So to follow up with the previous post, I wanted to break down the initial ride thoughts with lots of close ups. Always interesting to see how the dust settles on initial rides! This build was literally trial by fire with no time to do any pre-ride checks or take a few short rides to dial things in. So it made for a bit of fly by the seat of your pants riding. Good news is that the fit was dialed from the get go. The adjustments I made to the cockpit length were well suited for the terrain and allowed me to have periods of rest to shake out the arms and legs between tech sections, which for the Hampshire 100 sweep this year, there weren’t many. And sweeping the 100 mile course is what I did as my first real ride on this set up (The new course is a 35 mile lap – so 1 lap is 50k, 2 is 100k and a 3rd makes it 100 miles for the seasoned veterans and pro’s who want to take on the challenge). Each year for the past 3 or so years I’ve volunteered my Saturday and Sunday to help out where I can with the race with registration and such, then with sweeping the course to finish up the event. It’s nice to do this as it teaches me not only about my physical shape, but also the rigors that go into longer rides and what adjustments I need to make with the builds.
The course was tough this year. Really tough. I can’t imagine having to come back into Oak Park like all the 100k and 100 milers had to and go out for a 2nd or 3rd lap as I was spent after 1 lap on this new course. The frequency of chunk and tech were stacked up back to back in many grueling sections with little chance for rest or time to refuel/hydrate. A few weeks ago I had adjusted the air pressure in my Fox 120mm Talas fork, making it a touch stiffer. On shorter rides of 10-15 miles, that made sense. But on a longer 35 mile ride with that much tech back to back, I just was not using all the travel of the fork and was getting hammered as a result. It was stiffer on longer dirt road sections which was good, but with little time to react or make on the fly adjustments, the fork was set up too stiff. Mental note for next time!
I did adjust some air pressure in the tires as the day wore on which helped a bunch but with all that pounding from the tech back to back already was killing my arms, thighs and shoulders. The WTB Trail Boss’s were a sight for sore eyes on those gravel roads and 6th class roads. Conditions were a mix of dry powdery soil but with some muddy sections but since it was hot/humid, the air was condensing on the rocks so you’d have these odd sections of dry soil with slippery rocks. The Trail Bosses made a big difference when the going got tough but rolled fast enough not to feel like I was slowly being drug down.
The Industry 9 wheels with their instant engagement made a big difference as always in the tech sections, and the added stiffness certainly relayed itself to when I needed to hit the gas to keep up with the other two sweepers (who were basically riding at race pace but said “no we’re not”… 18-20 mph hour on flat 6th class roads and double track I noted. That’s not race pace eh?). They were also on full suspension bikes which were a clear advantage on a course of this type. Where I had to check speed, they could open it up and let it hang loose. I was a bit cautious knowing I’m all by myself for the month of August, and a trip to the emergency room wouldn’t be good. So I played it safe and just rode a good steady pace keeping things in perspective. Plus I wanted to have fun and not kill myself.
One thing I have come to really dig is using my GPS unit as a tempo based heart beat of sorts. With some experimenting, I’ve come to realize that anything over 20 miles in length, I need a good 10-15 miles to just warm up properly. And a good pace that I can hold a conversation at and not feel like I am working is around the neighborhood of 10mph. So I keep an eye on the miles initially and the average speed. That keeps me in check and allows me to warm up properly. Later in the ride I then feel like I can turn it up a few notches, but slowly. Any sudden burst and it throws that off and I can feel cramps start. So being mindful of sections where I can sit down and spin are important as that allows for some rest, to sip some water to maintain hydration and take in a few calories. I’ve also taken to the rhythm of “Eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m thirsty”. No more schedule to remind me. I just listen to what my body is telling me. And I’ve found that being ever so slightly hungry works for my body. I eat a little bit to stop that feeling, ride a while and when it returns, eat a bit more and drink a bit more. Some times I’m tempted to really suck down some water, but that can make you feel sick initially – so it’s best to nurse the water and sip frequently. I accidentally drank some water with HEED in it at a feed station, and it immediately gave me a stomach ache. I drank more water and within 15-20 minutes things were back to normal. So the Garmin isn’t necessarily there to record the route or look at the elevation. It’s more of a tempo device I’ve come to rely on for longer rides.
The new XTR cockpit worked flawlessly. What I really like about the shifter is the dual shift mechanism and you can dump gears a handful at a time or march up the cassette to spin and let the legs loosen up. The shifter has a nice positive feel and the brakes work flawlessly to scrub speed when needed. Powerful without feeling too powerful. I run a 180mm rotor up front and a 160mm Rotor out back.
