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Thread: Climax?

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    Climax?


    Warning: There is more bike-nerd minutia here than most will ever want to know or have use for. Proceed if you must.



    The past few years have seen what can only be described as tumult in terms of bicycle wheel and tire size options.



    Where 26" was for seeming millennia the undisputed choice, what we eventually realized is that one "choice" was no such thing at all.



    Today, adults can readily choose from 26", 27.5", or 29" wheels (properly 559, 584, and 622mm) shod with tires from 2" up to and over 5".



    In essence, you can tune the width and length of your contact patch to a very fine degree. It is a good time, a good age, for cyclists.



    Thus for the last ~decade my go-to bike has been a 6 x 6" travel sled with slack HTA, steep STA, relatively high BB, and very short chainstays, shod with 29 x 2.5" tires run tubeless on 35mm rims.



    Yes, that's a bit of alphabet soup but for those that know what they like and how to get there, what it translates to is "modern trailbike that happened to adapt 29" wheels much sooner than most".



    For better than a decade this was *it*:









    We collectively arrived at that package as a result of a confluence of factors, chief among them the concurrent arrival of 29 x 2.5" tubeless tires, SRAM's 1x drivetrains, and tapered steerer 150 and 160mm travel forks. Once there it felt like this shining "aha!" moment, where a decade worth of imagineering, prodding, and fiddling all coalesced and somehow came out yet better than we could have hoped.



    Yeah. For years and years that was "it".



    But change continues to happen whether you're asking for it or not. Surly released the 29+ idea on the wider world, and eventually the wider world responded with B+. Then fat-for-dirt bikes started to appear, and suddenly the waters were muddied and some sifting and settling needed to happen.



    It didn't take many test rides to realize that there is emphatically *something* to the idea of wider tires run at lower pressures. You can feel this immediately going from a road bike at ~100psi to an MTB at 25psi. So when I stepped off of my LunchBox at 20psi and onto a plus bike at 10, my eyes lit up and I knew that this was my new path forward. "Doing more with less" became the new mantra, where more refers to the difficulty of the trails I lean toward, and less points squarely at the psi in my tires.



    This time last year I convinced Devin Lenz to build a fat tire full suspension bike, partially as a recovery vehicle following a surgery I needed. At that time a 26 x 4" rim and tire made the most sense, and Devin dialed the geometry around that combo. He did, as he always does, an amazing job balancing all of the little details such that it rode like a much lighter, much more nimble bike than appearances or prejudices would lead one to believe.













    Coming off a decade on 29 x 2.5's, the shorter, fatter wheels were ultimately nothing but a disappointment. No matter how dialed the geometry on Devin's creation, no matter how good the suspension felt, short wheels and tires simply can't do what taller ones can. Or, as my high school basketball coach phrased it when cutting me from the team, "You have solid skills, but I can't teach height".




    So although I rode that bike for several months, I became increasingly frustrated at having to work so hard to get the bike up to speed, or through a rough section, or, most noticeably, up and over ledges, each of which wanted to hook the rear wheel and stop it, stop *us*, in our tracks. The most succinct way I can think of to describe the sensation of riding the 26" version of that bike was "It shouldn't have to be this hard".



    Clearly there is more to any bike than how tall the tires are. What it boiled down to, for me, was that dialed geometry and suspension kinematics were only 2 pieces of the puzzle, and without optimizing the 3rd -- tire size -- things just weren't coming together.



    Next I laced a set of B+ wheels and took them for 2 rides. Two. On the first one I couldn't believe how much *worse* the bike felt than it did with the 26 fat tires on it. I chalked that up to a gravity squall sort of day, took a day off, then went back out for another ride. And it was every bit as bad -- the wheels/tires just kept getting hooked on every ledge along the way, or falling (as Wes Williams loved to say) into 28" holes. Honestly, for the way I like to ride and the places I get to ride, B+ seemed like the worst of all possible worlds.



    I know, I know -- I could always go back to 26" x 1.9" if I really wanted to be frustrated.



    But I don't! I ride bikes for fun, for joy, and neither 26 x 4" nor B+ were bringing that aspect to my rides. Thus I sold that bike and turned my experimentations toward 29+.



    For better than a year I've intensely experimented with different rim widths, tire sizes, tread patterns, rubber compounds, and tire pressures, not to mention different geometry and travel on the test sleds.











