July 26, 2021 § Leave a comment
My new MTB is marketed as a XC race style bike. The target owner tends to be a weight weenie and, as is typical for the market segment, the bike came with minimalist tires. The rear Maxxis Ikon has very little tread and the front Maxxis Ardent is only a small step up, with slightly larger side blocks.
The first few rides confirm that while these are fine tires for a racer, there’s too much rear slip and too much front end drift for general riding. I have experience trying to reach the ideal compromise for speed under racing circumstances but am long past playing those games. I looked for what seemed to me to be a more general purpose MTB tire fit for my local conditions and decided on the Maxxis Aggressor.
This shows the difference before swapping the 1.57 lb Ikon EXO for the 2.02 lb Aggressor EXO. Yes, there is indeed a weight penalty.
As you can see the Ardent EXO (1.79 lbs) is only a little bit beefier than the Ikon and the Aggressor looks like a bigger jump up in grip. For those weight weenies in the class, we’re at a 0.68 lb hit to add grippier tires. This is about the margin you gain from converting the tires to tubeless, btw. I am a little surprised that these tires are so close in weight to the Minions (DHF, DHR II), so those would be good options as well. I had been running the DHF on the front of my 26” wheel hardtail lately and tried the DHR II for a little while on the back. Great tires.
With the Aggressor mounted and inflated it is even clearer how much more tread they offer compared with either the Ikon or the Ardent. These went on easy-peasy with a regular floor pump, making this a 5 for 5 with Maxxis tubeless-ready models in my experience. The only tire I’ve tried that gave me trouble (CO2 required) is the Panaracer Fire XC Pro.
The first ride confirmed the choice. Much improved drive traction (I made sure to test it out on out of saddle climbing) and good front end control. This was true both in higher speed cornering and for looser / steeper descents on the brakes. Running pedaling speed twisties, and the associated flipping from one edge to the other, illustrated high predictability across the entire tread profile. The Aggressors seem to be a good general purpose tire choice.
These are probably a little slower rolling in the straight and level. I didn’t notice anything severe but then again I am still getting used to a full suspension 29”er and those two features likely contribute more to perceived rolling ease than the tires do. Also, I had pumped them up to 60 psi for bead seating purposes and I just left them there. They might drag more at lower tire pressures*….but one of my reasons for putting these on was to avoid dropping tire pressure. That would probably have made the Ardent and Ikon hook up somewhat better but lowering pressure comes at the cost of potential rim damage from rock hits. At my size anyway.
According to readily googled MTB tire pressure advice, it’s absurd to run pressures over 32 psi or so. But then you notice that the advice givers weigh like 160 lbs, run 2.5” tire widths, 33 mm width rims and casually throw out that they have to run an “Insert” in the back tire and “don’t mind” dinging their rim. My weight is considerably in excess of this, I have 25 mm rims, run 2.3” width tires and don’t feel like adding some $$ insert when air pressure is much cheaper. I also am not casual about putting dents in my rim.
*yes I am aware of these theories that low tire pressures are faster because the tire deforms around obstacles.
July 24, 2021 § Leave a comment
With only four rides completed, I don’t have comprehensive perspective but the descending has covered several very familiar sections. That provides a point of comparison with my prior bikes and tires.
The stock tires on the Oiz are going to be replaced for sure. In loose rocks, the front Maxxis Ardent isn’t up to the task and I’m just not willing to make that trade for the weight saving of XC race tires. I haven’t pushed the rear Maxxis Ikon hard on climbs yet (out of saddle type efforts reveal limitations) but I’m already suspicious. I’ve run them as low as 53 psi so far but am not keen to push the boundaries. No real reason to risk hard rim hits in pursuit of maximum traction. Might as well just put on higher traction tires. They aren’t cheap at $60-70 per these days but that is still a bargain compared with replacing a rim! My preference post-racing has been to run 60 psi so as to minimize the chances of pinch flats and rim hits. This is particularly advised at my advanced weight.
I ran a ~1k open fire road section (“Poles”) at about 60%, 70% pace on one ride and the Oiz was fantastic. The tires performed okayish on this type of descending, but I was definitely holding back on their account….Took a huge faceplant on this section decades ago and that makes me cautious. The biggest impression I got was from the front end. Not sure if it’s the Fox fork’s 34 mm stanchions but the tracking and hit control was notably better than the 32 mm Fox on my older bike. Both ends navigated the water bars without drama.
I dropped my guy who normally gets away from me on technical descents and gives me a very difficult time on this particular descent. He noted that it was the hardest part of the ride. More evidence that the full suspension bike is working as predicted to make descents notably faster. Even though I feel as though I am not adjusted to the new ride yet and have concerns about tire grip. I have the front and rear suspension settings in what feels like pretty good balance now and that is being born out in both higher speed and lower speed descending. According to the o-rings I am using my travel on both shock and fork, but since I am not re-zeroing mid ride it isn’t clear where I am maxing it out. I keep thinking I should do that to get a better feel for the suspension setup.
In the aforementioned higher speed descent the big 29” wheels have to be contributing to comfort level and therefore speed. They still give the impression of rolling over and through small stuff that would have the 26” wheels chopping and chattering. This may be part of the advantage versus the 27.5” wheels my friend is running.
We also did a fun descent (“Tunnels”) that I think the kids call “flow” these days. Natural terrain, of course, but mostly non-pedaling, swoopy turns, with a mixture of packed earth and cobblestone rocks. The 29” wheels still feel big to me, this is very noticeable in the loose rocks sections since minor screwups of line cost a lot in speed. Working on my technique and improving but the adjustment is going to take time, I bet. No, it’s not because these modern bikes are designed to only work with the seat post dropped, as one of my college race team guys is insisting. And it isn’t weight distribution due to me putting 2 more cm of stem on the front, as another of my college race team guys is insisting. There is an inescapable physics issue here, guys. Gyroscopes and what not.
As a sidebar, the trim level of Oiz I selected comes with a middle range wheel from the manufacturer (DT Swiss XR 1650). I note that the next one up drops a quarter pound or so (at the cost of $2k straight up, not sure of the upcharge if you use Orbea’s customized ordering feature), and they have even lighter ones available. The Shimano M775 wheels that came with the Sette were on the lighter side at the time of purchase so there is some degree of apple to oranges beyond the diameter going on with my frame of reference.
