So upon getting home from the maiden voyage on the new Marauder prototype, I sprang into action. There were a few small things I needed to take care of… immediately. First and foremost was the tires. I was not feeling my choice which up until that first ride I was excited about. Second was an issue that was a first for me which was some backpedaling derailment via the XT M8000 drivetrain. Third was a simple change in saddle height. Fourth was setting up the fork properly and dialing in all the settings. Last but not least was then to take the bike out for a good long ride in mixed terrain to see how she performed. Let’s get into the weeds with this one a bit and get started. So first ride out for a shakedown and something didn’t quite sit right with my initial tire choice: Schwalbe Hans Dampf for the front and Rock Razor for the rear. I had pretty exclusively run Schwalbe for many years and really liked their tough sidewall protection. Traction was great in the previous rear tire I had been running a while back in the Nobby Nic. I’ve recently been really turned on by WTB’s offerings but I wanted to do some comparison. Well that first ride out I was really disappointed. It may have been the compound but heck if those tires just lacked any suppleness of which I had really, really come to enjoy with WTB’s offerings. So off they came. Nothing to compare here really. Great tires, but just not for me and what I was looking for and had grown to enjoy. So back on went the Breakout 2.3 (pictured above) which measures out to be closer to 2.4 and out back went the tried and true Riddler 2.25. Both are their TCS Light / Fast Rolling versions. This combo is basically a meaty, aggressive front tire with large relatively closely packed knobs and the rear tire being a smaller tightly packed center knob configuration for fast rolling but aggressive side knobs for cornering through hard turns. I love this combo and I really should not have wavered here. But I’m a quick learner, so lesson learned. More on these tires once out on the trail. Next up was deciphering what the heck was going on with the 42t cog and backpedaling. Out on the trail for that first short 5 miler, I noticed any slight backpedal in the 37 or 42t cassette cog, and the chain would dump down into the cassette. Not a ‘big’ issue, but if you need to backpedal to get up and over an obstacle to set your pedals, putting a lot of strain on your derailleur, hanger and chain across your cogs isn’t exactly good for longevity. A quick search of Doctor Google and a lot of information came up detailing many having the same problem. This was news to me as pretty much every Shimano drivetrain I’ve set up has been painless and not a problem. So even though this had good chain line, I dialed out the slider by about 3-4mm’s, a bit of play with the b-tension adjustment as well as backing off tension on the rear mech’s clutch adjustment and the chain stayed put consistently while backpedaling. But it still “wanted” to jump off and depending on how fast you backpedaled, it would jump off occasionally. Another tip I noticed repeated was to switch to a Sram 11 speed chain (which I happened to have an XX1 chain). So I took off the stock Shimano 11 speed chain. Installed the Sram XX1 11 speed chain and sure enough, the problem went away. Those engineers at Sram have 1x setups dialed, I will say that. Next up was saddle height. I felt a bit too high. Good leg extension but a bit too much. Down the saddle went by about .125″ and a quick pedal up and down the lane: Feels normal again. Seat post shown up above is an Thomson Elite external routed dropper. I consider simple simple things like cable routing. Clean lines with smooth transitions with logical arrangements. Dropper lever on the left, cable wraps around the right of the head tube, straight down the top tube and up the drive side to curl around the back. No cable jumbles at the front or rear of the entrance/exit points. In this shot you’ll also see the weld for the 30.9mm CNC machined Paragon seat post collar. I’ve been using these on all the Marauders as I can ream to 30.9mm’s and offer both 30.9mm dropper and rigid posts or shimmed down to 27.2mm for a little less weight and bit more flex depending on rider weight. Saddle height solved I headed over to the fork for some simple stock adjustments as per my weight. 85 PSI in the fork. No tokens. 6 clicks of rebound from fully closed. 