This report is intended to compliment the 12-month report on this bike that I posted here. Where conclusions have changed, I will highlight these, but otherwise the observations in my 12-month report remain valid.
I have now covered about 4,500kms (3,000 miles) on my Epic 29er. During the last 12 months the bike has continued to be reliable with no warranty repairs required. However my experience is that you need to keep on top of your “preventative maintenance” with the bike to keep it performing in the manner it was designed for.
I am 6’ tall and 93kgs, and I still find the 29” more “right” for me than the 26” did at least for my type of riding. With the 29er I can find that I am more in tune with the bike, more “in the bike” than the 26er where I felt “on” the bike. I guess that this is due to the lower centre of gravity of the 29er over the 26er, but the difference is real from my perspective.
The frame has continued to hold up well. I fully stripped the rear triangle for my annual maintenance a couple of weeks ago and found no damage and no issues whatsoever. I run a down-tube protector for any significant gravel tracks but otherwise make no other concessions to the use of carbon fibre.
At the 24-month anniversary, I stripped the frame and re-lubed the bearings. After removing the shock the rear triangle was noticeably "notchy" in operation. All the bearings were dry, the S-Link and swing-arm bearings more so than the Horst bearings. I had replaced the S-Link bearings at the 12-month maintenance last year, and a couple of these bearings again needed to be replaced, although not all 4. The drop-out (Horst) bearings on the other hand, just needed a re-lube and were good to go. They have now covered 24 months without replacement - quite different from my old 2009 Epic where I replaced these bearings every 12 months. I had to replace the swing-arm bearings this time as they were terminal (I couldn’t turn one with my fingers) as a result of what looked like water ingress. On replacement I ensured that I packed the RHS (dual) bearings with grease between the bearings and greased the pivot shaft to keep the water out. The water ingress had come from the RHS side (i.e. from behind the front derailleur mount) where there is no seal on the shaft – the LHS is fully sealed and that bearing was serviceable (although I replaced it anyway).
The conclusion is obvious: on these bikes, treat the bearings as replacement items and budget to replace every 12 months. The other conclusion is learn to do it yourself - you don't need a press, you can re-lube bearings in situ with a small mechanics pick to remove the bearing cover and a grease gun to do the business. Any bearing not up to a re-lube you can drive out with a standard punch (you will destroy the bearing) and you can drive in the new bearing using a suitable socket with an OD the same as the OD of the new bearing. Simple and inexpensive. Source your bearings from your local engineering supply shop. C3 spec is sufficient for the use these are put to.
With this bike my practice has gravitated to running lower pressures in the AFR shock than recommended, meaning sag is higher than recommended. The brain platform continues to work as advertised and I have not had to get a damper service. I do an “Air Sleeve” service every 50 hours which now takes me all of 30 minutes to do. The AFR seal has remained in good condition with the oil showing no signed of contamination and the shock continues to hold air without any issues.
For the front it is a very similar story. I do a 50-hour lube service (remove lowers, change wiper and seal, re-lube and re-grease) and the fork continues to operate well. It holds air but I have noticed a little oil coming from the negative air chamber when I re-gassed the fork so it is coming up for the need for a service. I am comfortable servicing the air sleeve myself – it’s a standard Reba procedure and so well documented, and I have obtained a seal kit for the air sleeve, but I will wait until the fork needs a damper service – I am going to wait for my LBS to have the ability to do a full brain service before I book the fork in.
A few months from new, I changed the drivetrain with the kosher S-Works spider and a 26/39 setup and have not looked back since. I am on my 2nd cassette and 4th chain. This SRAM 1090 (XX) cassette has now got 1,500kms on it and is still going strong, I expect to get 3-3,500kms on a cassette. The chain (SRAM 1091R) is now well used but still within tolerance and has also got 1,500kms on it. I use Pedro’s “Ice Wax” exclusively unless I am knowingly going to undertake a long wet/muddy ride. The Ice Wax product has been very successful at keeping the chain dry and as a consequence much cleaner than a traditional (wet) “dry” Teflon-based lube – it also operates well in the wet, but not as well as a good wet lube. I re-lube the chain after most rides.
With regards to the chainrings, I am on my 2nd 26 tooth ring (done 1,500kms along with the chain and cassette), and still on my original 39 tooth ring. The XX setup has performed very very well and still gives me fast and reliable shifts. I have had no issues whatsoever with the shifters.
BB longevity OTOH is only average. After fixing a BB spacing issue with the crank soon after I purchased the bike, I have standardized on 2 PF30 spacers on the RHS side of the crank, outside of the large crank spacer. This pushes the RH crank outboard about 1mm and solves the issue I had with RH crank clearance against the chainstay, and it doesn’t put too much side loading on the BB bearings. Remember that “Ultra-torque” style cranks, such as these, use a “wave” washer to provide side loading to the bearings – so the use of extra PF30 spacers is actually SOP.