I’m up to about the third section where I remembered to use the dropper post to see what it feels like. Full drop is far too much and so therefore I conclude anything longer than the 125 mm available on this one would be a waste of money and weight. I’m still working on the optimum drop and definitely working on my post dropping technique. Obviously one wants to be able to rapidly put it in ideal position when approaching a steep section. Otherwise you are losing time relative to someone who has a fixed seat post. My bar lever cable may need some adjusting to make the drop more seamless? Have to fiddle with this at some point.
The Oiz M10 TR has an Orbea branded carbon handlebar and I’m loathe to just cut it down without some testing. I am also unclear on whether adding bar ends is okay. So bar testing will require either swapping in the one that is on the Sette or getting a cheap new one to play with. Or both. The Sette bar is about four inches narrower so I should test that and then something inbetween, in both cases with the bar ends fitted. I am really missing the extra hand positions and cannot for the life of me understand how these have fallen so utterly out of fashion. 1) standing up climbing, 2) high effort, high speed pedaling on the flats and 3) avoiding numb hands. All are benefits.
The larger Oiz sizes come with two bottle mount positions in the main triangle, as the gods intended. This was a feature that helped cement the Oiz as my choice. Not a hugely determinative factor but it did contribute. I do own a water backpack and have used these on occasion. I get along with them okay but just prefer the two-bottle option for most riding. Large bottle on down tube and traditional (short) bottle on the seat tube configuration is preferred. As mentioned, the down tube site has three bosses, allowing for maybe a 2” difference in position. The lower position with a normal cage conflicts with the seat tube bottle cage on my size Large. The upper position still works with a large bottle but it is not ideal for removing and replacing the bottle while riding. A special high-mount bottle cage lowers the bottle cage about half the distance between the mounting options on the Oiz, doesn’t conflict with the seat tube cage, and this restored bottle grabbing clearance perfectly. Highly recommend this adjustment, at least on the Large size. (Unknown if the high mount cage still clears the other bottle cage on a Medium or if it is even needed for bottle clearance on the Extra-Large size.)
July 23, 2021 § 1 Comment
In my XC MTB racing days I ran three memorable sets of tires. The OnZa Porcupine (in white), the Ritchey Z-max and the Panaracer combo of Smoke in the rear and Dart up front.
The Porc was a terrible tire and I ran it, in honesty, because I thought the white was unusual and cool. It was basically a pattern of conical lugs sticking mostly straight up from the tire carcass. A half-hearted stab at larger side lugs. Straight ahead grip was only okay, but it broke away fast when leaned over and it wore quickly. I went through at least three sets before moving on. If I recall, the best feature of this tire was a relatively high volume, toroid shape for a nominal 2.1” tire, which allowed lower pressure. [ETA: or maybe I ran the 1.95? Same volume deal, see above.] I tended to drop down into the danger zone, 35-38 psi, seeking maximum traction. This, of course, led to pinch flats which really screw up a race- there was no tech zone or outside support allowed in the 90s.
The Ritchey (my memory suggests it was not the Z-max…wasn’t there another name and the max was a re-design?) was an excellent race tire, especially in the dry and dusty SoCal trails that dominated the local riding and racing. Low weight, good enough grip and a round profile for the smallish lugs, center to side. This meant a very predictable and similar grip from straight up to full lean. Flicking a bike through the twisties with the Zs was a no drama affair. High speed corners on big open fire roads would occasionally get you drifting at higher lean angles, but the front and rear would be in register so it all felt controlled. You might even convince yourself you were doing it on purpose. I have had this tread design on my cyclocrosser for about seven months and it still works great.
Relative to those, the Panaracers were truck tires. Nominal width of 2.1” but with a big lug profile. The Smoke was a squared off, deeply lugged tire, which hooked UP in most kinds of surface. Shift your weight slightly back on steep and loose grunt climbs and it was almost impossible to break it free. Rolling the Smoke onto the squared profile side lugs took some effort and they dug in hard. Despite what you’d think looking at the profile, I can’t remember any times that leaning past the ideal point caused a sudden break away. I suspect that if it ever got to that stage, it was disaster recovery time, not speed maximization. The Dart….well I never warmed up to the Dart completely. It has big oblong rectangles running along the rotation of the tire and is just plain ugly looking. It was also at the front edge of front/rear dedicated tire design and my retrogrouchiness was triggered. It nevertheless worked very well in a variety of situations and was a good match for the Smoke. Both tires were tough as nails and wore slowly.
After I stopped racing and wasn’t riding consistently, the Smoke/Dart combo was the selection. Versatile, tough, and familiar. A great choice as my handling skills eroded and my mass expanded. The Sette originally came with some tiny-block racey tires from Kenda that had terrible grip and I quickly swapped those out for a WTB Velociraptor set. The Velociraptor front is very Dart-like (although much more visually appealing) and the rear is very similar to the Smoke. Maybe a touch less square across the side lugs, and perhaps the center lugs are larger. But very similar tires, front and back.
Time has moved on and the 26” tire market is slim pickings. You can still find some of these legacy tires around but they are not tubeless ready. I was finally ready to give tubeless a try in the Year of COVID; my wheels were tubeless ready but I hadn’t ever set up for that. Maxxis tires were some of the most readily available in a tubeless ready 26” so I put on some Minion DHFs. [ETA: Actually it was a DHR II in the rear and a DHF front. Both nominal 2.3” width.] Which turned out to be a good general purpose set of skins. These are listed at a nominal 2.3” width and the rear one juuuust barely cleared the chain stays. This was fine with the wheel in true but I started getting nervous about wearing down a carbon chainstay if I got out of true.
The seemingly only available, tubeless ready, old school XC race style 26” tire was a Panaracer Fire XC pro (2.1” width) so I put that in the back. Clearance restored. Never got around to replacing the front Minion, so the bike looks unbalanced. Works ok so whatevs.
The Minions were really easy to install, I was able to get the bead seated with a floor pump. First try for the first tire and only with a tiny bit of futzing for the second one. Not so much for the Panaracer- even with my newly acquired technique. Luckily I had a very old CO2 inflator with some spare cartridges in an old bike parts box. That did the trick….so I had to get some more cartridges from the pellet gun supply store and put them in the seat bag for emergencies.
