Friday, December 17, 2010

Dance baby, dance!

Twist it up!
I recently have been riding a new FS bike that is a bit sketchy for steering precision, something I am pretty sure is related to the lightweight rims and silly 9mm QR.  It gives me three lines to choose from at any one time.  How nice...NOT! It has been a while since I have felt anything like this, what with 15QR forks, tapered HTs, and better wheels for 29ers.  I will fix the little FS with some better wheels for my...ahhhh...poundage....and that will help that.

But, it got me thinking about how it stacked up in regards to the other bikes I have in the garage, so I got out my slew of scooters and calibrated my knees and arms before beginning.  Taking each one, I stood facing the front of the bike, straddling the front wheel and holding it tight between my knees.  Then I took the h-bars and twisted them back and forth, watching the level of dance moves going on below.  Chubby Checker would have been so proud.  Here are the highly subjective ratings from worst to best, worse meaning they did more Watusi then the others:

  • The JET9 with a 9mm QR, tapered Reba XX 100mm fork and Stans Crest rims on ZTR hubs, light butted spokes.  Maximum dance factor here. 
  • The new SS bike (secret sauce...shhhhh!) with a standard steerer, 80mm Manitou Tower Pro with 9mm QR on the home built wheels...Flows, dbl butted spokes, WI hubs.  A decent improvement over the JET set-up.
  • The Giant XTC-1 with 15QR tapered Fox 100mm fork and Easton EA-90 XCs.  Another big step ahead here.
  • The Specialized Epic Marathon with 9mmQR tapered XX carbon Reba, Roval OS28 front hub and radial laced non-brake side wheel.  Slight but noticeable improvement over the Giant.
The results are not that surprising except for the OS28 hub/fork interface.  That, combined with the Roval wheel, is a darn stiff set-up, but unfortunately, it will not work with all forks and is pretty much a proprietary 'system' kind of set-up.  15QR is waaaayy better than the normal 9mm setup and should be de-facto on any 29er FS that you intend on riding fast offroad.  I would have it on the SS in a heartbeat if the fork was ready in 15QR, but that is a ways off for now.

I am not sure if I can tell the difference in steering precision between the Epic and the Giant when I ride them, and even the SS steers very well, but I sure can tell that the JET9 and the light weight wheels are winding up on me.  It seems to point out that there is a low side to the stiffness equation that you want to remain above and perhaps that there is an upper range to where you cannot perceive much improvement for the average XC bike in normal terrain.   I know that if I were buying a 29er that was not a simple steel SS, I would not even consider one that was not a tapered steerer HT and fitted with a 15QR fork (and even that can be improved IMO).  And, moreover, I bet that even steel bikes will get in the groove with 44mm HTs at some point, allowing the tapered forks to apply there as well.

So there you go.  Dance lesson over, back to riding.

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