    I'd venture a guess that I have more experience on a greater diversity of 29+ configurations than anyone else on the planet at this moment. 4, 5, and 6" of travel on each end, achieved with a plethora of different forks and dampers. 2.8", 2.9", 3.0", and 3.2" tires, run on 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50mm rims at pressures ranging from single digits to the middle teens. It was 29+ that taught me to think of psi in terms of quarter pound changes. If you're already in the ballpark, adding or dumping a *whole* pound is excessive.



    My conclusion is that there is no more efficient human-powered vehicle than 29+ for converting energy output into forward motion. The rougher the terrain the more this is true. For all-day rides, for bikepacking, for expeditioning, 29+ wins the day, day after day after day.



    The catch? Keeping in mind that I am Princess and the Pea incarnate, I found 29+ to be just a bit too tall for my favorite, most ridiculously difficult tech trails. The kinds of trails that are so slow, so tight, so diabolical that a trials rider has a distinct advantage over the rest of us regular schlubs. 29+ just felt a titch cumbersome in those situations.



    So where does one go if 29+ is too tall, 26 fat and B+ are too short, and 29" is too harsh?



    Straight to the shrink to have my head examined. I *do* keep reminding myself that if I don't like what's in front of me now, I can always go back to 26 x 1.9 for perspective.



    Thankfully I haven't had to do that.



    Sometime last winter I became aware of 27.5 x 4" rims and tires being made by Bontrager. I sidestepped the knee jerk "another standard" reactions and sourced a set to fiddle with on our expeditionary fatbikes. Jeny and I both rode and loved them on a spring desert tour, and it was there that my mind started racing toward...



    ...this:











    Pictured above is the first test mule that Devin sent once I got him to understand what I was after.



    What was I after? Goldilocks, of course! I wanted something that wasn't too big, wasn't too small, that felt just right.



    Specifically, the 27.5 x 4" wheel/tire combo (think and say "B Fat" for pete's sake) has the same diameter, to the millimeter, of a 29 x 2.5" combo. Which should, in theory, give me the rollover characteristics I'm after without being too tall. But the tires are fat enough that I can run them in the high single digits, giving me the suppleness, comfort, and traction I desire at the same time.



    Win/win?



    Thus far it certainly seems so.



    I rode the bike above all summer long, from low desert chunk to high alpine buff, in configurations ranging from 5 and 5" to 6 and 6", fiddling with angles every way I could.



    When I got it to where I was just riding it, day after blissful day, and couldn't think of any further way to improve it, I asked Devin for the 'production version', with a few subtle geometry tweaks.



    I am cognizant that needs, desires, abilities, and locations can all change, and with any of them my preferred bike will too. Having said that, and looking forward to where I hope to live and eventually retire, I feel like this is my 'climax vehicle'.











    It isn't the lightest, nor fastest, nor most technologically infused bike out there. Keeping in mind that every bike is a compromise, this is the most capable, with fewest drawbacks, of any bike I've yet owned. Combining modern trail geometry (66* HTA, 16.7" CS) with 6 x 6" of supple, supportive, tunable suspension and light, durable, tubeless tires that are the right blend of tall and wide was the path forward.











    I would be remiss in not pointing out that Fox built this fork with what can only be described as a freakish amount of tire clearance. Without this fork, and the Bontrager B Fat tires, and Devin Lenz's willingness to see what lies down every intriguing path, I'd still be yammering into my porridge and tugging at my ear hairs trying to figuring it out.











    I *did* build myself a 29" wheelset for this bike and shod it with a set of light, tubeless ready 2.6" tires. Ostensibly these are for high-alpine days where the trail is smooth enough that I can tolerate the relatively high 20-ish psi's that are needed, and am after a lighter, faster, more efficient overall package for that day.



    In reality I'll only use that wheelset a handful of times per year, and the rest of the year they'll hang there, representative of a mental bridge that I am as-yet unwilling to cross.














    Thanks for checking in. Don't hesitate with questions.

  2. #2
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    What is the BB and rear hub width on this amazing beast?

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    Wow, what an amazing bike. Very interesting reading how this came to life. Congrats and have fun!

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    What rim width do you feel is the sweet spot for the 27.5x3.8 tires?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdxfixed View Post
    What is the BB and rear hub width on this amazing beast?
    100mm BB, 177mm rear hub.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by worldskipper View Post
    What rim width do you feel is the sweet spot for the 27.5x3.8 tires?
    I've been running 50mm internal. Wouldn't want (much) narrower, especially up front. Wouldn't want (much) wider, especially out back.

    This is for dirt/rock/tech riding.