8 clicks of firmness on the fully open adjustment. I’m not complicated and I tend to set it and forget it with forks. Speaking of the fork, let’s talk about what keeps the fork in place: Cane Creek 110 because it just plain works. Thomson Elite Mtn. 80mm / 0° rise stem. Now for years I ran 90mm stems but recently I’ve swapped over to an 80mm stem. It’s a bit shorter but still gives me a bit of room in the cockpit for standing climbs and a bit of knee room. So slightly quicker steering but still some room to move on climbs. I’ve also been running my Garmin a bit more since I have to figure out ride and loop lengths / segments for our pup Kaya who can’t go out as long as she used to be able to. 4-5 miles seems to be just the right amount of length for her so she doesn’t end up sore and injured. So I’ve been clocking certain sections and noting where water is.. And a client spec’d one of these K-edge Garmin mount which mounts under the top cap. Pretty nice little addition and cleans things up. And a little nod to John at the Radavist as he gives good bicycle community. One of the spots on this prototype I had to really pay particular attention to was the bottom bracket/chainstay area. I pay a lot of attention here in general, but on this bike it was a bit more critical as the bike I wanted to build needed to have lots of clearance. Race Face Turbine Cinch was the first piece of the puzzle: Next was using an 83mm bottom bracket shell mated to a 12x157mm TA rear. This is technically a “DH” standard, but in all honesty, anything that runs Plus tires, really should be running this set up. Perfect chain line in a pre-existing readily available standard that actually offers the clearances necessary for modern, large volume tires. The key was adding just the right amount of sauce and picking the right components to maximize clearances and be able to fine tune the chain line. RWC’s bottom bracket cups are on the narrower side, and once was used. Race Face’s 83mm spindle length calls for 2 x 2.5mm spacers on the drive side and 1 on the non-driveside. But here I went 1 on each side to gain a bit more play in shifting the chain line. Then it came to refining how I make the chain stays and getting bends a bit tighter and in the right position so I can run 29 x 2.4″ in one configuration but also with room for 27.5 x 2.8″ tires. Here’s a taste of tire clearance with the stays set at about 16.5″ with 29x 2.25 (really closer to 2.3″ with I9’s Enduro 305 Wheelset): I’m running a 30t front chainring by Wolftooth. I love the rhythm and feel of a 30t ring up front. 32t give me a bit more speed, but with a 30, I find myself in the middle and lower half of the cassette more, so the chain isn’t crossed over as much and the feel once out on the trail is a bit more natural and flowing in cadence for myself. Clearance is good: The chain stays are something I’ve worked on for a while. These are .875″ O.D. tubes that are shaped for tire clearance but also have a center section that is formed for lateral stiffness and power transfer. They measure just about exactly 1.00″ at the center. So what I’ve essentially done is delivered the stiffness of a 1″ titanium chain stay right where you need it but with the weight of a .895″ tube. Here they are being prepped which gives you a good idea of all the shaping I put into these tubes which come straight as an arrow: Geometry wise, this bike really did not change from the first prototype: 69° head tube angle. 72° seat tube angle (The radius seat tube at 72° puts the saddle in the same relative position as a 73° straight tube). 2.25″ of bottom bracket drop. 16.5″ chain stays (16.375″ slammed). At the heart of the bike and short chain stays is a radius seat tube: This gets the rear wheel good and tucked beneath the rider but I’ve built myself down and in the bike balancing my weight between the tires. The front wheel lofts easily but the front end stays good and planted when seated climbs are deployed. That’s the key to a well balanced bike: how well it climbs and descends and performs on everything in between. There’s no magic in those numbers but getting the cockpit length “just so” is important for balancing the weight between those tires. In my case, saddle tip to center of bars is 22″. That took some time to arrive at! I picked a specific loop that’s a bit over 15 miles which incorporates good warm ups and cool downs on hard packed dirt roads (pictured above) but once you enter the trail head, it’s littered with rocks, roots and good climbs followed by good descents. Lots in between to test your mettle on too. Rock wall crossings with big up and overs abound. Once again, out on the trail and even down the first mile of road the WTB tire’s suppleness is apparent. I can’t speak highly enough about what WTB