31 October 2008 - 16:46twitter
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Chronicles of mountain bikes with 29 inch wheels.
if you just can’t get enough, you can now follow bike29 on twitter.
With things being a little slower in the shop, I can now concentrate on some of the projects I’ve been meaning to get to over the last few months.
At the top of this ever growing list, is the Bike 29 single speed project. I am building it using one of our hottest selling frames, the Vassago Jabberwocky. These frames are awesome, made from a proprietary butted 4130 CroMo tubeset, and built with a unique geometry that sets them apart form the rest of the herd.
This geometry is called “Wet Cat“. Picture the way a wet cat tears around a room, and you’ll catch a glimpse at what this means and how the bike performs. I’ve found this to be very true, having spent some time behind the bars of the Jabber’s geared twin, the Bandersnatch (also a very hot seller). You get the feeling of being in the bike vs perched on top of it. I can attest that it tears around the trails the same way an angry wet feline might tear around your living room. This is achieved by moving a couple of things around, namely the BB and head tube.
The head tube is a relatively slack 71°, built around a non suspension corrected fork, or an A-C of 465mm. The BB has been lowered and the seat tube steepened to 74°, and when welded to the longish stays, provide a kicked out wheelbase. The low BB drops the frame’s center of gravity, and when paired with the longer wheelbase, make for a pretty darn good handling and very stable bike. Because you are effectively lower in the bike, the sensation of rolling off the back of the bike on steep climbs is gone. The way that the long stays are butted internally yields a feel is not unlike a soft tail, with just the tiniest bit of sproing that steel lovers rejoice over. It works, and works very well. Now that the secret is out, its easy to see the reason these frames have been so scarce over the last year.
Installed on this frame are the new “JabberNutz”, a nice thumb friendly version of the tensioner screw that hold the rear axle in place.
Availability was the main reason it’s taken so long to get one of these built up, I’ve had to keep my stock available for selling, tying up one of my biggest sellers was not really an option for me, but now their numbers are building again.
So, what we have here is a 16″ Bone White frame. Installed is the prerequisite Chris King headset. I think that red anodized components will really complete the look we’re going for. The rest of the build will follow over the next couple of weeks.
Tune in next week, when we’ll pick out the fork for this beastie!
Friday afternoon, mid 60s, bluebird skies, and a couple of friends with nothing better to do than to play bikes. I felt only a little bad about locking up the shop and hitting the trails. I already had the shop closed this Friday due to an inservice day for our schools which left us without childcare. Fortunately, we had a babysitter available. 100% chance of skiving.
Plus I have this fancy new bike that needs to be ridden.
My previous gripe with the BB feeling low and having a lot of pedal strike was due to what I can only guess was a faulty rear shock. I switched the RP23 from the silver bike I’d been riding, and the difference was immediate. The ride was greatly improved. Maybe I needed to spend more time dialing it in, but I have one that works now, so all is well.
We slid out for a couple of hours, trying to make the best of a mountain biking season plagued with rain. Days like this come from heaven. Azure skies, the last of the foliage still clinging to the trees a brilliant gold. Truly a great day, one that stands out amongst the few we’ve been given. These days are numbered, you have to take them when they are there. Before too long, there will be snow.
But for now, here are some more shots of the ride. All three of us were riding RIPs.
New Rock Shox Reba forks arrived today.
And I have plenty in stock.
They are sweet, light and everything promised right out of the box.
I’m a bit baffled that the Teams don’t come with the Push Lock, maybe the new damper is that good?* Unfortunately, I will not be able to get a chance to throw the 120mm on my new RIP9 for the time being. We have snow above 2500ft here, and it is cold enough for the snow level to drop to the valley floor at a moment’s notice. I thought that I’d get my hands on the 120 before now, I even had a wheel put aside for the moment, but the 09 RIP is getting 100% of my attention these days. I suppose I could put the non-Maxle Team fork on re-stroked to 120, but there is still the issue of the tapered head tube.
