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.

B-29-BlackSatin_sm

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.

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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: www.frmbike.de (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.

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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!)

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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.

Siren+Song+Dropout
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.

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Look familiar?

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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
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.

Specs:

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

Weight
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.

Raleigh 2010 Sneak Peek: Update

August 19, 2009

Raleigh marketing wonk Brain Fornes got me some glamor shots of the new XXIX Pro and the single speed XXIX for us all to enjoy. The two bikes are steel framed rigs. The XXIX Pro being 853 Reynolds and the XXIX being a double butted 4130 CroMo tube set. New colors and some cool details are here, so without further rambling from me, here are some images………

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2010 XXIX Pro with SRAM XX, Fox F80 FIT 15QR, and Avid Elixir brakes.

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The XX crank is a double ring set up. Carbon fiber of course. Note the XX front mech too.

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My favorite part of the graphics on the XXIX Pro. I’m calling him, “Mexi-Skelton Dude”!

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More “Mexi-Skeloton Dude”, XX rear mech, Mavic rims, alloy nips. Prowler shoes on this sample.

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Blue ano 15QR hub on the Fox FIT F80 fork.

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2010 XXIX. Can you say “green”?

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Anodized alloy nips on powder coated to match rims.

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Matching anodized Cane Creek head set

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Ummm…………ahhh……..yeeeah. Not sure what to say about this!

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Oh! Thanks for the suggestion!

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Now here we have a big change. Split shell eccentric bottom bracket with replaceable Nylock nuts. This should keep the XXIX single speed-able for years to come! (Note: The production bike will have the EBB reversed from this pre-production sample.)

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That’s all folks! Hopefully we’ll be able to test ride the XXIX Pro at Interbike and bring you more complete 2010 Raleigh 29″er news soon.

Editor’s Note: Picture Credit to Brian Fornes.

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….

productimage-4_dex

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.

productimage-3_dex

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.

Salsa Cycles Big Mama: Final Review

August 17, 2009

The Salsa Cycles Big Mama is the companies first stab at a big wheeled full suspension rig, (if you don’t count the soft tailed Dos Niner), and is squarely aimed at the trail category with its four inches of suspension travel in the rear. Here is my final thoughts on the bike after riding Big Mamas off and on for over a year now.

augusttest2009 054

I have had the unique opportunity to ride the Big Mama set up in entirely different ways on two different frames. The production version frame shown here is set up with a Reba Team at 120mm travel and I have also spent significant time on one of Salsa’s pre-production samples set up with Fox forks at 100 and 120mm travel. I have ridden Big Mama’s in varied terrain ranging from quite rocky and slippery, to tight and technical. Buff single track to rooty trails with steep, punchy climbs. The Big Mama has been satisfying in most every way, but as with any bicycle, there are a few nits.

First of all, the issue with intermittent chain suck. I will tell you that I took every precaution against it happening,(lubed chain, good parts in decent condition), but I found that a certain quirk of the frame design makes an occasional chain jam a problem. The Big Mama has a massive forged bottom bracket/main pivot piece that leaves little room between it and a 32 tooth middle chain ring. If the suspension is cycled just right, and the rear derailluer kicks the chain up just so, it will jam between the forging and the chain wheel. This happened twice to me during my testing. Fortunately, in my years of experience, if I feel any resistance to pedal pressure that is odd, I don’t pedal through it, but if you do, it may make your day come to a screeching halt. Obviously a few different drive train choices will eliminate that issue, but if you run a standard crank set up, (mine is an LX 42/32/22) then you may want to be aware of this potential problem.

The only other minor nit was that the powder coat gets marred kind of easily by the cable housings, and there are several places that this happens at on a Big Mama. I used some clear tape to ward off the onset of unsightly marks. Too bad there isn’t some way to avoid this, but it is only a minor complaint. Otherwise the powder coat has been pretty durable on this sample.

august09 071

Handling And Performance: As I have stated in previous updates, I have run the Big Mama most of the time as seen above, with the Rock Shox Reba Team 120mm travel fork with the Maxle Lite 20mm through axle. This set up yielded a higher bottom bracket, and slightly slacker angles. I didn’t feel it hurt the performance of the Big Mama at all. A more “XC” approach does give the Big Mama more of a hard tail feel when you mash the pedals, but the snappiness still is there with the slightly slacker set up. An XC set up also makes the Big Mama turn a bit quicker, but I could pilot the Big Mama around the tight twisties just fine, and the stiff chassis was a big reason why. With all the forged bits and the Maxle, the Big Mama is going where you point it. Slow speed technical maneuvers are not shaky, or vague feeling. I only detected the slightest bit of flex at very intermittent times from this bike. Overall, I would rate the chassis quite highly against many other bikes.

Suspension Performance: The Big Mama is unique in that it does not have a rear pivot near the rear wheel axle. Instead, it relies on some amount of seat stay flex, much like a Dos Niner’s chain stays flex, to allow for the suspension to operate. I never noticed anything odd about this set up. My only nits with the suspension is that it seemed a bit overwhelmed in terms of rebound in situations where several medium sized trail obstacles were hit while seated in quick succession. Things such as smaller branches/roots in the 3-5 inch diameter range, or when several depressions in the trail surface were hit in a row. The suspension seemed bouncy at times in these situations, but this was a rare occurrence. Probably something a good suspension mod could take care of for a particular rider. Otherwise I would say that the Big Mama has a good range of adjustability, damps the trail chatter really well, yet retains a “connectedness” that some designs wipe out with the trail you are riding on. This is more a personal preference thing, perhaps, so take it with a grain of salt. I happen to like the feedback I get from the trail, so I am okay with the Big Mama’s ride in that sense.

