Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter upgrades

I could write another post about another fat bike ride up a snowy steep mountain and how much I enjoyed the suffering of slowly pedaling the fat beast with its almost empty tires while soaking in the beautiful views and scenery around me. I could describe how I scouted out some trails, got lost a little bit, saw a horrible snowmobile accident, had too much fun during the descent when drifting in switchbacks close to the trail edge...

Instead, I decided to report on couple of component upgrades on my other two mountain bikes. Sorry Pepper, but you are still too young to be eligible for a major makeover.

Here is the first one: after years of riding the Motobecane 29er with the narrow stock Ritchey handlebar (although augmented by the awesome Ergon grips and bar ends), I realized the handlebar world had evolved to widths over 700mm while I was riding and paying no attention to these trends. A titanium bike deserves a Ti handlebar, of course, and the Carver Ti PryBar, 730mm wide and with its 11 degree sweep (the same bend as Salsa handlebar on the Mukluk) was a clear choice, especially at $99.95.

The new handlebar in comparison to the original Ritchey chest pincher.
You can see the super comfortable bend in this picture. The wider handlebar also allowed me to position the shifters and brakes in a more ergonomic position. Formula K-24 brakes are notoriously known for not playing nice with Shimano XTR shifters, but after some fiddling, I got all levers where I wanted them to be. While I was in a wrenching mood, I also adjusted air pressures in both positive and negative chambers of the Reba fork. I then took the hardtail to Grand Ridge and Duthie trails, while the Mojo was in a shop. I tend to think about riding at Grand Ridge as an easy ride (after a long run, when pressed for time etc.) but in fact, this three hour 15+ mile ride got good climbs and combined with a loop around Duthie, one is in for a decent workout. On downhill sections, I noticed how smoothly the bike rode. I praised myself for getting the fork pressures just right (dual air Reba is not a set it and forget it fork), but then I realized that it could also be the damping characteristic of titanium?! And the wide bars definitely improved steering accuracy in a big way. I love this bike more than ever.

While I am on the topic of suspension, here is upgrade number two: X-Fusion Velvet RLT 140 fork replaced the Fox Float 32 on the Mojo. I have never been entirely happy with the Fox fork. While I liked its small bump compliance and its progressive stroke, the fork has never achieved anywhere near its full travel (more like 110mm). I had the fork rebuilt a few times and used lower pressure to get more travel, but this just resulted in a "loose headset" feel on technical trails. So I thought if the X-fusion was good enough for Brian Lopes, it must be good for me.

 Another upgrade is the 15mm thru axle, which was fully compatible with my American Classic hub (with an adapter). And the white color matched the white AC rims perfectly! Actually, Ibis has just announced cheaper component builds for all their mountain bikes using X-Fusion forks and shocks.

Lockout lever on the right, travel reduction (140 to 110 mm) knob on the left, both dials high quality aluminum. Rebound control at the bottom of the right leg, air valve on the bottom left. I have not ridden the bike with the new fork yet, but bouncing tests around the garage and some curb drops seem to indicate a very smooth and linear feel across the full (!) travel range. There is a little bit of initial stickiness but this could be either a "platform" or seals than need breaking in. Real trail tests will show more, and there is a bit of a long term reliability concern, mainly due to the brand not being too common yet and the lack of data. This may be OK, as the Mojo will be entering its 8th season, which I was told for a carbon bike is like a 20 year old dog. And I thought carbon was forever!

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