I trialed the SRAM PF30 BB setup but found that it only gave me 500kms before it got noisy and necessitated replacement. The current Specialized BB setup is back on the bike and has gone 1,500kms without further remediation required. It remains an area that I monitor regularly and expect to replace the PF30 bearings more regularly that I should expect to. Shimano has a much better story in this area than SRAM/Specialized.
I had to replace the shifter cables on the 24-month anniversary. Both cable outers had sustained significant damage to the casing due to scuffing around the BB. In both cases the outer shield had worn off and the metal cable shield has suffered damage. I replaced the rear cable 6-months ago when it failed due to scuffing on the rear derailleur pivot cam (unusual failure and I would assume it was a 1-off). The front cable was replaced at this service, although it was in good condition. Otherwise the cables & casing have performed well. +1 for Jagwire.
I re-greased the rear derailleur pulleys using a “Ceramic Grease” and found they were in pretty good condition, well sealed and although dirt had made its way under the metal covers, had not penetrated the bearing shields markedly.
The 2012 Avid XX World Cup brakes replaced the 2011 model under warranty, and have performed flawlessly. I bled them both as part of my service and found that there was no air and the old fluid was still in excellent shape. I believe that Avid have now got these brakes to where they should have been on day 1.
When the brakes were replaced I replaced the rotors with Avid HSX ones. The HSX rotors is very similar to the old XX rotors, but have with proper drilled holes rather than the groves on the original XX rotors. The brakes no longer squeal and have been consistent and reliable for the last 12 months.
For most of the last 12 months I have been riding with a SW Control on the front and a Crossmark on the rear. The Control is a very impressive tyre, quite heavy but with exceptional grip, and is strong enough such that on a recent 8-hour race, I had absolutely no concerns over punctures or casing damage.
I prefer a tyre like the Crossmark (or Larsen) on the rear where the premium is on traction as opposed to cornering, and the Crossmark’s ability to hookup and yet provide a low-friction ride is pretty unique. Given the UST casing, it is quite heavy, but is also comes with good peace-of-mind.
I am now running a Racing Ralph (folding which I’m running tubeless) on the front just because I am amazed at the low weight of that setup and in my riding over winter I will not encounter any rocks, only loamy, sandy forest trails.
The wheels (Roval Control SL’s) have been exemplary but are a pain to run tubeless. The rim strips need regular replacement and you can spend many frustrating hours until you appreciate that any failure in any part of the sealing strip will pressurize the inside of the rim and then escape through the valve stem. I spent some time trying to seal the valve in the rim before I realized that the leak was not coming from the inner interface between the rim and the stem, but from the pressure inside the rim from one of the spoke holes not being sealed properly by the rim strip.
I have had to keep an eye on the rear Control SL wheel due to its habit of loosening spokes, particularly over rougher rides. Having said that the rims are still as true as the day they were new, and there had been no issues with longevity. I replaced the bearings on the front Control SL because they felt rough. The replacement bearings, when installed also felt rough but the wheels roll very well so I have ignored the symptom.
I continue to lube the rear FWH using the proper DT grease every 500kms or so, and have found no contamination other than the expected grease discolouration. No evidence of water or foreign matter ingress. DT make a nice hub.
I have recently bought a set of Easton Haven wheels for more trail-orientated use (they are wider, and alloy, and still just under 1800gms, and cost not a lot). I’ll use them a bit over winter and report on how they have got on.
Seat: I have ridden the last 12 months with a Fizik Gobi XM. I like the Fizik “ICS” concept of “clip-in” attachments to the seat, and have found that the new version of the under-seat bag has lasted the year without any issues. It is a larger bag than the equivalent Specialized bag and is much easier to clip and unclip depending on the circumstances, so I am reluctant to change back to the Romin saddle, although it is in the garage looking at me most days.
Pedals: I continue to be fan of the Look Quartz pedals. I find that they provide a better (bigger) interface to my shoes, and a nice low clip-out torque, with the penalty of a higher stack height than the competition. I have run Quartz Carbons’ but there is no difference to longevity with these pedals as opposed to the normal Quartz pedals, and since the standard pedals are already substantially lighter than XTR’s, you lose nothing by saving a bit of money. The Quartz will last around 3,000 kms before you need to see to the bearings and re-lube them – but even if you throw them away, new pedals are not expensive.
Grips: I run Ergon CX Carbon grips with integrated 2-finger bar-ends. Love them. No issues. Enough said.
Kit: The following toolset occupies my under-saddle bag. All will fit comfortably.
- 25g CO2 canister (larger required for 29” tyres), with a screw-on inflater cap.
- Dry patches (5) – glue is so 20th century
- Stick-on sidewall patch (3) – a much better option than the usual credit card to deal with a sidewall tear
- Spare presta valve. Always use tubes or valves with removable cores.
- Shraeder valve adapter for Presta which is required for any ride where you may find your pump insufficient. Pumps that can work with Presta valves out in the big wide world are zero. Nada. Zip. BTDT.
- Small multi-tool including a 25 Torx (required for all SRAM XX fittings).
- Chain breaker and 2 spare chain links
- For longer rides:* Spare derailleur hanger
* Spare cable for shifter
* Zip ties and Velcro strip
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