Monday, 5 March 2012

New bike bits; courtesy of Lindsay at Basecamp Bikes and David at Bothy Bikes.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I felt the Tallboy was being hindered by it's old Reba quick release forks, long stem and saddle waaay up in the air all the time.
So the Tallboy has had a make-over.
First off forks; in discussion with David, we found out that the Rockshox 29er forks are not yet being imported by Fisher, I have never felt the love for Fox forks, so not a great choice, but he was keen for me to demo the new Marzocchi micro 44Ti 29er fork, air with Ti spring, 120mm, tapered steerer, QR15, 4lb 3 oz  (as measured on the kitchen scales!) a Bomber on my bike - surely not!
Next up was sorting out the new higher front end (the forks are 30mm longer than the old Reba 100's) so I plumped for some rather 'blingy' Niner carbon flat bars in a whopping 710mm (well - whopping for me) the zero rise compared to the old Easton risers instantly lost 25mm of height, so hands back down to 'normal' height with one 5mm spacer moved.
The final change was at last going for an adjustable height seat post, the Rockshox Reverb. I had been put off by the idea of a sloppy seat (no sniggering) but decided having the ability to drop the saddle was more important for my riding 'skills' or should that be 'skilz'...
Oh,  and during all this make-over phase I discovered the Tallboys suspension bearings were shot and really needed replacing - which was nicely done by Fraser and David at Bothy (I never doubted you could do it - honest!) This was after nearly two years of year round hard riding.
Forks plugged in easy, with the steerer left long as it's a demo, cables all long enough to take the wider bars and once I 'd studied the on-line video, fitting the Reverb was no problem. The hose cutting and bleed procedure is pretty straight forward, but the Tallboy's remote cable guides were too narrow to take the hydraulic hose (duh) so some very careful Dremmel work soon had them bored out for a neat and tidy cable routing.
First ride was up to Badaguish xc course; an old favourite, ideal for testing new bits on tight, twisty, rooty, steep, rocky trail.
The long climb in which starts on a fire road, allowed me to feel the difference straight away in two things; one, the saddle could now be kept at full 'roadie' height (I usually run it 10mm lower) which felt much nicer allowing full leg extension, and second, the rebuilt rear end instantly felt smoother, there even being a noticeable difference on just the rough fire road.
As the climb progressed onto the single track section of the climb, it was all lock-outs off, ready for the roots and rocks. Wow! No real need to steer, on what is quite a 'techy' wee piece, just sit and spin, the suspension just smoothing out all the roots and rocks in it's path. Far less effort used. The same went for the rest of the single track all the way up to the trails high point, no need to micro manage the previously twitchy front end, just look further ahead, pedal smoothly and let the stronger, longer and more supple suspension smooth away all the little problems. The wider bars, which I thought might be a nuisance on the climb were actually better, allowing a wider stronger upper body pull.
So high point reached, take piccie and time to see if all the new bits would make a difference on the downs.
They did.
Big time.
Oh yeah.
Why have I been ignoring wide bars, short stems, longer travel, plush bolt through forks and uppy-downy seat posts as something too heavy and not really necessary for my lycra clad ways?
Where to start? Well the stiffer (less flexy) forks, the bolt through lowers and the shorter stronger stem clamping the wider bars resulted in being able to put the wheel. Just. There. No wishy washy understeery going round corners, rather a stuff it in, lean it over, dig it in, get spat out in a new direction kinda cornering. Lots of out loud moto style barrrppp noises.  I had worried about the 30mm longer fork ruining the Tallboys sharp single track steering, but it felt better, more stable at speed, more 'leanable', more precise (I know some of that goes down to the bolt through and stiffer steering set up). Then there's the obvious benefit of nigh on 120mm travel on a 29er with a big fat tubeless Nevegal up front, like squish through anything in the way.
The forks run at low pressure, 40psi for my 11 stone and have the delicious quality of being plush on the small hits, yet not 'blowing' throughout the travel on the bigger, faster hits. The compression side of things is nicely handled and the air chamber can also be adjusted - bigger chamber more linear, smaller chamber more progressive, I left it wide open. The forks set at 25% sag saw virtually the full travel after a blast (or two) down Laggan Wolftrax's black trail and that's not bad for a fork not fully fiddled with or bedded in. Rebound is all you need from very fast to treacle slow, I run them fairly fast, but not 'boingy'.
The lock off lever does it's job, with the lock off tuneable from solid to moving only if a bump is hit (as opposed to bobbing when out of the saddle) kind of like a Fox Terralogic or RS floodgate.
I'm no free rider, in terms of ability or weight (!) so the forks aren't going to be pushed to the max', but they were confidence inspiring enough to be ridden off rocky drop-offs that normally make me think twice (especially that cheeky wee one on the lower Lairig Ghru!) with no landing wobbles or 'diving', certainly 32mm stanchions seem burly enough for me.
The Reverb was as big a revelation as going 29er, or full sus, or discs. Obviously dropping the saddle all the way for steep rock chutes or jumps makes life easier and more fun, but it's the ability to remotely fine tune the height down just an inch or two for more easily throwing the bike around on tight and twisty singletrack that is the big benefit for this xc rider. Weight wise it is 200gms heavier than the Thomson Masterpiece post it's replaced, but the benefit in riding speed easily offsets this.
So all in all, I am riding faster on the techy stuff, enjoying it more and feeling more relaxed going into sections that would previously have had me grabbing the brakes and tip toeing down.
I will put some more hours into the forks to see how they bed in, then should really back to back test them with the RS Revelation and the appropriate Fox's, problem is I don't really want to take them off!