Back in early-June I asked Jeremy at Titus if he had a 29er I could demo for a few races. It seems like the majority of xc racers are on 29ers now, especially all the fast guys. Jeremy and Shiggy were kind enough to send the demo large Rockstar V2. As most of you know, I race (or should I say “raced”) a pretty tricked out El Guapo that weighs in the low 28 lb range. The Rockstar weighed 27.2 lbs with my XT pedals, so about a pound lighter than the EG. I had ridden a RIP 9 at Interbike back in 2009 and was impressed with how it rolled over small trail irregularities but it felt big and clumsy. My first ride on the Rockstar was intriguing, it rolled very well and climbed great as long as the trail didn’t get too steep or technical, but I was a bit gun-shy at diving into technical stuff. As my riding buddy that day said…”you are taking XC lines instead of charging through”.
I continued riding the Rockstar but racing the EG, I felt that the Rockstar’s gearing (26/39 front-11-36 rear) was making me a stronger climber, all the while I was really starting to enjoy the 29er. One of the things that bugged me about the bike was the small Rubena Sylica racing tires, I thought some more rubber would increase my confidence so I put on a pair of Intense System 29 micro knobby tires, which made me instantly more comfortable and only added about ¼ lb. In August I decided to try to make the Rockstar even more comfortable in the technical stuff. I put a shorter 70mm stem with my 711mm Easton Carbon Havens and my DSP Racing Bighorn adjustable seatpost on the bike and boy did it change the bike. Suddenly I was charging through technical sections that would hang up the EG in its tracks. I set several KOM’s on Strava (I know Strava is for dorks but boy has it made me push myself to be faster) that I previously held on the EG and a few that I couldn’t even come close to on the EG, most on super technical sections. The way the 29” wheel bridges the gap over rocks and roots is just amazing. The traction from the larger contact patch of the 29” tire is equally amazing; you can run smaller, faster rolling treads and get the same traction as a 26” wheel. There is no need to lean forward to keep the front wheel planted while climbing on the Rockstar. But what draws me most to the 29er is the sensation that you are sitting “in” the bike as opposed to “on” it. When I ride the EG now I feel like I am sitting on a tall barstool, it feels top heavy, a bit scary. When I ride the Rockstar, I feel like I’m centered on the bike, I can stay centered without much effort and make the bike just rails everything.
Being a strong climber is prerequisite for being quick on a 29er. You have to keep the pedals turning when going up, if you let your cadence get too slow, the 29” wheel will get you, but in the end, riding a 29er makes you quicker and stronger.
Currently I have a standard post on the bike as I found the dropper post really wasn’t necessary in the technical sections as I don’t need to get way back over the rear tire in steep sections as I would on the EG. I bought a set of Answer Expert 720mm wide low rise bars and a second 70mm/5 rise stem because I got tired of switching parts around. The bike weighs 27.86 lbs, so about half a pound lighter than my EG. That is how I raced it in the final races of the season where I did pretty well. Now I am convinced that I need to have a 29er for next season.
I recently went to Interbike where I had a chance to ride the new Giant Trance X 29, it was a great bike, it did everything well. The way the cockpit felt was exactly like I have the Rockstar set up, wide bars, short stem, a compact set up. The two felt very similar with the Trance just having a bit more trail oriented suspension (ie. Cushy). I also rode a Rocky Mountain Element 999 SL, I didn’t like it at all, it was too stiff, the suspension was harsh and the cockpit was uncomfortable. I was also able to snag a Specialized Stumpy EVO 29, it felt very similar to the Rockstar in ride quality, albeit it had more travel and slacker geo, I think they are aiming more toward the AM category with the EVO, hopefully the EG 29 feels much like the EVO, if it does, Titus will have a ringer on their hands. When I got home from Interbike I had to race that night, when I threw my leg over the Rockstar for the Tahoe Fat Tire Festival Short Track, I felt more at home on the Rockstar then any bike I rode at Interbike.
Now to talk about some of the specs on the bike. The XO 2x10 drivetrain is awesome, love it, I love 2x10. I only dropped the chain one time. The 26/39 gearing is a bit steep for where I ride but do-able, when I build my 29er it will have 24/38 front gearing. The XO brakes are strong and modulate well but have that slight Avid squeal that I could never seem to tune out. The XX World Cup fork felt great, push loc lockout worked flawless, I was able to set it up easily and was using full travel with no issues. The Monarch RT3 was interesting, it was a “LL” tune, I’m about 180 with gear and I only needed 90 psi to get 30% sag. The three settings worked as advertised with the “firm” setting being very close to a lockout. The interesting thing about it is the air pressure, I run a Monarch on my EG and have to run about 150 psi compared to 90 psi Rockstar shock, seems a bit low? The Crank Brothers Cobalt 29” wheels were the weak link of this build, while light, they were very flexy. I could make the tire touch the seat stay just by pushing on it with my hand. I could hear the tire rub during hard cornering and there is burnt rubber on the stays. The smoothie mixer headset and Titus branded seatpost worked great, no issues.
If this were my bike here are some of the changes I would make for the next race season. I would strip the frame raw to save about ¼ lb. I would ditch the CB wheelset and replace it with a pair of American Classic MTB Race 29 wheels:
MTB RACE 29
That would save close to half a pound. I would get the new Michelin Racer R 29 tires and convert them tubeless, probably close to another half pound of weight savings there. I would get carbon bars and a carbon seatpost, possibly save a quarter pound there? I would swap out the 26/39 front chainrings with a 24/38 and swap out the 1070 cassette for an XT which is a little lighter. I might throw on a XO type 2 derailleur to lessen the chain slap and eliminate dropping the chain or possibly the trusty little bionicon V2. All in all, I think I could get this bike down to about 26 lbs. Could it be “Project Rockstar V2 Lite”?
To summarize, I loved the Rockstar V2. It took me a while to realize the potential as I have kind of been a 26” wheel holdout. If you are on the bigger, taller side (I am 6’/ 178 lbs) you should really consider a 29” bike for trail riding, it just fits the larger torso better, it’s more comfortable, and feels better. The riding prowess part will take a bit of getting used to but it will come. If you are looking for a 29” trail, endurance, or race bike, pick up a Rockstar V2, at $1200 it’s a steal!
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Thread: Rockstar V2 Review