Hardtail’s have always had a spot in my heart. Whilst the latest and greatest dually will age in 2-3 years, the hardtail will always have a place in history. Living with a hardtail though is a completely different story. With dually’s so light now and so sorted, it becomes harder and harder to pick a hardtail as your go to weapon for a long weekend away at Canberra.
If only hardtails were more versatile and not as narrow minded in execution.
I have had a couple of hardtails and progressively better and better ones. One of the worst i experienced was the giant xtc alloy. That was partly my problem as i built it with some 560mm handlebar a 80mm left over fork from somewhere and then decided to strip the cushion off a slr flow saddle rendering my ass useless for sitting duties immediately after one ride. That bike was the very definition of oldschool alloy and holy crap it was bumpy. I mean if you were a road engineer and wanted to pave a smooth road, you could use the xtc as a kind of measuring tool. Ride over a section of road and if your ass doesn’t distingerate, you have done a good job of paving the road.
Then i had the voodoo steel ss-rigid and that was fun. Steel is real and for sure it was nice and supple. Nothing like the xtc.
Then i built up a proper weightweenie scale which kinda hinted at what a hardtail could be. It was really really good to ride in flowy singletracks. I reckon it would have left my niner for dead on the simpler trails and it was just fast everywhere and especially after accelerating out of corners. I think that bike was built to 8.5kg’s and the most astonishing part was how it was so light but still so comfy. This was the start of a new chapter for carbon hardtails utilising specific carbon construction to build in flex comfort. It is all the craze now for road bikes as well and you know what, i can’t argue with it. It made the hardtail actually bearable to ride.
Still, i let it go because i forsaw the death of the 26er race bike. Luckily i got rid of it when i did and recouped some $$ because it is probably worth around $1000 now ….. That and the fact that i was never going to take it to all of the trails. It was always going to be a smoother trail bike.
I remember i blogged a while back that the only two hardtails worth considering at the time was the scale and the flash because both pioneered the comfy carbon concept. Both had engineered flex into the frame/seatpost to take the sting out of the hardtail experience. Fast forward to today and i have finally been flashed.
Is it really as good as i thought it would be? This is the first hardtail in a 29er format i have ridden (the 5 minutes on the niner air 9 doesn’t count). When i first started riding the 29er jet 9 carbon it was a revelation. How can such little suspension travel be capable of so much? I commented on certain trails that i felt just as confident as riding my mojo hd but with the speed of the asr-5c. With that in mind, i was anxious to find out what the flash f29 would be like. In my mind, the theory of applying 29er wheels to what would be scale speed would surely mean the versatile hardtail that i have always dreamed of?
Cut to the point. The 29er wheels has just as much effect here on a hardtail platform as it did on a jet 9 carbon dually and maybe enhances the hardtail ride more than just versatility. Hopping on the flash there was none of the sketchy race bike feel that most 26er hardtails exhibit. The steering is faster than the niner for sure but nothing that would be classified twitchy. Snaking down the singletrack the flash handles tight singletrack better than the niner. It probably is due to more weighting on the front of the wheels plus the tighter headangle which results in better turn in but for a few short sections i had a glimpse of the weapon this bike would be on a singletrack infested trail.
Was it comfortable? Oh yes it was. No less than the scale and maybe even a little more comfier due to what i believe to be the bigger wheel size and also the enve carbon rims absorbing some of the small bumps. This is the most comfortable hardtail bike i have ever ridden. No bull. On normal terrain, i honestly at points of my ride asked why i needed a dually. Then i came across some proper square rocks and understood clearly that even though this is the most comfortable hardtail i have ridden, it is still a hardtail. Rocks still highlight the fact that it is a hardtail. That is something you can never hide. The bumps are masked with a more softer sting but if you are not ontop of it and not in the best condition, it can be annoying as it throws off your pedalling rhythm and make your body work harder to negotiate the terrain.
This part has not changed. A good hardtail rides better the fitter you are. If you were say in peak form and a machine, you could easily power over those rocks and reap the other positive effects of a hardtail. If you are a little weak and have being off the bike quite a bit or you are not so technically minded you could be spending a lot of energy just balancing the rear end of the hardtail vs ploughing over stuff. I didn’t spend too long setting up the lefty yesterday, a quick sag checking and not even paying too much to the rebound, i headed out to the trails this morning.
Surprisingly, it all feels fairly smooth. I am reminded constantly that it is only 90mm of travel but the damping is good and controlled with repeated bumps being controlled and the fork not being overwhelmed. Over smaller bumps, the fork is setup relatively taut but i reckon the silicon grips + enve wheels take a lot of the sting out of bumps. What is very interesting to me is i could feel the stiffness in the lefty setup. It was very similar to the feeling i had on the enve wheels when i first started riding it. Either that or it is the enve wheels at work here again but the whole front end felt 100% solid. No flex at all. Point it where you want and it will go there pretty much and it is more noticeable on off camber ground.
The bike came with such a high-end setup that nothing much is needed but hey, there is always room for improvements and further tailoring right?
I love the sisl crankset but at 175mm it is too long. I can feel it and my knees felt it after the ride. Not only this but i am over 2 x front setups. So what will most likely happen is a x.0 type 2 (clutch mechanism) rear derailleur will be called on for 10spd shifting so i don’t have to chuck away the xx cassette/xx shifters and it will be paired with a set of 170mm xx1 crankset without a chain guide. This should net an even lighter setup than the xx1 complete groupset and for a bike so fast it should be fine with a maximal gear of 32-36t.
1x is a must and a clutch derailleur is a must too.
The other thing id like to change is the handle bar height. I still feel that it is a little too high for optimal weighting so i will be calling on a leonardi racing stem to bring the cockpit right down. Slam your stem eat your heart out.
More review as it comes but so far all i can say is 26er’s hardtails in a short travel format is all buy dead to me now.