Category Archives: MTB
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.
It is hard getting excited about a new bike when, well, it looks exactly like the 8 other bikes in your portfolio…..
Still, the concept here is what is exciting for me.
Not too long ago (2-3 years?) came a new concept of trail bikes. 120mm-125mm travel bikes which had a long top tube ran a short stem and had reasonably slack headtube angles for bikes of that travel category at the time. Oh yeah, also a very low BB. I believe the spitfire started it and then the yeti asr5 followed and then later came the santacruz trc.
The spitfire was awesome but was a little too slow to actually race. The yeti was awesome fun and still one of the most fun bikes i have ridden and 100% raceable although on those long firetrail climbs you might have wished for a slightly “smarter” suspension system. The santacruz trc would have being nice to try as the vpp2 sus would have made it fun but also very competitive when it came to actually doing some racing. Still, the 29er golden age came around and mostly these type of new age bikes got swept aside. The key 29er 100mm travel bikes at the time and now are more technically adapt then the “trail” bikes of that era and is also faster so it kinda makes those bikes a moot idea. Still though i would argue the 26er yeti asr5-c was more fun then my niner for sure. Not as technically adapt but when i was in the right mood, damn it was good …..
So here comes the new SOLO. They basically took the 120-125mm travel bikes that i am so fond of and then shod in some 650b wheels. You can see why i am interested now right? In my mind i am hoping the bike takes on a medium ground between my niner interms of how technically adapt it is but also adopt the fun-ness of the yeti.
Appearance wise, im pretty sick of the SC look but ideal wise, i think this one works well for my type of riding.
Will research further hmmmmm
I reckon i can build a 650b 120mm travel trail bike for around the 9.3-9.5kg mark 🙂
Banshee Phantom just sounds right together eh? This is a new prototype from banshee bikes and first thought is “this looks like the type of bike i like”. A blend of xc speed with trail capabilities. This is apparently set for release in 2014-2015.
Is it going to ride much different to a well sorted 120mm carbon 29er like the niner jet 9 rdo or the tallboy? no idea. It definitely is slightly slacker though. Still, i always had a great time with the banshee spitfire so i look forward to this bike! Of course the colourway is right up my ally too 🙂
Last weekend was spent in the cycling capital of Australia, Canberra. The occasion was cliffy’s bday + well, awesome singletrack and trails.
We packed and left at 630 (i was 5 minutes late :p). Decided to head down in my car and matt’s ever faithful cube.
Figured out a long while back that enve wheels on roof racks is a pretty scary affair. Something about the rim profile that makes it very susceptible to cross winds in particular. The result is a flappy front wheel for the whole way down which is pretty scary for any onlookers. I have a solution in mind with a park tool and i think i better get on it soon. Wouldn’t want to repeat a kev …. (inside joke).
Stopped at Sutton Forest for a quick bite.
Eddie being Eddie obviously went for the big breakfast option even in a highway diner. Incidentally, about a year ago before i started my work, i didn’t really learn to appreciate coffee. Now however, i definitely appreciate good coffee more and can tell the difference between the likes of coffee. I downed my coffee fairly quickly as i wanted all the energy i could get for the awesomeness that is Kowen.
Since the last time i visited Sparrow/Kowen, the road has changed completely. The road outside the old parking lot is now a dead end and a new road connected to service motorist. This actually made it quite a bit better as it felt infinitely safer not to have cars flying past at 100km/h as you unpacked and got ready. We nearly got lost though and i have to say a bit of dejavu set in from the time we couldn’t find kowen entrance properly and ended up in the old mt kowen trails.
All good though as we found it fairly quickly after a u-turn and before we know it we were rolling towards the trail head.
Nothing prepares you quite for the awesomeness that is the Canberra trail network. Still, having stayed off the mtb for awhile, i was definitely a little rusty. I rode fairly stiff pretty much all the way until i got to sideshow bob and instantly like a light bulb my riding changed. Things started flowing together. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Soon we were all hollering the cambered hairpins and sweeping between the trees. From this section on wards it was just awesomeness right till the end. Everyone was super happy and on a high and when we finished we decided to head across the road to ride our old friend sparrow hills.
From about this point on wards, the guys exhibited some anti-hill syndrome and certainly at some point there were quite a bit of cursing whenever the gradient headed upwards. I enjoyed sparrow hill, it seems a fraction of kowen now and it isn’t as groomed but by itself it is still a top trail.
Oh yeah …. Cliffy had a fall about 15 minutes in. Off the smallest water bar no less. He decided to tweak the jump a little and whip it a bit but his foot came out of the very loosely set xtr pedals which resulted in a cloud of dust.
Nothing serious but he would pay for it later on in the night and stromlo.
After we finished, we came back to our car and caught Eddie completely red handed.
OK so background. Basically we wanted to own Cliffy. The plan was for eddie to make a cake with a balloon at its core with cream all around it so that when it was cut it would splatter the crap out of him + we added in a bottle of coke with mentos for good measure. It wasn’t meant to be though as the cake … well …. looked more like some icing on top of a balloon. It was a disaster. The mentos weakly reacted with the coke and caused it to trickle out of the bottle instead of gushing out. FAIL FAIL FAIL……
We checked into the very cozy apartment after our ride and quickly had a refreshing shower followed by watching the F1 qualifiers. The weekend was already awesome at this point as it was just one good thing followed by another. After F1, we headed out to dinner. Found the place we visited last year and had a beer or two … or three …..
Found our way back to the apartment and prolly went through half a case of beer (mostly eddie and matt, kev drank something or rather….). Went to sleep soon after and tried super hard to put up with the snores of Eddie. I don’t freaking know how winnie does it. Maybe her hearing is shot or something ….. because i would wish i had crap hearing if i had to hear that every night.
Edit :: How can i forget the spray bandaid moment from Cliffy? Has anyone tried spray on bandaids? They effing sting ….. We sprayed what must be a whole can on Cliffy. We sprayed a few jets first to a “oh its alright” respone which opened us up to spraying a crap load on him. Soon he was on the bed writhing in pain. LOL, never seen anyone in that much pain. What made it worse is the bandaid set and every little bump the next day on stromlo would cause him pain…. LOLOL
Woke up to a rather chilly morning and packed quickly and headed off to get some bacon for breakie. Found an awesome joint and enjoyed some runny poached eggs. Stromlo soon followed after and as always the trail was in awesome condition. NO. It was in much better condition. The berms on the luge has being manicured to a point where it was just so awesome. Canberra riders, you have no idea how lucky you are!
The highlight for me however is trail 6. I don’t remember all the section names but i really enjoy this trail. It is longer than the skyline/luge trail but imo it has a wider variety of terrain and the section up near the top with the repeated drops is just divine.
At around 2pm we started to pack and shower and head back. You see, we had the F1 race to finish the weekend on and we drove back to meet the 5pm race start deadline.
Couldn’t ask for more as always. I think everyone had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs and you know you had a good weekend when you head back to work on monday and you absolutely dread it as you would rather turn back time and re-experience the weekend all over again!
Thanks guys for an awesome weekend and Canberra we will be back 🙂