With that small headache surmounted…. I am a fan of tubeless. The XC Pro has taken at least four pinholes that the Stan’s latex sealed up nicely. Those were the ones I heard, rotated the tire to the bottom and added a finger to aid the sealing. No idea if there have been other seals that I didn’t catch in progress. The sealant has lasted a good six or seven months before checking and even then it seemed liquid and capable of sealing. Online advice to check more regularly is unduly conservative in my experience so far.
My college teammates are waxing rhapsodic about dropper posts and lean angles on my Fb. That got me thinking about tire choices and how that is way more important to cornering confidence and technique on a MTB. Tires feel different. The racey ones are an a priori compromise of weight and apparent rolling speed for traction, particularly when leaned over. Good cornering technique on race oriented skins can compensate for bad technique on a more general purpose tire. Of course. But assuming the same rider, grip matters!
July 17, 2021 § 1 Comment
As noted in my original set up, fitting two standard bottle cages doesn’t permit the down tube one to be in the lower position. The good news is, a big bottle still fits with the cage in the upper position. It was not optimal, however. A bit hard to remove and replace.
I happen to know that the good folks at King Cage, who I also happen to know make a high quality and durable steel bottle cage, make a dropper bottle cage.
The mounts are set about an inch higher than usual. This, obviously, lowers the bottle holding part by about an inch. Sounded perfect for my little problem.
Yep. It’s not a huge diff but I think it will improve the bottle removal process. [ETA: The results of the first test ride confirm expectations. This was a very good call.]
Here’s what the clearance looks like with a normal King Cage on the down tube mounts.
Oh and I’m not being that extravagant….the other bottle cages had been borrowed off another active duty bike. They have a home to return to.
July 17, 2021 § Leave a comment
Let’s just see if the 34t drops a critical gear inch or if it is tolerable. okay, 1.16 inch to be all technical about it.
….and yeah, it’s still at a 0.39 inch advantage over the 3×9 system’s low on the 24/32. Should be fine. If only I hadn’t climbed that steep one last ride I would not even know what I was missing.
July 14, 2021 § Leave a comment
Ride number three was less of a test of bike setup. The only thing I did was to drop the air pressure in the fork a little bit. It seemed to put the ends more in balance but I deduce this from a negative- I didn’t get a strong sense of imbalance. This was more of a test of regular riding without paying much attention to how the bike was set up, since I went with my most frequent riding friend. First half of the ride was exploring some trails we haven’t ridden regularly and second half was very, very familiar stuff. A good first test of relative performance under real world conditions.
In honor of my college racing teammates who are bashing me on Facebook for my dropper Ludditism, I actually tried the dropper post once! It didn’t go well because I have no idea where it should be yet, and in the early part of the descent I had it far, far too low. At least I found a good place on one of my usual trails to keep testing it out.
My guy thinks I’m going much faster than usual over medium chunk, moderate downhill terrain. Usually this is where he’s pretty regularly getting away from me on his dual suspension 27.5” so this is a tiny bit of outside confirmation of what I’ve been feeling, i.e., the full suspendy niner outperforms my hard tail 26” exactly where it should. We weren’t super pushing the pace so time will tell how much relative advantage this is. Also, I was often intentionally taking bad lines, that I would normally avoid, to see how the extra bumps and rocks would feel. This was a typical dry and dusty SoCal day, and mostly a non-cornering route so the tires were just fine.
I am questioning my gear whinging. Definitely used the 32/51 and was thinking maybe I don’t want to lose that extra 0.8 inch with a 34t ring? We hit a steep and extended climb that is probably harder than anything else we ride regularly. I was at least thinking about gearing on the low end by mid climb. The top end of the gear range was fine, even in the one segment where I often outgear this guy on my 3×9 bike. Again, we weren’t pushing the pace too hard so it wasn’t the ultimate comparison. I guess I’ll just try to compare rings on similar terrain and decide later.
Fixed one of my cleat angles before this ride. It has been ok, not perfect, on the old bike and I never bothered to tweak it. The first couple of rides on the new bike revealed that whatever the small position changes there were, the cleat angle was now annoying and wrong. Seemed very neutral on this ride….will be interesting to try it on the older bike and see if it’s good there too. But, importantly, this seemingly fixed my calf-brushes-swingarm issue. That was occurring occasionally when slid back in the saddle, super annoying. Nb- still have not moved the saddle back forward, am just sort of tracking my positioning fore and aft under real riding conditions. Also, may swap the saddle out for an old one so there wasn’t much point to adjusting this one yet.
The bike: As good as described. So far, I am not finding any annoyance with the squishy backend. As you may imagine, a loss of pedaling power has been my primary concern with making this leap. Lord knows I can’t afford to give up any watts. For this died in the wool, XC hardtail racer preferring rider, the Oiz M10 TR is a minimal compromise choice. Feels almost like a hardtail with the squidlock on firm and pedaling hard on smooth terrain. It is not totally locked out and I am waiting to accumulate jarring hits that otherwise would have pained my spine to assess this aspect of the rig. But it rides great for the most part. Hard acceleration on flat, smoother sections is maybe (?) a bit slow but some of this is possibly me getting the fit exactly right. May need to put in another cm of seatpost height and am still pondering fore/aft on the saddle.
Takeaway ride feel is that this baby goes where I point it and feels rock solid. Great frame design from what I can tell.
Setting the suspension to medium is quite tolerable on every kind of terrain….and I’m open to the claims of enhanced traction in loose climbs. Still have a lot more A-B-A-B testing to do but I’m sometimes agreeing with the suggestion climbing is improved by better wheel tracking. What is most notable is how quickly and seamlessly the remote toggles positions. Definitely a key feature.