I found that in big hits the Big Mama has a bit of a ramp up in compression at the very end of the stroke, but it isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t a “bottomless” feeling stroke though either. Again, not bad, just different. Depending on your personal likes, the Big Mama can absorb small trail chatter very well. I found the stock setting for my weight worked well in this sense. The suspension seems to be really active even on climbs, which I found to be a great asset in getting me up and over some steeps I haven’t been able to conquer on any of my other rigs. Granny ring climbing is fine, slow speed mashing is a bit of a bob inducer, but not bad if you are seated. Quite acceptable actually. Standing and climbing taxes the design the most, but switch the ProPedal over and it takes much of the bob out and it feels very hard tail like, especially when locking out the fork in combination with the ProPedal.

I had no issues with getting all the travel on the biggest hits. Overall, a very good performing suspension design, with a tilt towards the stiffer, more trail feedback sort of feel than some other designs. Downhills were a piece of cake, and the Big Mama cornered through fast turns and rolled over obstacles in its path with aplomb.

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Conclusions: The Salsa Cycles Big Mama is a bike that bridges the gap from XC to All Mountain. As I was exploring its intended purpose as an “all day trail bike”, I couldn’t really find any holes in the design. My nits are all minor and could be easily addressed. The suspension performs in a well mannered way with the rider being able to feel the trail, yet not get bitten by it. It isn’t the “magic carpet”, “buttery feeling”, or “bottomless” suspension feel other bikes may possess. But it does have a snappy feel when it is time to motor, it climbs steeps like it has tank tracks, and can bomb a downhill just fine, thank you very much.

The chassis is solid, very rigid laterally, and as Salsa intended, it seems to be very durable and trustworthy. It is light where it can be without sacrificing this, and I appreciate that from a design intended to be ridden all day, most anywhere. As I found out, it can be successfully set up in a few rather different ways, so riders can build up the frame option into a more personalized tool to satisfy more closely their intentions. It isn’t an All Mountain chunk rig, and it isn’t an all out full suspension XC rig. However; if the Big Mama is used as your “go to”, every day trail bike, I don’t think you can do a whole lot better in the four inch travel 29″er full suspension category.

Thanks to Salsa Cycles for supplying the frame for review.

Tri-Flow Products On Test

August 16, 2009

Twenty Nine Inches usually sticks to…..well, 29 inch stuff. To that end, we do not usually do much with other products related to cycling here. That isn’t to say we’re not doing maintenance, or wrenching on stuff, because we do. So, I thought it might be interesting for anyone else out there that does there own maintenance to flip over to our other site and keep tabs on the ongoing test of these Tri-Flow products. The Cyclistsite is going to be doing some product testing on the followingTri-Flow products over the coming months. (from the website)

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Tri-Flow® Red Grease

Tri-Flow® Red Grease is a multipurpose aluminum complex grease. Many users love this product for it’s unique application that comes out in a clean even and consistent bead. It features outstanding performance in high temperature applications and it is waterproof. This product provides an excellent seal on bearings, has a high-load carrying capacity, resists oxidation and is corrosion resistant.

Tri-Flow® Synthetic Grease

Tri-Flow® Clear Synthetic Grease is a premium quality, extreme pressure, non-melting, waterproof formula that seals out water contaminants. It is available in handy squeeze tube for easy application and fits nicely in a grease gun. Our grease is compatible with most rubbers and plastic and stands up to extreme temperatures (-10° – +400° F). Guaranteed to optimize the performance of your equipment’s moving parts, such as bearings and tracks, and will allow them to last longer and run quieter and smoother. Prevents rusting even when exposed to salt water! Formulated with P.T.F.E.

Tri-Flow® Foaming™ Citrus Cleaner Degreaser

Tri-Flow® Foaming™ Citrus Cleaner Degreaser provides a powerful foaming action that cuts through and cleans the toughest grease, dirt and oil. Easy to use trigger allows you to lay down a layer of foam that will cling and penetrate into the part to provide superior cleaning performance. The quick evaporation technology leaves no residue and needs no rinsing to get the job done quickly. The biodegradable formula is an added plus!

Tri-Flow® Rapid Clean™ Dry Degreaser/Cleaner

Tri-Flow® Rapid Clean™ Dry Degreaser/Cleaner is a premium formula with an attached high velocity trigger valve that blasts away dirt, wax, mud, grease and oil. Cleans surface and degreases quickly, no residue or rinsing needed.

Tri-Flow® Foaming™ Superior Foam Lubricant

Powerful foaming action helps penetrate and protect bearings, chains and cables. Our unique formula, combined with foaming action, allows the high performance lubricant to cling to all vertical or horizontal surfaces and to really penetrate into all of the parts. High-grade petroleum oils provide optimum lubrication under extreme temperatures (-60 to 475°F) and humidity.

Stay tuned for updates on each particular product and Grannygear and my takes on each.

Thanks to Tri-Flow for providing these test samples.