Thursday, August 23, 2012

C'mon big brown truck.

Good things come from brown trucks, or so it has been my experience.  YMMV.  And somewhere in North America one brown truck is bringing me my b-day present to myself, a nifty new and permanently shiny Ti 29er frame.  Yep.  I finally bit the bullet...jumped in with both feet...signed on the dotted line...walked down the aisle, as it were.

Limited edition M2923

It was not a rash decision though.  I really thought this out (about a year) and still I waited till an offer popped up that had the most going for it before I whipped out the plastic.  My goodness...I had not bought a bike in about 4 years.  I have horse traded for some and ridden a lot of review bikes, some that hang around a while and some that do not, but to buy one for my very own was kinda odd.

And I looked at a few more expensive frames.  I would love to have a Moots, mostly for emotional reasons going back almost umpteen years, but wow are those dearly priced.  There were others but either the fit was out of line or the cost was out of reach.  I came darn close to having a very reasonably priced custom built by Form Cycles, but I went for this Lynskey as it had a very good combo of fit, features, cost, and while it may not have the cache' of a Seven or a Moots, it has a high level of quality and a pretty good chance that they will be around long enough to honor the warranty.

So the plan is to have this forever, or at least till Armageddon happens and the frame will be recycled into Ti rocket tubing or something, but aside from that I plan on building this up with an eye to what I know works and what appeals to me, even if it is not the lightest or latest.  The build may be a bit static as I hope to have it be a consistent ride and not have to try new stuff on it all the time.  That will be reserved for other bikes.   I want there to be no guesswork when I ride this. I want to get to be old friends.  Like those jeans you have had since college or those Vans you just cannot get rid of.  No surprises, just welcome familiarity and comfort.

Oh yeah, and performance that will make me smile a lot.  This frame is a bit of a gamble in that I have never ridden one like it and even at that, this model is a limited run, unique all on its own, but it had a lot of things going for it that I thought made it worth trying out.  The fit is perfect for me.  Long in the TT and lower in the ST than most XL frames.  And I am shorter in the inseam and loooong in the torso/arms.  If I had been in the Custom frame ordering mode (and I came pretty close to doing just that) I would have picked those two measurements exactly, a 25" TT and a 20.5" ST.  Nice.  With a 73* ST angle I will have a roomy cockpit and more seat post extension for a nicer ride seated.  The 71.5* HT angle is not perfect for me...I would have slackened it a bit...but it will keep the front center in check and give sharp steering response without being over the top quick.

The CS length is a bit shorter and the stays wider at the BB so a 2.3" tire will fit and still be at 17.5" or shorter CS length.  Winner.  An oversize DT and TT are a gamble, as I do not want to lose that Ti ride, but a Singlespeed makes very high demands of a bike frame in that it has to be able to stand up to high BB loads and even TT loads as you reef on the bars with all that torque being fed into the frame.  Ti is not by nature that stiff, so I hope to get a bit of resolve here and not pay too high a price in ride.  If this had been a geared bike I would have not done that and would have gone for the more willowy frame build.  We shall see if I chose wisely.

The only thing that I am not crazy about is the extra braze-on bits that I will likely never use.  I would have preferred to have a pure SS frame, but ya never know.  Someday I may want to convert it to geared and it will be ready.  Not likely though, so there it is...a bit warty in that regard.

I am already planning parts...need a fork, got some wheels in the process, need some carbon flat bars too.  And maybe next B-day I will get one of those Moots Ti seat posts that are about the sexiest thing ever to go under a bike saddle.  Should be a fun build...not a weight weenie deal, just a solid but light all day SS ride.

Here's hopin'!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Put another candle...

...on my birthday cake, I'm another year old today."

A Ti candle.

(Bonus points to anyone who knows what TV show that song was from.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Shoes

Never underestimate the ability of a different set of tires to transform a bike.  A test bike shows up that is a stiff, racing focused filly.  But it was waaaay over the top harsh and it was killing me.  I was wondering if the burly AM type tires were part of the issue.   A call to the marketing guy for the company confirmed that I could be feeling the tougher casing construction contributing to the beat down. But really, should I bother to swap them?  How big a deal could it be?

However I was not liking the front tire's characteristics in hardback, so just about then I get a box of tires in the mail.  Ok...I am more motivated now.  Time for swappage.  Two new tires later, the difference was amazing.  I expected them to be a bit faster due to the lighter weight and such, but the real surprise was the ride difference.  What was a rolling jackhammer became a still stiff riding, but now fun to rage on racing/fast XC hard tail.  Amazing.