  7. #7
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    mc - this version of the Fatillac appears to be the most perfect front range slayer to date.

    sigh - my mammoth is now extinct.

  8. #8
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    It's not your final bike.

    That will have centrally mounted gears. You'll notice the difference in unsprung weight, possibly why the wheel hangups are happening, ie too much unsprung weight for fast suspension response. Could be wrong of course.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    It's not your final bike.

    That will have centrally mounted gears. You'll notice the difference in unsprung weight, possibly why the wheel hangups are happening, ie too much unsprung weight for fast suspension response. Could be wrong of course.

    Final: Of course not. But after ~2 years of fiddling with endless permutations of rim diameter, tire width, tire pressure, tire casing characteristics, suspension travel, and geometry, I've sold all others and am left, happily, with this *one*.

    So it feels final, if only because it's all I have left...

    Gearbox: I hope so. I'm ready and willing.

    Wheel hangups are due to too-small diameter, period. Increase diameter to 29", or more, and they go away. For where I live and ride -- YMMV, of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I've been running 50mm internal. Wouldn't want (much) narrower, especially up front. Wouldn't want (much) wider, especially out back.

    This is for dirt/rock/tech riding.
    What brand rim is that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by the mayor View Post
    What brand rim is that?
    Tis a Derby, aye.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Tis a Derby, aye.
    Damn it....I have a feeling I'll be sending you more money soon

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    Subscribed! I totally discounted B Fat when it was released and now feel that may be what I use for dry weather riding going forward. Amazing how the mind works...or doesn't!

  14. #14
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    I was watching a video recently of a guy on a Trek Farley EX-8 and I thought the same thing... B fat full suspension looks like the optimum design ( at least for a few years)

    mike

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    Hi Mike,

    Subscribed for educational purposes!

    Thanks,

    Michael
    If you can't keep the rubber side down......at least smile for the camera!

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    Really appreciate guys like you with the knowledge and resources to explore modern mtn bike limits; who then share some of what they've learned.

    So have you shared all your spec's with LENZ so schlubs like myself, should they source the funds, could call him up and order one of these bikes ready to ride?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    ...Wheel hangups are due to too-small diameter, period. Increase diameter to 29", or more, and they go away. For where I live and ride -- YMMV, of course.
    Agree - as anyone who has ridden with a 26 rear and 29 front can attest. I was thinking more of the greater sensitivity of your suspension when it doesn't have a heavy lump of transmission hanging off the end of a lever (swing arm).
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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    I know it's a Fox fork, but can I ask specifically what model? Also, your tire(s).... I know their Bontrager's, but I wasn't aware they made a 27.5X4.0? So at the risk of sounding stupid, can I ask specifically model what tire it is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by litespeedaddict View Post
    I know it's a Fox fork, but can I ask specifically what model? Also, your tire(s).... I know their Bontrager's, but I wasn't aware they made a 27.5X4.0? So at the risk of sounding stupid, can I ask specifically model what tire it is?
    The big letters that say Hodag on the sidewall didn't give you a clue?
    3.8 is rounded up to 4

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    50mm internal width rims from Derby? Do tell!

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    Quote Originally Posted by the mayor View Post
    The big letters that say Hodag on the sidewall didn't give you a clue?
    3.8 is rounded up to 4
    No, it didn't. You'll have to excuse me for not knowing everything about every tire. My bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeaHag View Post
    Really appreciate guys like you with the knowledge and resources to explore modern mtn bike limits; who then share some of what they've learned.

    So have you shared all your spec's with LENZ so schlubs like myself, should they source the funds, could call him up and order one of these bikes ready to ride?

    If I have the bike in my possession, that means it was made, right? And in order to make it, he'd need to know those specs, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by litespeedaddict View Post
    I know it's a Fox fork, but can I ask specifically what model? Also, your tire(s).... I know their Bontrager's, but I wasn't aware they made a 27.5X4.0? So at the risk of sounding stupid, can I ask specifically model what tire it is?
    I've never been sure of the model name of the fork. I can tell you that it's a 34, FIT damper, 27.5+, Boost spacing. Tapered and 15mm, of course.

    The Hodag's are great tires for dirt and rock. Walt says they suck on snow. I think he's a spoiled Utah chump that expects fresh corduroy every morning...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I've never been sure of the model name of the fork. I can tell you that it's a 34, FIT damper, 27.5+, Boost spacing. Tapered and 15mm, of course.

