPP suspension. Squeezing out much more than 4 inches of travel with a VPP 29″er will require some trickery not seen before, so I do not look for anything beyond that travel for the rear. Santa Cruz states that “… the challenge of packaging some decent suspension into a bike and still having a manageable chainstay and wheelbase length” is important, so getting these attributes from a VPP design is going to limit travel expectations.

Some rumors are floating about also that Santa Cruz will offer the 29″er in aluminum and carbon. This would be a big surprise if true, and it is doubtfull that going into the 29″er market for the first time that they would commit to a carbon 29″er out of the box. This is pure conjecture though, so don’t take that as gospel. It’s just my opinion on the matter.

At any rate, this will be a big development in 29″ers and will bear watching closely as the summer months set in. Stay tuned!

Misfit Psycles diSSent: A Captain Bob Review

May 10, 2009

(Editor’s Note: This is a review of the Misfit Psycles diSSent by Captain Bob. This will be his final review for Twenty Nine Inches and we thank him for his work here.)

What defines the differences between a race frame and a normal frame? Is it the ride quality, weight, price, looks, tubing material, the company that actually fabricates the frame etc…..? I don’t really know the answer to that. Do we decide this by reading reviews? Sometimes we do I guess. It sure might play some role in decision making, for me at least. Some frames get written off just by being inexpensive maybe. Others get the ax by being too pricey. Well, I guess I would have to admit that I didn’t express too much interest in the Misfit Psycles Dissent. Not much interest at all, even after seeing it at the shop where Guitar Ted works. Then one day I was talking about the hassles I have when testing different wheels/tires but having to use one bike. Having to readjust brake calipers and chain tension at the trail head in order to get in all the reviewing needed. So, Ted said, “Hey Captain. Why don’t you use the diSSent as a second test bike until get your new race bike.” I thought about it for a few minutes and decided to take him up on the offer.

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This frame and fork ended up at my house with the complete build that Ted had previously been testing as a budget build. I rode it around the yard and on my 3/4 mile single track that is in my back yard and thought, what’s going on here, this is aluminum? Really? Something is different here. Ok, more on that in a bit. I decided that I should do a very contrasting build to the “budget build” that I was looking at. Why not bling this thing out a bit. Could this entry level rig make a quality race bike? Hmm….. So granted, I wasn’t going to go buy new high end parts to throw at this project but I would put all the good stuff on it that I have not been using. So, now we have project “Misfit Race!”

Ok. Let’s get into the parts end of this mini-review:

Misfit Psycles diSSent Frame. (claimed weight 4lb 7 oz)
Misfit Psycles diSSent Aluminum Fork (claimed weight 1lb 10oz)
Cane Creek S3 headset
Cheap seat clamp
Thompson 70mm stem (botched anodizing job turned flat black)
Thompson seat post (botched ano again)
Salsa Moto Ace 11 degree flat handlebar
Ergon E1 grips with bar-ends (my favorite single speed combo)
Quad Hydro disc brakeset 180mm rotors
San Marco Caymano saddle
TruVativ ISO Flow cranks and bb
Bontrager pedals (yeah, I know they are old)
32t Generic chain ring and bash guard.
Easton XC-One SS wheels
Misfit Psycles 18t aluminum cog.
Specialized Fast Trak S-Works 2Bliss tires 2.0
inner tubes
Bontrager bottle cage

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I will let you know right now that this complete bike (yes, with pedals and bottle cage) weighed 22.28 lbs on the shops Ultimate digital scale. I was surprised though since it felt much lighter. Maybe that’s because I have been working out…..ok, I don’t work out so that’s not the reason. Anyway, I guess that’s a respectable weight for a budget frame. Ok, enough with the small talk. Let’s get to the real issue here. The ride. The ride is what makes this frame and fork so special. First off, the Easton wheels make any bike ride a little more compliant than other wheels, but they are not the only reason. I would have to call this frame set steel with the looks of aluminum. Yes, it is aluminum but the feel is all steel. In fact it’s better than most steel frames I have owned or ridden. The fork surprises me the most though. It’s so compliant yet still rigid. When you grab a handful of front brake you can see the fork pull back. Even cruising along on a gravel road the movement of the fork is clearly evident. I did throw on an Origin 8 Black Ops carbon fork for one day and I realized quickly that the Misfit fork was way more compliant. The Misfit fork is lighter too. So, is it too flexy? I don’t think so. If there is lateral flex I guess I just didn’t notice it. Out on the single track I could really appreciate the softer ride from the front end. I believe there are many people out there that may discover in this fork that it’s what they have been longing for. It’s very light. Stiff enough but very compliant. Tracking is right on too. The price is right. I think it’s $90. (Editor’s Note: The Misfit Psycles site lists the fork at $90.00) Pretty cool. Quite a surprising fork for sure. Only one issue. With the vertical dropouts I am able to get the front wheel to pull out of the dropout ever so slightly when grabbing a big handful of front brake. I can see that the wheel is not straight and the rotor also rubs the caliper a tad. This mainly happened when the temps were below freezing. Weird I guess. I have had this happen on other forks too that have a vertical dropout but not forks with an angled dropout. Now that it is warmer I really haven’t had the problem as often. There was never an issue of danger since the dropouts have those little tabs to prevent the wheel from coming out without loosening the quick release. Just something worth noting.