Lesson learned.  It is worth trying different tires to see what works for you and what your riding style agrees with.  Even ride quality will vary from tire model to tire model as I saw in a dramatic way last night.  If you think about it, the tire is your final connection, well, your ONLY connection to the ground.  Getting that right matters.

If your bike is not to your liking, try some new sneakers.  It may surprise you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The stuff that dreams are made of.

No, not gold, but Ti, as in Titanium.  I have been wondering for a long time if Ti is not the perfect material for a hard tail mtn bike.  It is durable, subtle yet classy looking, still looks like a traditional 'tube' frame, should ride well and pedal really well.  It is so expensive that one has to be sure whether the jump in is worth it.

So right now I am on a fine example of a high end Ti single speed.  And it has been very interesting to say the least.  The geometry of this one is a bit unique and not perfectly to my liking and the fit is only 90% there, but the rest is overshadowed by the material the frame is made from and, of course, how they used selection, etc.  It has been an eye opening ride and brings some practical reality to the trail winding through my mind...the one I imagined a Ti SS cruising through.  Based on my time so far on this bike, If I had jumped in, would I have liked the swim?

So what was I expecting?  A magic carpet ride combined with pedaling performance and light weight.  Longevity and toughness.  Looks that make you go "Ooooo...Ti!"  Some thoughts then.

  • The ride -  Smoooooth with a capitol 'smuu'.  Yeah, this thing is pretty darn amazing in that way, making any alu frame and really most of the steel ones feel pretty rough in comparison.  It is not just smooth though, it is a little dead too.  It still rings like any metal frame does when it is hitting bumps, in that I mean the vibrations still are transmitted through the frame, but they are dulled a lot.  That is good for comfort and it helps the bike track well, keeping wheels in contact with the ground.  But...
  • Compliance is flex - And that smooth ride comes at a cost, that being a less than awesome snap forward when pedaled hard and a bit of vagueness when pushed hard.  Not bad really, but it is certainly not what many of the hydroformed alu or carbon bikes are.  And it does not quite have the 'pop' of steel...that great spring feeling...that feels like you are on a live bike, not a dead board with wheels.  Ti seems to be not as dead as alu, but not as lively as good steel, including one from the same maker as the Ti version.
  • Weight - yeah, it is light, maybe a pound in the frame over steel.  Nice.  All good there, but really the wheels and fork matter more and a pound saved in the wheels is amazing.  Still, lighter is lighter.
  • The inheritance factor - So Ti can be willed to your kids, it lasts so long.  Darn tough stuff.  And not just for pedaling fatigue, but impact resistance.  I had the bars swing around and smack the top tube once when I was moving the bike around and, if that had been carbon, I would have been concerned...alu too, maybe.  Dents suck just like cracks do.  This frame?  Never even gave it a second thought.  The brake lever would go first.  But think of this.  Ever had a bike get out of date?  Depending on when you bought (in the past, shall we say), 5 years could mean you have no disc brake tabs and out of date geometry.  Moving forward a bit, you might not have a 44mm HT...if that matters.  The point is this...time marches on and specs and such move with it.  Now some of that is important and some is not so much, but if, in the future, all the better forks are only in a 1.5 tapered motif, then what do you do with your "I will keep it forever so the cost is ok"  Ti bike?  Many folks get a new bike every 5 years or less, plenty of time for a good steel, alu or CF bike to remain intact.
  • "You look marvelous, really you do" - Yeah, Ti will always have that Ti look that is dead sexy and the cache' of Ti is undeniable.
So I am still interested in a Ti SS frame, but I will tell ya this.  Two recent rides on carbon were eye  opening.  They rode really, really well, yet set standards for BB deflection.  On an SS, I want everything I can get to go into the ground so a stiff BB is ideal, but only carbon can give you that AND still ride really well, at least so far in my experience.  And alu is seeing some refinements that will make a beer can frame even better, longer lasting, and too, at least comparatively.  

Then steel, of course...steel seems to get very, very close to Ti and seems to have a snappier feel, but at an increased weight.  

It has been revealing and a bit of a reality check.  I am looking to get on a carbon frame this next season for SS duty.  Honestly I am expecting it to be the best SS frame I have ever ridden as far as delivering it all...ride, pedaling, handling, and weight.  

I will watch out for swinging brake levers a bit more though.  You may not be able to have it all, but I am curious how close I can get.