The 11-40t cassette is a thing of beauty really. And that 40t cog is just perfect for long sustained climbs when you want the feel of a true granny. It made the steepest climbs not so bad and when I need to kick back and rest, the range on the low end of the cassette were all usable. The transition of the jump from the 35t to the 40t is very smooth vs Sram’s 36-42t on their XX1 cassette in comparison. The 12x142mm axle made things stiff without being too stiff so good power transfer was at hand. I’m quite pleased with this setup this way. The dusty conditions in sections did make the low end of the cassette a bit noisier though as the day went on as the spacing is tight between the cogs and the chain is crossed over some when you’re up on the cassette with shorter chain stays.
Despite the mud in sections the WTB Trail Boss’s stayed clean and the clearances between tire/stays was ample. Nothing got lodged and somehow no dry leaves were picked up along the way (which is usually good for 1 time per ride!). I’m also pleased with how this area turned out too. Good balance of positive and negative space from a visual perspective.
When I need to get off the back of the bike and really get low over the rear wheel, there was plenty of leg clearance room thanks to those deeply formed seat stays and chain stays and the low slung nature of the frame.
The course is well supported, and not having the weight of a hydration pack makes a huge difference. I refiled my bottles 3-4 times throughout the ride and came back with them pretty much empty. That little bit of extra clearance made for accessing that second bottle much easier than the last frame (which it was really tight).
Connection point wise, these pedals made all the difference. Good platform and positive snap into place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I couldn’t be happier with my XTR pedals!
Overall I had a great time. I was tired at times and later in the ride I was just plain tired from maintaining that pace and tackling the sheer amount of tech on the course which was back to back. I found myself really, really wanting to sit down for more than a mile and just spin. There was a section on dirt roads between 2 down hill sections that allowed for this, but then you went into a tough, long climb via a dirt road. So that small repose didn’t last long. I reached the last checkpoint with lights on and the course marshal’s wanted me back to Oak Park ASAP to report so I took the last 5 miles by pavement… which was a welcome sight even in the dark. By the time I got back to Oak Park, that little bit refreshed me and I was actually ready for more, but the kitchen was open and having reported in to the race directors… A double helping of just about all they had was in order. I also helped myself to two massive helpings of cake. I must have ate my weight in food on return.
That wraps up yet another Hampshire 100, most likely the toughest course to date I’d say and another sweep is in the books. This one was interesting since it was kind of my first ride on this new set up (I had led a pre-race ride the night before, but was pretty busy talking with racers than to take notes on the bike). So this really was a full boar head first plunge into a shakedown ride which made it interesting. From a ride perspective, the bike did what I asked it to, and reacted when I reacted. So it further emphasized that extension between rider and trail I try and accomplish with each build.
See you on the trail.
Last August, I posted up an update to why I ride what I ride. You can read about this build’s previous incarnation here. Earlier this season, I made some big changes component wise from a mix of Sram XO/X9 which was a 1×10 setup (and ran a Wolftooth 40t cog for a bit too) to a Shimano XTR M9000 1×11 setup. You can read about that change here. This next incarnation dials in my own mountain bike even further. I read somewhere a few days ago someone asking opinions on how builders’ view “Tuning” their builds. I’ll do my best to help explain my own methodology with this whole notion of tuning the ride. So let’s get started!
Let’s Tune some rear triangle: One of the big changes with this next incarnation was a move away from a QR rear. Two of my prototype single speed’s sported 12x142mm thru axles in the rear. The power transfer was noticeable without losing any of steel’s notable attributes in the resiliency department. In combination with how I bend/form my chain stays for added lateral stiffness, I was really happy with how the bike felt with power through the pedal into the rear wheel. So making the move to a Thru Axle rear was a must on the bucket list of changes slated for this prototype. Paragon Machine Works DR2065 dropouts made that an easy jump.
Being that this was also a Shimano drivetrain, I also used their B4033 Direct Mount hanger. This removes part of the linkage in the rear derailleur and is supposed to make rear wheel removal a bit easier (I’m going to argue that Sram’s Cage Lock System actually does a better job at solving this problem now that I have experience with both). But Paragon’s B4033 is a thing of beauty all by itself, so it was deployed for a clean look. One thing I noted though when running through gears with the cage lock in the “ON” position was that shifting progressively got “stiffer” in feel. Thanks to their new Shadow Plus adjustment system, you no longer have to remove the cover on the mechanism. There’s a cap that pops off to reveal a hidden adjustment bolt, and a simple turn of the allen key adds or removes tension from the clutch mechanism. I backed off on some tension and shifting felt a lot smoother and back to normal. I noticed that shifting was smoother when the clutch was in the “off” position, hence my search for the reason of what was up!
