So I finally finished my much anticipated new 29er frame: 44f1. “F” for flair, “1” for one bend in the ST. I’ve ridden the first proto for some time now and decided it was time to make some changes from the very first proto Ted and I made last year. The first rendition threw me a curve ball resulting in a slightly slacker seat tube angle than I desired. So back to the drawing board. All that effort definitely paid off as naturally I not only learned a lot by making those mistakes, it also gave me more time on the first proto to start re-evaluating some of those early decisions/directions I had taken. So changes were in order-subtle but none the less, they are there for good reason. First up was an evaluation of how I ride and how that needs to be translated into the machine. Handling was desirable with the first proto but still not to where it needed to be. Original HT angle was set at 69. This was changed to 70.5 in an attempt to create what Ted refers to as a neutral handling bike. After my first experience on it this morning with its maiden voyage (turned into a 4 hour ride..) I now can really say with confidence that I’ve found a sweet spot. Always room for improvement I’m sure-but the front end tracks SO much better. I was experiencing some front wheel flop over very steep/short tech obstacles. On the back side of the obstacles at slow speeds I could feel the front end wanting to pitch either direction I was leaning. Not today people. Sucker just stuck on the ground and held its ground. Next up was an evaluation of bottom bracket height on trail. High enough to clear obstacles and and avoid most pedal strikes, but low enough so it lowers the CG, quickens steering and sucks into turns. Again-12.5 bottom bracket height the first go around. This time-went with 12.25 to 12.375 (just depends on tire choice / tire pressure). It was pinned at 12.375 for today and I have to say I am very happy with this choice over 12.5″. I can really notice a difference between the two-rear end tended to bounce a bit at times, but lowering the CG just a tad seemed to sink things in a bit more and allow the rear to stay planted. Maybe that’s a bunch of BS, but that’s how I interpret that change. Now we come to a touchy one: Chainstay Length. The current set up was at 17.1″ in length. This was pretty nice I have to say. But like all things, I wanted to push it and see what shorter would do. To achieve my desired CS Length-I needed to radius the seat tube. No easy task and what through the curve with the second proto. I ended up putting the radius at the bottom of the ST so effectively it pitches the Seat tube forward a hair, creates enough clearance so I can shorten up the chainstays and not have to put the ST/DT connection OVER the DT. So we can still create that nice big platform of welds around the bottom bracket and keep things relatively stiff. So with a radius in place, the trick was just getting the setup in the jig just right. All in all, I was able to go from a 17.1 to a 16.625. Dedicated 1×9 (in my case 1×5..) is the drawback because the radius really throws the angle for a Front Derailleur off. The rub was now with a shorter pair of stays, the rear would be a little stiffer and not as resilient. This brings us to the next evolution of the design: two bends in the seatstays. Between the seat post extension and the two bends in the stays, I definitely experience a supple ride today. STOKED to say the least. Power transfer was still on point but there was that nice snappy feel of steel with a supple feel. Very comfortable ride. That brings us to the dropouts: The ‘Flip Switch’ as I call them. Basically you run them in their normal position to have full gears. Want a singlespeed without horizontal drops or an ebb? Flip ’em and switch them. Right to left, left goes to right. You now have a traditional singlespeed setup. Orientation of the caliper is directly over the top of the disk. So with the use of a half link or half link chain (like a shadow conspiracy interloc) you can really dial in the chainline without having too much horizontal movement. Not necessary-but something I was noodling for a while and just wanted to try out. Big thanks to Super Rat Machine. Phil’s work is awesome, top notch and a pleasure to work with. Props to SRM for their work. Last details I made were a slightly lower slung frame. Well, close to 2 more inches of clearance over the top tube. Radius on the seat stay bridge and disk brake reinforcement. The Seat stay bridge really mirrors the profile of the tire nicely. More work but its a nice detail. Next go I’ll push it up a little further-tire clearance can handle a 2.5 (2.3 installed presently) but clearance under the bridge is tight. Makes it but I’d prefer more. Chainstays are hand bent and formed. Lots of clearance for a 2.5 down there. Last but not least are the addition of the new Head and Seat badges. ST Badge sports a blank space for a lucky number to be punched. An outfit on the left coast put these together for me: Acu-Line. Photo etched stainless steel. They weigh nothing, and basically you pay a one time fee for the setup and then its per sheet. As many as you can fit on an 11×18 sheet. I got about 50 badges. Super nice and easy to work with-Ted might be using them for a run of HT badges too. Really nice etch quality. The ride today: I was all smiles that is for sure. I dropped about a pound with this build. Lighter really has a nice effect that is for sure! Overall she felt very nimble, supple and snappy, descended well and those short chainstays just hook up for climbs or popping over obstacles. Wheelbase is 42.625″ and rider compartment is 23.25 (that’s optimized for me) and a 0 degree 90mm stem. I’ve found TT numbers a bit misleading-it’s really more about the rider compartment in my eyes. I’ve found I prefer a little more of an up right stance. Relieves some pressure on my lower back and i’m more in a “ready position” when riding. You’re very dynamic on a mtn. bike, so it makes sense to me to place the rider in a comfortable position where he/she can see obstacles, be free to move forward/back and play with body english. Low slung frame with an upright stance makes sense in my eyes. Back to the ride: good through corners. The lower BB brings the CG a little lower, and coupled with the steeper head angle, it was cornering a lot better than previously. I really could feel it tracking tighter through turns and being able to pick lines a lot better. (Good suggestion Ted! He’s a Master Framebuilder for good reason!) Overall: just a blast to ride. Fast, snappy and ready for more. More time on the frame will give me more information-but the above is first impressions. I’m stoked.. The group was beat afterwards naturally. Our buddy Brett hadn’t ridden in a while and had a little unscheduled appointment with his breakfast again.. Joey T. is getting over Lyme Disease and was having a blast. Franky was enjoying his 44s in candy red. (I know what type of paint will be my next rambler!) The Punisher was out in FULL FORCE. Don’t mess with the Punisher-she’ll eat you alive. Post ride I delivered Joey T’s much anticipated 44s Rohloff build. He was definitely stoked. Little good ol’fashioned swap. You cut some trees that need cuttin’, and I’ll cut some metal for a custom build for ridin’. Worked out awesome.