More to come on this subject later…
* I never use the lockout feature on a fork. Why? Ride rigid if you don’t want it to move. I’ll restrict it if’n I need to, but those shocks need to breath! I could go on to a huge rant on this subject if need be. That may be another post down the trail…
After scrambling around to get all my household chores done after I closed the shop, I met up with DA, Nat, Shaun and Keller for a spin around Town Loops in Stowe. This is always the first place I take a new bike to get a feel for it. The trails feature a little of everything, and can be quite technical in spots. My familiarity with the area make it the perfect test ground.
So here are the numbers as they stand. The bike weighs in at 29.98 lbs as pictured. The build is typical of many of the RIP9s I build, Royale Wheelset with Flow rims, X9 trigger shifters with X0 rear derailleur, Truvative Noir cranks set up as double (24-36t), Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes, Easton low rise carbon bar, Ergon Enduro grips, Thomson stem, the indispensable Crank Brothers Joplin post with remote, WTB Devo saddle. The tires are the Bontrager Jones/WTB Prowler combo I posted about earlier.
I set the air pressures identical to the silver RIP I had been riding all summer. The greatest thing about this bike, is that I just had to mimic the set up, the dimensions of the frame haven’t changed at all. A quick parking lot test assured me that we were all systems go.
So, as far as the way the bike pedals and climbs, there is nothing new to report. Except, once in the rooty and rocky sections of the trails, I felt that the power was getting to the ground a little more efficiently. Add some speed in there, and the bike felt solid. I was beginning to feel a bit of a difference. The front end felt stiffer somehow, in the way it plowed through off camber roots and ledgy shale outcroppings. It’s hard to describe the difference, but this bike is definitely stiffer. I had always found the RIP to be an adequately stiff bike, but this was starting to feel like night and day. You can really feel the difference when cresting rolling humps at low speed. On the older bike, you could detect a tiny bit of flex when your wheels were on either side of the hump, not so with this bike.
There are a couple of spots out in Squirrel Land that became downright scary. The new bike begged for as much speed as I could muster, and the subsequent poor line choices made for some interesting scenarios. I missed a turn and blew right into a stump on the side of the trail, the bike took the hit and as I watched from behind the bars at the impending doom, I managed to get the front wheel up enough to use the stump as a launch ramp.
Squirrel Land is my favorite trail out in the Loops, it is bench cut into the hill in a pine stand, and features all sorts of rolling swoopy turns, a couple of death rocks,some stumps and some fallen trees. It is generally dry, and this time of year, you can see the whole trail that is normally partially obscured with ferns. Since I added the Joplin post to the bike, I have been able to ride this trail a lot faster. Getting your center of gravity low is key, and having the extra mobility on the bike allows you to almost fling it down the trail.
It was here that I fully understood the improvements made on this bike. Wow.
I was definitely flying down the trail, and took a pretty big lead on the others. There are a couple of spots on the side of the trail where the opportunity for air exist, and I took them. It was absolutely amazing to me and how flickable the bike had become. Pumping the transitions helped keep momentum, but the I-beam like feel in the hard corners kept the speed. And all the time I was thinking that I had never felt the need for improvement on the old design, yet I was riding parts of the trail that I hadn’t dared to on the old bike.
It wasn’t all roses though. I have to double check the shock settings, as I had some of the worst pedal strikes I have had on a bike. I was told that the BB height had been raised slightly over the last bike, so I will report back after I get a chance to compare the two bikes side by side.
Niner claims that the new downtube/bottom bracket junction is 55% stiffer over the old design, the rockers are 50% stiffer, and the tapered headtube with the hydroformed tubing has added 30% of stiffness over the old design. This makes the new RIP9 135% more rad than the older version.
I found this to be 100% true.
Holy cow! Is it 2009 already? It is at Bike 29. Niner bikes was kind enough to send me one of their totally redesigned RIP9s. Actually, they are sending me 2, but this one came early so I can get some time on it before snow flies. The 09 will be available in three colors, anodized black or brown, or this very shiny and gorgeous Moondust Metallic. You have to see the color to appreciate it’s beauty.