July 11, 2021 § Leave a comment
The second ride was a better shakedown, due to getting the shock pressure up to the recommended starting point for my weight, and swapping in a 110 mm -6deg stem I had on another bike. The shock pressure seems about right for now, and btw the squidlock does seem to have 3 distinct modes that it toggles. (There was a review from an earlier model year, probably on a forum, that seemed to claim there were only two.) Rebound set per default recommendations on both fork and shock. I’m going to drop the fork down a bit. I think sag was lower than 15%, but the biggest problem was that it was not well matched to the shock when open or middle position was selected. Fork is much less compliant at present. Firm setting was about equivalently firm on both ends. I think I want to get the fork down to where it feels more balanced in the middle and open and go from there. I didn’t touch the fork compression damping yet so that will have to be twiddled along with resetting the air pressure. Next ride…
With that caveat, ride impression was good, with a few a mixed bag items. Over all, very solid so far. The 29” wheels do feel very large in terms of rolling over bumps (good!) and wrangling sharp corners (bad). This latter was the case at slow maneuvering speed and at pedaling speed on the flats and rolling terrain. I think the latter is just going to take rewiring my brain. More input is needed compared with a 26” tire and my default isn’t enough. When I was concentrating on bigger steering input it was better.
I think I was riding a little faster than usual on big gear pedaling terrain by the middle of my ride. This was mostly with the squidlock on firm so I think it was mostly down to the larger wheels. This will have to be confirmed on group rides in the future. It was a bit of a surprise to realize this though. I was not trying to push anything hard and the fork felt firmer than I like to run my older one.
Fork sidebar- it has 34cm stanchions where the older one is 32. I don’t know yet if this added robustness is contributing to more confidence at speed. In theory they are stiffer…but these big wheels take more steering input so it will be hard to tell short of trying a bike with the 32 cm ones. (That is what is spec’d on the shorter travel, non-TR version of the Oiz M10. Would be the best test.)
I kept flipping the shock settings on various terrain and it seems as though the middle setting will be good for general riding purposes once I get the front and rear in balance. Firm setting is noticeably stiffer but there does seem to be a slight bit of give left, relative to a hard tail. Will have to play with the sag indicator next ride to assess movement. Full open shock is going to take some getting used to for me. Cornering while pedaling feels like the rear tire went flat!
The XT brakes engage with too much lever slack. Going to have to figure out if there is a meaningful adjustment on freeplay. The big knob is only for lever to bar distance, aka reach. I have that at full distance, large hands. Reading up online shoes there is a Phillips head screw to set the free play but it very likely is set to the least free play by default. That would be disappointing. With that said, these do seem to be very legit one finger brakes. The lever length is tiny so clearly this is by design. This adds greatly to a feeling of confidence descending, compared to any brake that feels like a two finger job. My old bike has discs but it is more like a 1.5 finger feel- I can use them effectively one fingered but two feels better. These XT brakes feel more stoppy with a single finger. Will see how this impression holds up with more time and varied terrain. Brake modulation is ultra personal so I don’t have much to say there. I’ve used many rim brake systems off road (cantis, Vbrakes, Shimano and aftermarket, cheaper to expensive, pads, aluminum rims, anodized ones, ceramic coated) and two types of disc brakes. They all differ tremendously in “feel”. Once more or less dialed in, I’m not fussy….I can adjust. Right now the brake free play is less than preferred but I get plenty of stopping power without any sign of bottoming out the lever travel on the bar.
Stupid Shimano chainrings now require yet another specialized tool for the lock ring (the Park version looks like this). Grrrrrr. My 34t arrived but now I have to wait on the tool. I took off the crank to see if something else I have would do the job but no. It’s recessed into the crank so much, and the engagement divots are so small and rounded, that it would be impossible to get something else in there.
The 32t chainring is okay and most people will have no need to change it out. This is a mostly go-fast design bike and the lower end doesn’t need to be any lower than 32/51. The top end is pretty good, it will take you up into the lower 20s in mph without a sweat, which is going to be the vast majority of pedaling duties. My most frequent riding friend has a 30/11 top gear on 27.5” wheels – that’s about a 44/16 or 44/15 on ye olde school 3×9 26”ers. It shows in certain riding situations where I outgeared him past anything he can spin. In the Shimano 1x, a 32/10 top gear is in between the 12 and 13 cogs. Big difference.
Still haven’t used the dropper post in a riding situation. One very steep drop into a creek-bed on the second shakedown cruise- didn’t require it. If anything the 29” wheels are even more confidence inspiring than the 26” wheels and I have no more difficulty sliding back on this bike than I do on my previous ones. You may wonder why I am obsessing over this but they are very heavy compared with a normal post…..if I’m never using it…
Saddles are very personal. The Fizik Taiga is racy and is close, but I’m a Selle Italia Turbo guy. The farther away from that shape, the less it works for me. I’ll eventually swap in one of my old ones, probably the SDG I have on my Sette, it still has some life left in it. This is no knock on the stock bike…saddles cannot possible fit all possible customers. You really need to find your right fit and then stick with it forever. IMO. One note is that one has to set the nose down more than on a hard tail so that when you sit on it, the sag brings the saddle into the right position. Looks weird when you are off the bike.
Bars. I put the 110 mm stem in negative angle, that felt about right in the handling department. But my hands were eventually aching. There are several possible culprits. I may have the bars lower compared to saddle than I have on my old bike. I have to check those measurements to see if I should try the positive stem angle for a ride or two. But the width definitely causes a different hand angle which may alter the pressure. And for *sure* I miss the extra hand position given by my bar ends. Those are passé now, I understand, but when I finalize bar width the bar ends are going right back on! Relatedly- putting a longer stem on is a big help climbing out of the saddle with those wide bars and no bar ends.
July 8, 2021 § 3 Comments
I’ve been disappointed that some kinds of information on consumer goods in the bike industry are harder and harder to find. You would think that in the modern social media environment there would be copious amounts of information. Instead you typically pull up a question in some forum somewhere with minimal responding.
Reviews by enthusiast publications are fewer than you might think, locked behind paywalls (understandably) and they mostly reiterate technical copy from the manufacturer with minimal useful input. “Rides great” is about the sum total. “For XC racers!” reviews from people who clearly are not XC racers.!
New model reviews always test the top of the line and give short shrift to my price level-which is always down from the top.
Replacing my excellent Sette Serum Pro took a lot of digging just to arrive at some basics. I settled on the Orbea Oiz line- but most online reviews focus on the squidlock thingy and the new for 2021 top flight carbon frame. Apparently the new “OMX” version weighs less than the older “OMR” one that comes with a more reasonable price tag.
Weight matters. Yes, even to someone who is pulling many times over any narrow bike weight considerations around his middle. Manufacturers guard weights like they are Crown Jewels. Why? Dunno. It’s weird because bike buyers in the middle to upper price points are notorious weight weenies and they want to KNOW. Reviews seem to always be written by medium size guys which complicates precision for those of us who ride different sizes. And sometimes you get weights without pedals, “oh I customized a few things” or some other weirdness.