    The Hodag's are great tires for dirt and rock. Walt says they suck on snow. I think he's a spoiled Utah chump that expects fresh corduroy every morning...
    Nice! and many thanks for taking the time to post all that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    Agree - as anyone who has ridden with a 26 rear and 29 front can attest. I was thinking more of the greater sensitivity of your suspension when it doesn't have a heavy lump of transmission hanging off the end of a lever (swing arm).
    Only people running IGH have that problem, deraillers not so much.
    Latitude 61

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    I would like to buy the option to be first in line for when mike sells this one!

    Once i sell the last Lenz i scored off you Mike

  27. #27
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    Wait, you even sold your Moots touring fat bike?? No more Iditabike?

    What's the BB height on the Fadillac? I know you like it on the high side for the slow step up techy stuff you love. Just wondering how high you went.

    Very cool bike, btw.
    I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth...
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by KRob View Post
    Wait, you even sold your Moots touring fat bike?? No more Iditabike?

    What's the BB height on the Fadillac? I know you like it on the high side for the slow step up techy stuff you love. Just wondering how high you went.

    Very cool bike, btw.
    I still have a snowbike, and a commuter, and a singlespeed.

    BB height depends on which wheels and tires are on this bike. IIRC, as pictured, it's right around 14". I've deliberately raised the fork travel (even though I wasn't dissatisfied with the way the fork felt) to increase it -- but as you noted I like 'em high.

  29. #29
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    Okay, I will have to ride this one


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    Quote Originally Posted by jncarpenter View Post
    Okay, I will have to ride this one
    But first you'll have to choose: B Fat with Hodag's, or quasi 29+ with Dirt Wizards?

    Lots to like about both. The latter will feel much like what you're used to, but the former is very, very different.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Climax?-8a3a5082.jpg  


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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    But first you'll have to choose: B Fat with Hodag's, or quasi 29+ with Dirt Wizards?

    Lots to like about both. The latter will feel much like what you're used to, but the former is very, very different.
    First World problems


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    Very cool story, but tech this, measure that, widen the other thing, whatever......

    Has it cleaned 5 Miles of Hell?!?!
    Whining is not a strategy.

  33. #33
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    mikesee, have you ever ridden a foes mutz? curious your opinion of it vs the fatillac.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodney Jekyl View Post
    mikesee, have you ever ridden a foes mutz? curious your opinion of it vs the fatillac.
    The Mutz geometry really turned me off, for where I live and ride.
    Last edited by mikesee; 11-06-2016 at 05:09 PM.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by kosmo View Post
    Very cool story, but tech this, measure that, widen the other thing, whatever......

    Has it cleaned 5 Miles of Hell?!?!
    Haven't been able to convince the missus to get out there lately. And I'm secretly relieved...

  36. #36
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    Went to check on a certain move for other reasons, then used the opportunity to dial in suspension yet one more degree.







    Even with a couple of slapper landings I still had over an inch of travel left on the fork. Conclusion? Remove another volume spacer.


  37. #37
    fat guy on a little bike
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    mike, you have truly ruined me with this thread. it is gonna be a long winter...

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodney Jekyl View Post
    mikesee, have you ever ridden a foes mutz? curious your opinion of it vs the fatillac.
    The Mutz has very long chainstays, stable at speed, but not that agile.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    The Mutz has very long chainstays, stable at speed, but not that agile.
    Which FS bike with 3.5 to 4" tires *isn't* stable at speed?

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Which FS bike with 3.5 to 4" tires *isn't* stable at speed?
    You know what mean, I was trying to be diplomatic

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    If I have the bike in my possession, that means it was made, right? And in order to make it, he'd need to know those specs, right?
    It had occurred to me, with your knowledge and experience you would have built the bike up yourself from a custom frame order.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeaHag View Post
    It had occurred to me, with your knowledge and experience you would have built the bike up yourself from a custom frame order.
    You were right -- the order was for a custom frame, from Devin Lenz. But now that it exists you can order one just like it -- from Devin Lenz.

  43. #43
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    stop bumping this thread... i already have one of mikesee's fatillac pics as my desktop pic. any further prodding will cause me to leap off the edge...

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    Just jump already, the landing is soft.

  45. #45
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    ben, you order your fatillac yet?

  46. #46
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    this thread needs to go to the top so it can be easier for me to look at the pics...

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodney Jekyl View Post
    this thread needs to go to the top so it can be easier for me to look at the pics...