is doing these days. I’m just really stoked on how the tires feel and the traction they offer in just about every condition I throw at them. I’ve said it before but that Riddler sure just rolls fast, fast fast! But when you really need traction, this tire just does not disappoint. They did a superb job with the compound and tread configuration. A bit of tire pressure adjustment and things settled into their own. And yes, that 12×157 Superboost rear wheel is STIFF. There were a few sections when the going got really chunky and I was carrying a lot of speed and I got bounced around a bit too much. However, I noticed if I reminded myself to relax and stay relaxed, so not take a hit and tighten up, the wheels did their thing and took the sting out of that added stiffness. Also to note is the fact that these are aluminum spokes, so a bit less forgiving then steel spokes. Perhaps in the future I’ll build up a traditional steel j-bend wheel set around this hub standard. But the Endure 305’s are nice and wide to spread out those tire sidewalls and add a layer of comfort and stability. Fork wise the adjustments really brought out that 34 Float’s ability to suck up everything you throw at it. And no backpedal issues as the trail I was headed down and eventually up started to get good and technical. Saddle dropped about about 1-2 inches, and I was able to pause, kick pedals and re-set them for the next obstacle linking sections and moves together. I like to ride trails without scoping the lines. Just ride it as I go and react. So a foot goes down here or there. Mental note for next time or the occasional “I’m not leaving here on that note” and I’ll stop, walk back, reset and nail the line on the second or third try. At one point I was on course of the Crotched Mountain Hundred. You cross East Road in Greenfield NH twice. This first crossing has you head up a long gradual climb where dead in the center is some heart pounding efforts to get up a steep section that’s got a good coating of granite and roots. I was sucking wind but I got to the top this go without a dab. A quick descent leads out to a long stretch of double track / 6th class road. Which was and is a nice rest where you can sit down and pedal after that long technical climb. Once is enough. Good luck to those 100 milers who get to do that not just 2 times but 3… I was headed over to what they call “The Big Rock Trail” which aptly takes it’s name from a big rock dead in the middle. This is a great opportunity to get after things with a nice down hill that’s technical and leads out to 5 miles of dirt road for the ride back home. One detail I changed was moving from a 17.5″ seat tube length to a 17″ seat tube length. This offered a bit more standover and a bit more room to sink the butt, bend at the knees, rotate the hips forward and really get into the bike down hill. One thing I’m becoming accustomed with titanium is that although it has this uncanny knack to provide a lot of dampening out in small chatter it really is stiff and can be overbuilt. This is becomes pretty apparent if you do not stay loose and relaxed headed down hill late in a ride where that added stiffness starts to rear it’s head as fatigue starts to set in and sloppy form takes hold. The front end of the bike tracks exceptionally well and holds it’s line but I remind myself often to stay loose and relaxed. If I tense up too much, that’s when I start feeling it in my shoulders and if there’s a bunch of single track left, that can wear me down quick. But down hill I went without issue, taking it easy in a few sections and opening it up in others. The bike felt overall well balanced and fast with stiffness where I wanted it and resilience where I needed it. Overall I’m pleased with how everything came together with this build. I’m going to do some component swaps to shed some weight and make some modifications to parts to lower weight a touch here and there. The 157 rear matched to the 83mm bottom bracket shell felt natural with good heal clearances and exceptional tire clearances. Which is always a fight worth fighting! I feel you never can have enough tire clearance and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride with how these bikes are performing. Now it’s just a matter of refining the process and method and gaining more time with the material that is titanium. Lots more rides planned. In the mean time, I hope this has been helpful. Future reports will be sure to come. In the mean time, I hope everyone’s getting out and enjoying their own bicycles and riding the whole mountain. Till next time, keep pedaling.