So, how about this frame? “It’s very lively” is the best way I can describe it. I would say it’s identical to what a high end steel frame feels like. Much more compliant than the Jabberwocky that I no longer own. Both nice frames but one is stiffer than the other and that is the only comparison that I will make. The welds are very nice and the gussets are straight. Nothing worse than crooked gussets. Out of the saddle climbs with my 210 lb frame did show a hint of bottom bracket flex but nothing that smoothing out my pedal stroke didn’t correct. The head tube area felt stiff enough too. The sliding dropouts worked flawlessly. I do wish for a bit more length to play with gear combos. To get the wheel where I wanted it and with my gearing I did need to use a 1/2 link which works fine. The sliders never slipped on me at all. The washer was smooth so if someone were to get some slipping a knurled washer would for sure stop that.

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So, there are three nit pics with the frame. Nothing major again but worth noting. The seat post seemed a tad small for the seat tube. Once the seat clamp was loosed the post would drop all the way down under it’s own power. However; it did stay put with my cheapo clamp once it was torqued down. It never did slip down while riding. The other nit pit is the chain hit the back end of the chain stay with most of the gear ratios that I chose. It appears that the dropout put the rear axle a little lower than it maybe should be. When running a 32×18 gear combo I could get chain slap even with the really tight chain. I ended up putting a little electrical tape around the stay which helped silence the slapping noise. Not a big deal but would be if I were to run a 32×16 gear. My final nit pick would be the bottom bracket height. With the 2.0 S-works tires it left me with a bottom bracket height of 11.5 inches. A did have a couple pedal strikes but there is a learning curve with any low bottom bracket. On some trails I had to stop pedaling on one off camber stretch where I normally would be able to pedal. Not a huge deal though. I just swapped out the tires today to a Geax Barro Race rear and Geax Saguaro front. With the Saguaro being such a tall tire it actually raised the bottom bracket height to about 11.75 inches. That’s a pretty good jump and I bet with the Saguaro on the front and rear it would hit 12 inches. Something to keep in mind if bottom bracket height is an issue for you.

In conclusion I would have to mention one last impressive thing to note is the paint. It’s a nice powder coat. In fact, it looks and feels like the thinnest powder coat I have ever seen on a bike. However, I have yet to scratch through it. Even the brake cable rub is minimal, Very impressive since some high end frames come with less than perfect paint jobs.

I am still impressed with the diSSent frame and fork.

Do 29"er Riders Really Need UST Tires?

April 28, 2009

As I have been talking a lot of tire talk here of late, it got me to thinking again about 29″er tubeless tires and specifically UST type 29″er tires. Admittedly, few exist and as of now, they are all from GEAX. However, I think we can draw some pertinent information from the tires that are out in terms of the big wheeled mountain bike rider.

First of all, UST is a standard for tires that when mated to a tubeless rim, will give you an airtight seal without a tube or sealant. Preferably the rim is also a UST piece, but given that Mavic’s Cr29max wheel is the only 29″er wheel with a UST certified rim, it makes things a bit difficult. That said, I’m not sure UST is all that necessary for 29″ers. Even if you can mount up a GEAX UST tire to some other rim.

Some would argue for UST for rigs like this Salsa Big Mama

Some would argue for UST for rigs like this Salsa Big Mama

Let’s take GEAX’s Saguaro tire as our example since it is the only tire currently available in UST, TNT, (a tubeless ready variant), and a folding bead version. I think this illustrates one of the main deficiencies of a 29 inch UST tire- namely weight. A GEAX Saguaro folding bead tire weighs about 660 grams on average. A TNT tubeless ready version tips the scale at 770 grams on average. Make that same tread design in the same width a UST tire and you are talking 930 grams on average. That’s a lot of extra rubber!

Now some would argue that a tire that beefy would have a tougher sidewall, and therefore be a worthy tire for sharp rocks or abusive riding. I say, why not invest in a tubeless ready design with technologically advanced sidewall treatments to gain a similar advantage without that big of a weight penalty. Most tubeless tire users run with sealant anyway to ward off punctures, so this shouldn’t be a concern.

Of course, a tire with this sort of technology will cost more, but I think more riders would settle for it rather than a heavy, and actually a much heavier, UST variant of any given tread design. I would go so far as to say that all 29″er tires should be a tubeless ready design, with the XC/Trail designs maybe offered in a folding bead for the weight conscious. Tubeless ready designs with reinforced sidewalls and upper end, technologically advanced rubber compounds would be the next logical step in 29″er tire designs. Not UST.