So. For those that want to know. The weight of a size Large 2021 Orbea Oiz M10 TR is 26.13 pounds outfitted with XT pedals, no-tubes sealant, two bottle cages and a pump carrier. Oh, and no reflectors. 26.13 pounds is not too bad of a penalty for full suspension, is what I’m thinking. Heck, my Al cyclocross rig runs 23 pounds and I think it is just great.
More real weight talk: Yes, removing the tubes does take 0.75 pounds off. But you get some of that back in valves + sealant. AND, unless you are dumb, you put one of those tubes right in the old saddle bag. For grins, I reweighed it with saddle bag and pump and found it added just under 3 pounds. 29.01 as my real ride weight, without water.
This particular bike popped up as one of each size stock at a mail order place so I jumped at this COVID era opportunity. Who knows when more would be available? It came in two days.
Note that I am brand new to just about everything on this bike. My reference points are hard tail 26” wheel MTBs designed for XC racing as it was in the beginning. My review points will not be contrasting among modern hardware.
Set up is very simple out of the box, of course. One cautionary note on the bottle mounts is that you want to be careful with the inserts and the bargain basement screws. Use fingers and beware cross threading. Also, I initially used the lower position for the down tube mounts and then couldn’t fit the seat tube cage. Moving it up is okay and a large bottle just barely fits. On my first ride I found myself opting to pull the seat tube bottle when riding, which is not my usual habit at all. It’s fine….but sub-optimal. Old dogs, new tricks, etc. So I’m going to try a special 1” lowering cage from King cage in that position to see if I can get the bottle positioning that I prefer.
One review I read (or watched?) complained about adjusting the squidlock angle. Something about moving the dropper post to access the bolt? Anyway, mine has a quick release slot (common to all sorts of cable pulling bike bits) and it was easy to access the fixing bolt after releasing the cable noodle. Not. A. Problem.
The stem is, of course, too short. It’s spec’d with a 90 mm Orbea house brand and it looks like that is the longest they make. (Really? Their XC Pros are okay with this?) The spacer stack and top cap are not round but some sculpted aero looking business…..which makes it desirable to stick with a similar replacement. Not going to be possible and that’s a bit sad. I put a 110 mm that I had lying around on right after my first test ride. We’ll see how that goes before thinking about ordering a final solution to the stem issue. Another note, the Spanish owner-workers get a little enthusiastic with the stem bolts all around. I never run mine that tight and have never had any problems.
I slammed the saddle back as far as it would go, the post clamp is directly over the post. Usually I’m needing setback….but I may just move it back to neutral, especially with the longer stem. This will require some tweaking of my position. I am afraid to measure Q-factor but I did get some swingarm brushing of my calves when slid back.
The gears. Yes I knew this was going to be an issue, going to a 1×12 setup. I had done all my calculations.
The first ride verified what I calculated…never really used the 51 tooth cog and the 39 felt like I was in the low zone. Top end is woefully deficient. A 34t chainring is already on order to get this into a decent place. Shimano has decided to set up their cluster jumps so that the biggest three cogs are essentially the granny range that you’d have used in a 3×9-10-11 setup. Then you drop into a 4 cog middle ring range and then a 5 cog big ring range. I know the argument is that a 1x is simpler and all that, but the first ride verified the predicted, i.e. that pushing it from the 33 cog to the 39 cog takes a little more planning than dumping the front ring onto the 24t.
The Maxxis Ikon 3c/EXO/TR tires are far too racy for general use – not even remotely enough side block. This was immediately confirmed in my test ride, even though I was not really pushing it at all. This is a typical manufacturer choice to save weight. Eventually I’ll put on something better but I want to look at them in a store first. It’s really hard to get a good three dimensional sense from online pictures of tires. The Ardent [edited to add: the front is an Ardent. Not enough shoulder block on that either] and Aspen seem to be the next step up, and then something in the Minion department, although that is probably overkill. I’m also going to want to settle in with properly adjusted suspension, reconsidered tire pressure defaults and mental adjustment to 29” wheels before I decide.
Ride impressions are going to have to wait for another day. My floor pump can handle the fork’s air pressure adjustment but the chuck won’t fit on the rear suspension valve. And it doesn’t go to the necessary pressure range even if it did. So I don’t know what pressure I had in there but given my weight undoubtedly it was far lower than I should be using [edited to add: Yep, it was at less than half the pressure recommended]. I rode around with the fork and shock totally out of balance, unless I had it set to lockout of course.
The squidlock thingy worked great. I am not certain of the partial versus full open yet, given the shock setting issues, but lockout versus no-lockout was super easy to toggle. Again, no prior point of reference for me on this. The on-the-go fork adjustment on my Sette was done by reaching down to the cap and twiddling it, no remote. I did notice one of my usual riding friends had to keep reaching down and locking out at the shock on a recent ride and that looked way less good than this remote lever seems to be.
I did not use the dropper post even once on my first ride. It did not, um, occur to me. Admittedly this was all pretty gentle terrain that I know REALLY well, so that is not unusual.
July 7, 2021 § 1 Comment
Hahahahahaah, no not me, silly.
My MTB. The Sette Serum Pro which I’ve been riding for about….wait, 9 years? It’s been an awesome bike and I still think it was a screaming good deal.
I’ve had my ups and downs with riding in the past 9 years but oooo, brother, ever since the COVID close down I’ve been riding a LOT. Strava lists 85 bike rides in 2021 and 30 in the second third of 2020 when I switched to Strava from MapMyRide. Not all of these are off road but a lot of them are. I counted 42 MTB rides in the first 12 months of Covid, March 2020-March 2021. This was all facilitated by pulling the Sette out and, after marveling for the hundredth time about how light it is, just riding off. No muss, no fuss. The bike has been a beast. As mentioned, this is what you get for shelling out for the Shimano XT level of componentry. What was less certain is what you get for a mail order carbon frame with a company that lasted about 5 years before disappearing entirely.
The frame has been durable and a great ride every step of the way.