Let’s Tune some wheel parts: I also upgraded the wheel set to a set of Industry 9 Torch Trail (32 Spoke version). This incorporates all their new guts in the hubs including the new one size fits all their hubs end cap system. This makes swapping parts a cinch since the end caps pop off and you can adapt to any axle standard. I wanted this current and more refined set up on this build since I all my personal bikes are bikes i take to shows, so the upgrade made sense. The added stiffness of the wheels was unexpected, so dialing in tire pressure took some time to get that “just so” feel. 15-16psi seemed to be the working pressure with these wheels and my new set of WTB Trail Boss tires. 2.4″ up front and a 2.25″ out back (which is more like a 2.3″). I’ve been loving the switch over to WTB tires and the Trail Boss’s have been treating me well. Just enough meat to satisfy the bigger lines and rougher terrain where you need some bite, but small enough so when the going gets smooth and you need to pedal, they roll relatively quickly. These are a really nice “trail” tire. A true mountain bike tire I’d say. Very versatile and the lite versions I’m running have been holding up really, really well here against NH’s granite.
Let’s Tune some clearances and tube junctions: With this build, I wanted internal routing to keep the top tube clean but also to squeak JUST that much more room for the 2nd water bottle. It’s a game of millimeters with stuff like this, so every little bit helps. The weight penalty for internal routing is noticeable with tube in hand from my perspective, but the cleanliness it creates for the visual lines of the bike are something to consider. I also wanted the ability to show a potential client bikes with and without routing (My SS has external routing and can be built as a 1×11). So this also covered that base. But with a little tweaking of the drawing, I was able to squeak out just a bit more room for that second water bottle to be tucked in to that small space. This one has more clearance than the previous version, and does not dumb the Down Tube as before… When I place the strut between the seat tube and top tube, I’m considering all the transitions so things come together smoothly without sharp transitions and tube but’s are taking into consideration too when placing a structural piece like this. Everything is considered.
Let’s Tune some Seat Tube’s: So one of the big things that happened earlier in the year was how I make my radius seat tubes. I invested a lot of time and effort into tweaking this process. I now can do it more accurately, repeatability is a cinch between parts and the radius now allows for me to place the saddle with more set back than previously with more clearance capabilities between tube and rear wheel. That’s the problem with building 29er’s and shorter stays (16-16.5 is short in my book – which I can do). The bend is more consistent and a bit tighter of a radius than before. This allows the seat tube to be kicked forward a bit more, allowing me more clearance between tube and tire but also allows me to slacken up the seat tube angle (so a 72 deg. seat tube angle places the saddle where it would be if it were a straight tube at 73 degree’s). Here’s 2 shots of it in process:
With tire in place:
And a close up once finished down by the bottom bracket:
I can do 31.8mm and 34.9mm O.D. seat tubes, so I can now offer 30.9mm dropper’s. To keep the weight down on this build, I went with a 31.8mm seat tube on this build. That is one penalty of the bigger dropper compatible seat tube is weight, so this is something I decided to weigh (pun intended) when the entire build came into play. Save a little bit in a few spots and suddenly that number adds up as the build comes together.
Further Tuning the ride, let’s tweak some geometry: Over time I’ve gone from a slack front end (69 deg) to a slightly steeper front end (70.5) and have settle in now around 70 degree’s for a head tube angle. Not too steep, not too slack. Kind of a great all around number in combination with a chain stay length of 16.5″ and a bottom bracket drop of 2.25″. Gets the bottom bracket low enough to quicken steering, and add stability through turns, while not being too low where you’re knocking pedals off rocks. Those 3 add up to how the bike handles when playing off one another. Over time I’ve also lengthened my top tube length to open up the cockpit some. This has been a moving target for me. As I’ve aged, my lower back has also aged… I’ve got some early signs of arthritis in my lower back and working with a physical therapist, learned I had to adjust my posture while standing, sitting and when bending over. Basically what i was doing wasn’t helping the issue any. These simple adjustments in posture throughout the day have dramatically helped my overall well being and with added exercises in the gym 2 times a week, this is manageable. With this slight problem, I’ve noted over the course of a ride that I get lazy as I get tired. So a conscious effort to keep my back straight and flat especially while descending has helped that immensely. It takes a lot of effort mentally to keep this all happening, and I catch myself often, but that’s good as I constantly correct myself and my posture now. So lengthening the cockpit some also really helped me open up and flatten my lower back. I’d say over time the cockpit has been lengthened close to 19.05mm / .75″. That’s not a big number, but it’s just enough to allow me to relax a bit more and without feeling too stretched out and have too much weight over the front wheel (that new seat tube and subsequent increase in saddle set back position also helps this too I think). So I’ve further tuned or rather REFINED my posture and matched the geometry and setup to aid in that posture on the bike.