I’m still in the build process as I write this, as always, nothing goes smoothly. My buddy Jay has the rear shifter on his Jet, the hydraulic line on the rear brake was too short, the tires I wanted were on a different set of wheels etc etc. but I managed to get pretty far this afternoon after spending a good chunk of time oohing and ahhing all over the frame.
Along with the frame can an XT front derailleur, a GXP bottom bracket and the super rare black 120mm Fox RL featuring the tapered steerer tube. This is becoming all the rage, it yields a stronger and stiffer font end without adding any weight. While I did not weigh the frame (I was feeling too lazy to remove all the installed parts) it felt pretty close to the weight of the current model. Niner claims that the frame is only 2oz heavier than the 08 model.
So out of the box, it is obvious to see that this is nothing like it’s predecessor. Every tube has been hydroformed and manipulated to gain stiffness and strength. The upper and lower rocker arms are now forged, and the upper ones are two pieces welded into one. All the bearings have been enlarged, and the hardware is similar to the sort used on the Jet. The rear drop outs are modular, giving riders the option to use a Rohloff hub (internally geared), or even a thru axle rear hub.
Niner clearly did their homework. What started out as an already capable trail bike, now seems to have taken a step into uncharted territory. I found the RIP to be one of the best bikes I’ve ever owned, I saw no need for improvement, but I will say, I am intrigued. What have I been missing?
I’ll get to take it for a ride tomorrow, and I’ll let you know what I think.
Big Daddy Nat and I snuck out this morning for a quick ride. The route was simple, Joe’s to ZZ, 1/2 Stick, Jedi, Barbed Wire and out. The trails that wind through the dense hardwoods took a little of the “Force” to navigate, there is at least 2″ of fallen leaves covering everything, including the stuff you try to avoid in the summer, such as jagged rocks and off camber roots.
Luckily, there was no carnage today, but we managed to get some nice shots that I will share with you.
Here is Matt, a good friend of Bike 29, piloting his RIP9 during the 24hrs of Moab. It was his first race, and I’d like to think that is a smile on his face.
For those who have never been, Moab is an old mining town. The ore they used to pull out of the ground is a soft yellow, talc like mineral some call uranium. As with many mining towns, once it became unprofitable to extract the goods from the ground, the mining companies up and left town, leaving the locals holding the proverbial bag. There is a large plot of very radioactive land at the north end of town where the processing plant used to be, now razed to the ground. Don’t plan on building anything on it until, say 2508.
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are very close to town, featuring landscapes that are eerily similar to the topography of a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. There was always a little bit of the tourist element present, but in the early 90s, mountain biking was just beginning to get popular. With the almost endless jeep roads and mining exploration routes, the were a lot of places one could get to on a bike. Moab started to become a destination for mountain biking. A dried up old mining town was now a tourist destination. Now it was the mountain bikers that came to experience the area’s geological greatness, and not just the crystal yeilding hippies, or Jeep jamming rednecks.
I used to frequent Moab several times a year when I lived out west, but never on a 29er. I think that the big wheels would be a huge asset out there in the desert.
I remember my very first trip to Moab, in November of 99. I was a lowly wrench at a bike shop in Burlington. I was super fired up about finally getting to visit this legendary place. I rode in so many awe inspiring places, Porc Rim, Gemini Bridges, Gold Bar Rim, the sinister Portal trail (mostly walked that one), Amasa Back, to name a few. I had my ass handed to me. I bonked, ran out of water, rode through goatheads, had to get pushed back to town on my bike while suffering the worst double leg cramp ever, you name it. Every non lethal humiliating experience one could endure on a bicycle was suffered by yours truly. Over the years, I had visited Moab 8 more times, all the time adding more trails to the checklist. Eagle’s Perch, Fins & Things, Klondike Bluffs. My last time there was in 2002.
Moab is place of little options. You make it or you don’t. There is a lot of sand there. A lot of big rocks, no shade, no water, no place soft to land when you fall off your bike, a lot of big cliffs to fall off of, and trails that are remote enough, that if you really screw up, you could pretty much expect to die. One of my buddies put his foot down wrong on Porc Rim, and was rewarded with a nice spiral fracture of his tibia.