    Pictured below is an old friend. He's ridden and raced bikes for decades. Stupid strong and a really smart racer. Very innovative with training too -- with the end result that you won't hear much from him for awhile, until you do. And in that quiet spell he's figured out some way to train smarter, get fitter, and then gone out and blown the doors off of some race or route you've always wanted to try.

    But the last few years he's had a series of crashes that have hurt him -- lots of broken bones. Many setbacks in a row is tough to come back from, especially when you're as old as he is. He stopped riding for a bit, then slowly came back to it. On the morning of the ride pictured he said that he feels like he's stronger now than he's ever been -- and MAN is that saying a lot.

    But watching him ride, you can see that he's tentative on tech stuff. He *has* skills, but I think his injuries have eroded a big chunk of his confidence. And his current 1.9" tires at ~50psi aren't really helping that.

    So I grabbed his bike and said I wanted to take it for a spin, when what I really wanted was for him to ride a bike that wasn't trying to escape from beneath him. Maybe remind him that riding doesn't have to always be about fear of injury.

    He hopped on mine and took off. So fast that I couldn't hang. But my sweetie did -- stayed with him and said that he did something he hadn't done our whole ride: Giggled.

    Asked him about it later and he said there was just something about being able to plow over and through stuff that would normally give him trouble, without having to react or even care. He giggled again while explaining.


    Climax?-8a3a6105.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rodney Jekyl View Post
    stop bumping this thread... i already have one of mikesee's fatillac pics as my desktop pic. any further prodding will cause me to leap off the edge...
    Power stroke to loft the front end. Drop your heels and bend the knees upon landing.....

  49. #49
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    A little more detail on my, uh, Climax.


    Time for an update!



    This bike continues to impress, both uphill and down. More surefooted on off-camber and sidehill than I am ever prepared for, or expecting.



    I guess you could just look at it and say "Duh, Mike -- you're surprised that a bike with 3.5" tires has good traction on off-camber?"



    Put that way I don't disagree. But what I'm saying is that I *am* expecting the traction, and am still impressed by how much more seems to be in reserve.









    I've been fiddling with suspension of late. Fine tuning might be more apropos, as I really like how composed both ends already are. But there's always room for improvement, right?



    To that end I've installed MRP's RAMP cartridge in the fork, in hopes of getting it to stand taller in the travel without losing small bump sensitivity. It *has* achieved that, with the ancillary benefit that I can adjust air volume literally on the fly.







    Why, you might be asking, would that be a benefit?



    Air volume determines how quickly (or not) your fork ramps to bottom. Increase volume and it becomes hard to bottom the fork -- great if you're on a trail with lots of drops and/or harsh landings. More of an on-the-ground rider? Then you can reduce the volume with a few clicks of the knob encircling the air valve, which allows you to use more of your travel, more often.



    The real beauty is that you can fine-tune air volume for any and every trail, *on the trail*, without having to crack it open to add or remove tokens. Simple and effective.







    I also installed one of MRP's RAZE rear shocks. Fans of the Elke design need no introduction to this damper. I've been aware of the buzz for years but this is my first time riding one. Stictionless travel is always welcome and any coil shock is going to deliver this. Easily (and separately) tunable high and low speed compression damping mean that I can change each a click at a time in order to drill down to my ideal settings.



    Thus far I've ridden the RAZE in Moab on Gemini/Blue Dot/Portal, as well as Porcupine Rim, and then locally on a hot (for me...) lap of Butterknife with hero dirt. Pretty good range of variability there, from medium speed smooth climbing to snail's pace rockcrawling, to high speed chunky descending, and LOTS of slow speed chunk.



    The most memorable thing about the current package is that I don't really notice anything unless I'm chasing someone faster than I, thus way out at the edge of my comfort zone. Sending a few 6' drops on Porcupine, back to back, without scouting, left me smiling ear to ear at the bottomless and composed feel the Fatillac delivered.







    After the weekend in Moab it occurred to me that it's going to be a few months until I can spend time climbing for hours into the alpine. As such there isn't much need for my typical micro drive front chainring. I replaced it with a 28t B Labs Oval ring before yesterday's ride, and am 3.5 hours into adapting to push the taller gear.



    I love riding this bike and hope that our winter continues to allow unfettered access to hero dirt. Snow is fine and I'll ride plenty of that regardless, but ripping along on FS, and especially *this* FS, is my idea of nirvana these days.



    Don't hesitate with questions.


  50. #50
    fat guy on a little bike
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    161
    with the new rear shock, how much does it weigh?

    inquiring minds (with empty wallets) want to know...

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