Component Tuning: Shimano XTR 1×11 is the big change drivetrain wise as well as moving from a 32t front chainring to a 30t. If I were racing I’d most likely run a 32 or 34t? But the 30 allows me to use all of the cassette and the 30t + range on the cassette really starts to feel like a granny as you approach the 40t cog. That means over the course of the ride, my chain is not crossed over as much and that means less wear on the system over time. A big change coming once this bike comes back from John and the Radavist will be to swap the Fox Float 32 to a Fox Float 34 with their new FIT4 damper. Speaking with a client recently, he stated that the slight weight penalty of the 34 is made up by the inherently stiffer feel of the 34mm stanchions. As my fitness has improved and I’ve gotten stronger on the bike, my speed in descents has increased and I feel I’m reaching some limits with the 32 platform at times. It will be interesting to me to compare the two and see what the true differences are between the two sizes and how they match up in the same terrain. More on this later. Last review I was running a set of e13 cranks. These were ditched for Race Face’s Turbine Cinch set up so we can eliminate the spider and go with a true spiders set up with only one adjustment to make and take care off. The other big jump was from Crank Brothers pedals and back to Shimano pedals. I chose the XTR M9000’s to match the drivetrain… Couldn’t. Be. Happier. Positive “click” in, adjustable tension, and a really nice “POP” when you dis-engage. Almost ejects your foot from the SPD mechanism. Not to mention their is a lot more platform and positive feel these pedals. Like I said, I couldn’t be happier.
The shake down happened last night on a group ride for the Hampshire 100 to show any racers interested in the terrain who were unfamiliar and give them a chance to warm up the legs. This was an ideal time for me to put the new build to the test and work out any kinks adjustment wise. The clutch mechanism was one of them along with a clean / re-grease of the cassette. The bike handled well and the new cockpit length fit just so. Power transfer through the pedal to the rear end was really good thanks to the 12×142 thru axle and the WTB Trail Boss tires handled themselves well in the variety of conditions the trail network here sports. We made frequent stops and chatted about the course and spoke about where everyone was from. Seemed like riders were super stoked on the new trails and were excited for today’s race – I’ll be headed over to Oak Park soon in Greenfield, Nh to start my sweep of the 100 miler’s H100 course. Bike is cleaned up, water bottles are chillin’ in the refrigerator. Going to apply my “drink when thirsty, eat when hungry” game plan for this 35 mile ride. I’d take a wild guess that the course is over 1/2 single track and a good amount of it is in the main network of Greenfield’s trail system, with some tough sections to be cleared later in the race by racers. I’m looking forward to speaking with riders at the line and get their thoughts as i know how much work the Greenfield Trails Association put into this years race and especially the ones who set out and planned the course attempting to make it as versatile as possible. So no one skill set could rule the day – a really well balanced rider will come out victorious. That’s what mountain biking is all about and what I try and build into each bike I build. This one is no exception and it’s days like today, yesterday and others that really help me further refine and tune how the bikes ride and what I can do with the setups to further refine the ride. This is tuning to me. It’s not just in tube selection. It’s not just in the components you select. It’s about choosing components, tubing, techniques of construction, and adjusting the overall set up of the build that really starts to hone how the bike performs. That’s tuning to me. This is my build and it’s one of the most refined one’s I’ve built to date. See you out on the trail!
03082 Playlist : The Cramps
03082 Playlist : Psychedelic Furs
Kid Dangerous on Deck. Not to be Messed with.
Editor’s Note: In the past, I’ve posted every Friday at V-Salon in the “Friday Night Lights” subforum consistently for over 3 years. After much thought and inner dialog, I’ve decided to pull that weekly content here: FAB 5 Fridays lives on but right here where it belongs at 44HQ. I’ll occasionally post in FNL in the future when I have something extra-ordinary, but for the most part, if you want to see my work, you’ll have to come here for exclusive content. Of course, you can always follow me on Instagram (instagram.com/44bikes), and you can see what I’m up to via Flickr for big man sized pics (flickr.com/photos/44bikes). Enjoy and keep the rubber side down.
Julie was kind enough to return her Huntsman I finished for her earlier this winter as a frame and fork set so I could get nice shots of the complete build in the studio. Paint work was done by Jay Nutini. Force 1 drivetrain, Absolute Black 38t Chainring, Force 1 Hydro levers/disc brakes, ENVE CX fork with hook ups for ENVE rims mated to Chris King i45 hubs in their limited edition Sour Apple Green. Jay matched the paint work to the Sour Apple green. King Inset 7 headset as well as King bottom bracket. Thomson Post, collar, stem and bars. Clement 40mm tires keeps this build rolling smoothly. Shimano XT pedals for the win. Enjoy it Julie and thanks so much for letting me “steel” your bike for the weekend (pun intended).