Sounds like fun huh?
Besides all that, Moab is truly a magical place. The color of the dirt is like no other. You can literally feel the power of the land through the rocks. The land is absolute. Respect it, and it may let you leave physically intact, but mentally you will never be the same. Once you have been, it will forever haunt you.
I can’t wait ’til I can go back!
I just picked up a couple of Niner’s super duper limited edition MCR frames. These are dolled up in a special paint scheme provided by Spectrum Powder Works in Colorado. There are only 25 of these special limited edition frame and forks made, and a portion of the sales goes to support IMBA. We know a thing or two about building trails here in Waterbury, and we pretty much adhere strictly to IMBA’s sustainable trail ethic. Stowe Mountain Bike Club (of which we are a part of) hosts a yearly summit at Stowe Mountain Resort to help educate bike clubs and other interested parties in the practice of building sustainable trails.
A sustainable trail is one that requires minimal maintenance once built, and has minimal impact on the land. After all, we’d all rather be riding than working on trail right? There is nothing worse than constantly primping and preening a trail to keep it in good riding order.
The finish is a bright yellow, with a very cool panel paint job. You see, the panels are in fact a trail map of VT’s own Kingdom Trails. The KT Trails are listed on IMBA’s site as an “epic ride”, those who have ridden there know that this is nothing short of the truth.
-select an image, and then you can click on that image to get a nice large detailed view
I am selling this frame and fork combo for $1299 which includes a $50 donation to IMBA in the name of the buyer. I don’t have many of these, so it would be pretty important to grab one while you can.
And hey, if you are up at Burke riding on this bike, it would be almost impossible to get lost right?
So, being challenged when it comes to committing to any bike set up for any length of time, I have found a tire combo that seems to be really good for our damp, slick, leaf strewn terrain. This time of year, the leaves are starting to turn, blaze their brilliant colors, then promptly drop to the ground obscuring the trail, making things very interesting when trying to pilot your bike on a thin ribbon of singletrack. This is the time of year when some of the best riding happens. You know that winter is on it’s way. Time is short. Every ride counts. You tend to push things to the limit even if you aren’t conscious that you are doing so.
Tires are everything.
They keep you connected to the ground. They drive you, but if you pick the wrong ones, you can have a very miserable ride, as they will do neither when you expect them to. I am a pretty loyal Panaracer Rampage fan. These tires have never let me down. They have great volume, aren’t terribly heavy and have tons of grip, and are very predictable, even in mud. I run mine at about 28-30 psi (tubeless of course!) and I run the rear tire in the same direction as the front.
Well, a pranged spoke on the rear wheel had me scrambling for a quick fix to get a customer out on my RIP for a demo, and I grabbed one of the wheels I had laying around. As dealing with a broken spoke is difficult with a “Stanzed” wheel, it was just easier for me to switch wheels altogether. The tire on this wheel was (and still is) the WTB Prowler. Up front, I paired the rear with a Bontrager Jones ACX. Both tires are not terribly heavy, have a wide open tread pattern, and roll amazingly fast for blocky tires.
Because the blocks are deep, they tend to cut through the leaves on the ground, and hook up with what’s beneath. The Jones has a pretty soft rubber compound that is grippy even in cooler conditions. Not once did my front tire try to do anything I hadn’t planned on. The rear tire hooked up on everything but slimiest mud puddles. The big rocks are mostly dry, but the puddles and mud are hidden, and some of the leaf covered rocks are as easy to spot as black ice. The conditions would be best described as highly variable.
Predictability is the most important trait I look for in a tire over weight. A light tire isn’t going to do much for you if you can’t trust it when you are lettin’ it all hang out at high speed. I even went so far as to recommend this combo to a customer who came in the shop 2 weekends ago.
Lo and behold, this guy went on to WIN the VT 50 on this combo!
This combo works very well for my personal riding style, on the trails I frequent, and are everything that I look for in a set of tires. I’m glad they work for others too.