And it is still FAST. This bike was designed as an old skoole XC racer with its feet in the 1990s. It was already getting a little bit out of date and unfashionable when I bought it, probably this contributed to the low price. The XT was 9-sp when 10 sp was at least two years old. 26″ wheels when 29-ers and 27.5″ were duking it out for supremacy. But for a retrogrouch like me, who was bemoaning the apparent demise of his beloved race rig from the 1990s, it was the right choice.
But now I’m riding with folks who have purchased MTBs of a somewhat more modern persuasion. Dual suspension, those ridiculous wide bars and either 27.5″ or 29″ hoops. Dropper seatposts. They are under the impression I need to get with the times. Now, admittedly one of my boys can pretty much just walk away from me descending. This is mostly due to the full suspendy back end, since his lines aren’t great. But if I’m trying I can still get down a descent at least as fast as the rest of the dually guys. Which perplexes them. Particularly those who love their dropper posts.
But every so often I’ll take a hit that jars my lower spine. Not frequently. Not even on every ride. But it gets me….thinking. I am not a young man and I would like to keep riding as long as possible. Maybe. Just maaaaaaybe having a full suspension MTB will keep me going a little longer. Even if they are…inefficient. And heavy.
I still get sticker shock. AYFKMRN? $4-5 grand for something entirely pedestrian? And up into the $8k range no problem? Sheesh.
Luckily, the supply chain issues of COVID mean that you can’t actually buy bikes. Friends have been told at major dealers like Trek that it will be “February 2022” for a bike. One guy had to cancel an order from somewhere after being repeatedly put off for delivery with no clear end in sight. He and the other guy made out like bandits in the used market, so it is all good. But my musings have been reined in by the fact I didn’t think it would be possible to even buy a new bike.
And…what bike? Am I going for something that is a modern version of the XC racer? But…I already have a perfectly good XC racer! How about something with big travel….like one of those all-mountain deals? Ugh….the weight. NO.
The go-to for me, obscure brand mail order outfits with seemingly direct from China pipelines, does not seem to exist beyond one or two places. One of those places is Al frames only so…blech. Although one of my riding friends did just score one used so…I’ll have to see how that works out for him. But…the other place advertises some carbon frame models. And….I made a vow to never buy another bike that wasn’t carbon framed. Well they don’t have bikes either although they do list some models that make me think…maybe. If they ever have stock. So I keep checking back every so often
Then I made the mistake of finding a bike that looked about right from the minimal reviews available online and the stupid time waster review YouTubes.
Uh-oh. Described as the modern XC racer’s bike. And since I’ve been watching World Cup MTB on RedBull’s app, I have to agree. This style is being ridden by most of the men and women most of the time. And this specific model range has been spotted.
Well, at least they are not available either. When I went from “hmmm” to “maybe” a few months back they were listing stuff out to December for shipping. That’s from the factory site but closer retailers didn’t have them either. Not in my size and not below the ridiculous price point. I am not spending $10k on a bicycle thank yew.
But I keep checking back. Now and again to see if they have any stock.
Late the other night, one of the companies I get bike parts from listed one in my size. One. And at the spec range that I can manage. It’s basically the last generation of frame, so a bit heavier than their top of the line. But otherwise, it looks right. XT parts. Geometry seems good.
What to do?
February 6, 2021 § Leave a comment
I’ve been organizing group MTB rides during the Time of Corona. It started back in maybe the second month of lockdown when an old friend I used to ride with got in touch. I’d been putting in the miles for the first time in forever so the timing was perfect. I can look back in my 1991 paper training log and there he is, mentioned regularly. But of course after a little while, several fun rides and a join by a second mutual bike friend from back in the day…I started proselytizing. Apparently it is a bit like a substance use disorder….you can go clean for years but are highly susceptible to relapsing.
You see, back in the day I had a habit of dragging whatever friends I heard owned a mountain bike out on the trails. Lord knows, I used to torture those poor folks. Even my super fit marathon running friend wasn’t putting in the kind of ride time that I was. And most of our riding friends were fit, but not primarily cyclists. We would explore all sorts of local trails, including many very technically or cardiovascularly challenging ones… and occasionally get lost. Once or twice at night. I hope they enjoyed it, I sure as heck LOVED it.
Not because I could beat up on noobs. But because I find the local mountain biking to be the best kind of fun. Or at least I did. Then life happened. And I took almost a two decade hiatus from consistent bike riding.
Then Covid hit. And I fixed up a bike. And went riding. Then fixed up another bike and rode some more. And then my friend (still super fit, maybe not quite in marathon shape anymore but damn close) called. And we did some Glory Days rides. And a night ride or two. And always came back with huge smiles on our faces.
Anyway, if I can remember hearing that any of my current friends own mountain bikes or even just have heard that they road bike a lot, I’m getting in touch. And I’m putting them on the list. “Want to ride this weekend?” is a regular group text going out from my phone.
We have some primarily roadies, so we’ve even done a road ride or two. I’m not a purist. I just want to get out there and enjoy our county. It’s a pretty good one for cycling.
They say “thanks for organizing” when we’re done.
I mutter “no problem, thanks for coming out”.
But they don’t know. They don’t get it. This is for ME. I’m having the grandest of times.
January 25, 2021 § 1 Comment
The Essax Shark saddle has been making the rounds on my social media lately. I don’t know why, I find initial references to it back in 2014, 2015. I am still not totally convinced it isn’t some sort of April Fool’s prank. From what I can tell, if it is not a prank, the idea seems to be that it helps you to pedal properly.
This article claims it is a design from a top level bike fitting company. And that it is designed to fix or prevent biomechanical problems:
Iriberri says a misalignment on the saddle can have a number of unwanted consequences: a rider could be placing more weight than necessary on the soft perineum instead of the two sitbones; it could lead to riders favouring one leg over another and may lead to joint injuries.
I guess I can buy this as a training aid. The sort of device you use to correct a specific bad habit or to help fine tune your form. But it is not something I’d see as a long term solution that you ride with all of the time.
I spent far too much time thinking about this saddle on my ride yesterday, because the day before I was helping a friend set up his cleats on a brand new road bike. Of course I was blathering little tidbits, as I do.
One thing I always mention if someone seems to be offering an opportunity for my expertise (lol) in this area is to ride quietly. I have no firm memory of what I picked up from sources of alleged pro advice, from just watching people in group rides, from watching professionals on television and from trying to be a better rider myself. But for whatever my given level is at a time, I think I ride more quietly than most. So I must have somewhere taken in the idea that this was a cycling goal to strive towards.
I also follow this advice with something along the lines of: “Try to ride from your hips. Plant your body center, focus on your butt on the saddle. Move your legs in circles from there. Keep your upper body and shoulders relaxed, but steady. quiet. no dramatic rocking”.
I think, after consideration, that the Shark fin seat is trying to do more or less the same thing. To achieve a fixed, ideal position on the saddle and to eliminate all unnecessary movement. To maintain pedaling equally from both legs. To keep the upper body from shifting around too much. To ride efficiently. This is probably my major reason for working on cycling form. I was always pretty large for a cyclist, yes even when I was 13 and started riding. Amateur grade semi-serious riders that came in under 160 lb sure seemed to dominate. I ran about 172.5 lbs all through most of my racing career. I think the lowest extreme I ever hit was about 168 lb. So I had to be efficient to have any prayer of staying with the skinny guys. Anything to save oxygen. And if your upper body isn’t doing much work, so much the better.
The Shark fin seat looks like you would be able to set it up for a limited number of typical positions in cycling, though. Yes, there are ideal positions for, say, most of your flat riding. And it looks like it probably wouldn’t be a problem when you shift forward on the saddle, say when climbing. But there ARE going to be times when you want to shift back in the saddle. To involve the hamstrings more to rest your quads. To involve the hamstrings more for pulling fuller circles when you are on the flats and have to close a gap. To get more aero. To rail it, while staying in good control on high speed descents.
And then there is sitting back down when you are out of the saddle. Getting in and out of the saddle is a good thing in cycling. There are many times where it is more efficient to stand up on the pedals. And when you sit back down, well, you don’t always land square where you want to be. I’d hate to land on the fin in the wrong place.
So to the extent the Shark seat implies to you that you should work on planted, steady, quiet riding…..this is fantastic. But to the extent it implies that you will always be in the exact same position on the saddle…massive fail.
June 30, 2020 § Leave a comment
Fast group cycling has a very well deserved reputation for not being welcoming to newcomers. There are many reasons for this, including that the sport does attract some element of the jerk type. But one of the most important reasons is that each rider is trusting everyone else with their $$$$ precious bicycles and their intact hides and collarbones. It is very easy for the uninitiated and even the boneheaded initiates to cause a wreck that totals a multi-thousand dollar bike, breaks a collarbone, removes a very uncomfortable large patch of skin and/or all of the above. So a lot of riders are very….discouraging to newbies.
It is a shame because fast group cycling is a total blast.
Back in the day, from when I was still racing up through when I wasn’t road racing anymore but really enjoyed the local San Diego club rides, I was kind of a group cycling proselytizer. I would encourage the fairly-fit newcomers to find group rides or come out on the ones I was joining. These might be MTB converts, runners looking to save their knees, tri-geeks or just plain new cyclists.
There was one particular species of conversation that touched on the other intimidating aspect of fast group cycling. I would almost inevitably be asked: “Well, how fast do they go?” Because of course nobody wants to look the fool and if you can’t actually hang with the group, you are not going on a group ride at all, just starting on one. I would respond with whatever I thought was a reasonable estimate. Say it was 24 mph.
They would get this look. “But…but…I only average 19 mph when I’m riding hard so I’ll go train more and see if I can get closer“.
It is really hard for newcomers to group cycling to understand just how much advantage you get in a large pack of riders. Sure, they had drafted another rider now and again. They knew it was helpful. But I would have to explain how first, the only way they are going to get really fast in a hurry was to join a club ride. How you had to do some stints at 28-30 mph in the heat of battle, rest and recover in the back and then jump back out again to get those legs ready to work. And then I would try to explain just what a rocket ride it was, idling the pedals at 20-22 mph in the middle of the group, just resting up, waiting for those moments when you had to do some hard efforts for several minutes or miles.
But most importantly, I have this recollection of my threshold. “If you can average 18 mph by yourself on a reasonably flat ride, you are ready to join a club ride. Maybe not the A ride/group but you are ready. And it is going to take you forever to get faster just riding by yourself. Come out!”
18. That is what I would tell newbies.
I’ve put in about 37 bike rides over the last 101 days of this corona virus quarantine. I have not ridden this much in…well, I don’t think since I was on a college racing team. Maybe not even then, I was not the most dedicated bike geek around campus.
Before my work shut down for corona, I think I had not pedaled a bike for serious in at least 9 months (I had a work thing) and things were not awesome before that either.
I have been stoked by several things during this return-to-riding stint. The first time up via Capri without stopping in probably 25 years! It was on the MTB with slicks, but still. The first time I sat the bike for over 2 and a half hours in god knows how long. And then did it again a few days later. Cleaning a few challenging MTB sections on my usual rides.
I have not been stoked by my speed on the road. Sure, I’m riding routes with a lot of stop/start for street crossings and what not. And some of the road riding has been beating myself up with climbing just because. and a lot of this riding has been on the MTB. but…I’ve been eyeing key splits on well known road riding sections. and things have been NOT GOOD. Ffs I am mostly coming back with ride averages of 13 mph or less. Barely ever seeing speeds over 16 unless it is downhill and even then, not very impressive. I was getting convinced that this was going to be it.
Just too old and fat and out of shape. Done.
Today the MapMy segments insisted I was over 18.5 mph average for 6 straight miles. And then over 19 for another 4.
It was a very good day.
May 28, 2020 § Leave a comment
In this Time of Corona, it seems a lot of my community would like to continue their enjoyment of the lovely outdoor weather in San Diego. They like to get out and walk and bike and run and skate. When the parks and boardwalks were closed, these folks were still out there, now crowded onto the sidewalks and bike lanes of our surface streets.
I’ve been riding on the streets myself quite a bit in the past two months.
The cars. Well, the car drivers have been not so great in the Time of Corona. It’s strange because there is much less traffic on surface streets (when I emerged for grocery shopping) and on the freeways (the two times in two months that I went to work as a test of my usual commute). So you would think the drivers would be chill.
Turns out they think this is an opportunity to drive even faster. And are apparently frustrated with all of the people suddenly appearing in the bike lane or out into the driving lanes in an attempt to maintain distance from other passers-by.
Oh right. The bikers and walkers and joggers are taking up more room. They are jammed onto the streets, since the parks and boardwalks are closed, and they are trying to be polite in my neighborhood. People who would just pass on the sidewalk are now stepping way out into the bike lane. People riding in the bike lane are pulling out into the driving lane just in passing someone on the sidewalk.
It’s a situation.
So anyway, a friend of mine has been doing some bike riding in the streets and was expressing his consternation with cars getting too close, passing too quickly, etc. And sought my advice.
I barely have noticed, as a rider. I made my peace with riding bicycles on the street, in the direction of traffic, with my life and health at the mercy of raging cagers a very, very long time ago. I’ve ridden rural roads with no real bike lane. I’ve ridden in city streets. I’ve ridden exclusively in States which provide bicycle riders all the protections of being a vehicle with rights to the road and nobody in cars ever seems to know, or agree with, that. I’ve ridden on roads as a pre-teen all the way through my current advanced age.
I have been very fortunate not to have had too many very threatening situations happen to me. A lot of this is pure good luck. Some of it is undoubtedly top-level strategy in where I have chosen to live, once that choice was somewhat within my control.
Some of the lack of threatening situations is likely due to my awareness of my surroundings while I am riding.
Some of it is due to a very well considered set of behaviors that I engage in to reduce my risk.
These behaviors are certainly the ones you can think of, in terms of awareness, bike control, vision, etc. Higher risk situations of various types that occur with regularity (hello, ol Left-turn Louie. There are data).
They are also behaviors that are designed primarily to communicate with those raging cagers and to reduce their tendency to rage at me, specifically, and more generally at bicycle enthusiasts.
I have even been known once or twice to rage at fellow bicycle enthusiasts out on the road for engaging in behavior that I know makes raging cagers even more ragey.
Like I said, I’ve lived exclusively in States in which bikes are given full right to the road. There is language in the statutes about how bikes are allowed to impede traffic if the conditions are dangerous. Cars are obliged to respect cyclists’ presence.
Strictly speaking, the vast, vast majority of enraged car driver attitude towards cyclists on the road is illegal. They are in the wrong when they get all bent about having a bike slow them down or inconvenience them. Self-righteously wrong, for sure. It will not surprise you at all that this sort of enraged entitlement associates with all of the usual axes of entitlement and rage.
I have a lifelong expertise in the beliefs and entitlement system of the truck driving white male redneck, the evolution of the Volvo-minivan-SUV-crossover-now Prius Karen and, always, the BMW/Tesla douchebro. and their ilk. They are in the wrong. Consistently.
But there is an imbalance here. A driver in the wrong can very easily kill or cripple a cyclist that is in the legal right, enjoying his or her State guaranteed freedoms of the road. And if you are that cyclist, it is very, very stupid to risk that sort of harm just because you are legally entitled to the road.
But what are you going to do? Not enjoy cycling because some idiot might kill you?
Of course not. It’s a free country. A free country that comes with occasional risks.
So you manage them. And you live your damn life. And you rely on the by-now subconscious set of behaviors that you always have relied upon.
April 28, 2020 § 1 Comment
The trails are back open. The city and county closed everything there for awhile as we were trying to bend the curve of the Corona Virus pandemic.
It is spring and if there is one thing that I NEED in the spring after our winter rains it is this. The head high profusion of yellow flowers that line my favorite mountain bike trails. I think we’re past peak, but it sure is nice to be able to get back out alone in nature.
The Sette Serum Pro is still running great, btw. I didn’t realize it has been so long since I got it so I guess maybe that explains why I had to get the fork re-sealed last summer. That was a nightmare, the shop took up all of my staycation in shipping it to the wrong places, finally got it back but no time to ride.
So when SARS-CoV-2 hit and we were forced to stay home, well, the bike was calling. And then they closed the trails.
Just happy to have them open again.
May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
You are. A thug. A habitual criminal.
I know this because I’ve been watching you. Your entire life.
Petty shoplifting as an elementary school kid. You took that candy bar. I saw it. It carried over into your tweens and teens when you took a Coke or maybe stole some clothing from the mall. Took a few bucks out of Mom’s purse without permission or raided the penny jar.
You smoked cigarettes before you were 18. I saw you. That’s a crime. Illegal.
Do we even need to discuss the drinking? The alcohol consumption under the age of 21…. and very likely the purchase mediated by an older conspirator? Conspiracy to commit a crime is an extra charge.
You tried smoking marijuana. I was there. I know.
You were a habitual criminal before you even got your driver’s license. A thug.
And let’s discuss that driver’s license shall we? Another lifetime of crime described by one little rectangle of plastic.
Speeding. Rolling stop signs. Running red lights. Driving with that blinker out. Driving with a burned out headlight. I see you. All the time.
Don’t play. I know you have. Over the 0.08 BAC limit. Probably more than once. But impaired in other ways too. Texting on your phone. Overtired. On prescription meds.
You are a dangerous criminal that imperils everyone around you.
Do you skimp a little bit on your taxes now? Now that you are a mature adult? No? You don’t play a little fast and loose with the rules?
Sure you don’t.
Just like you don’t smoke marijuana. Also illegal, and you also feel perfectly comfortable letting me know you do.
or did. Back in college. Where you tried LSD and mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms. And Ecstasy. Only a little cocaine.
Criminal. Druggie. Loser. …and thug. You. Yes. You.
Do you pay your share of the taxes for your childcare worker? (You call her the baby sitter but she works almost every workday for you for a year. I see it.) Are you sure the guys working on your lawn are legally entitled to work in this country?
How many times has your child who is supposed to be in a car seat or booster ridden unrestrained by such inconveniences?
Thug. Criminal. That’s you we’re talking about.
The only difference is that the cops don’t mess with you over petty crimes.
They don’t. Never have. Maybe you got off with a stern warning as a kid. Maybe you were the one in several hundred that actually got cited for holding the joint and had to get a lawyer to go and keep you down to a fine and probation. Maybe. But probably not. And nobody knows about that….or your childhood referral to a few AA meetings for underage drinking.
You didn’t get shot down like a dog. You didn’t get choked out until you suffocated. You didn’t get handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol wagon for a “rough ride” until your spine was severed.
That only happens to criminal thugs.
Not nice upstanding (upper) middle-class criminals like you.