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Thread: My 29er trial

  1. #1
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    My 29er trial

    I know i might be the last mtber in the US to try a 29er, but for those who could still be wondering...

    The 29er I tried out was a Motobecane Fantom Pro. Sort of a mid level spec, with the strong point being the fork (reba race) and the weak point probably being the wheels (tubed wtb trail with no-name hubs). I am not sure about the weight, but just from picking it up it was clearly heavier than my 26FS. The tires were tubed small block 8 s run at 25 psi under my 170 lbs (can't get that last 10 pounds off)

    I am 68 inches tall and was on a small, but still got close to my normal riding position with the post out to the limit.

    I usually ride a 26 Giant anthem x and 26 ebay carbon HT, both with very good specs including tubeless stans 355 that i switch between the two, so any comparison is going to be strongly and unfairly impacted by wheel weight. But here are my impressions anyway.

    The behavior of the front end of the 29er was truly amazing. The roots, rocks and even 1 foot, ramped, step-ups were greatly muted. The back-lash was that at first, i did not know when to get off the seat when the rear hit these obstacles, so I did have some 'ouchies'. But when i figured that out, it was clear that the ride was much, much smoother front and back than on my 26 hardtail and smoother in the front than my 26FS, but not quite as smooth in the back as my 4 inch anthem x as I did still get some bouncing over rocks/roots in the back.

    Turning did have a short learning curve as i was pretty late in the first few turns. it was clear that where i just had to lean in to make a turn on the 26, i actually had to turn the handle bars on this 29er. But after about half an hour, i had it pretty much figured out.

    Hills were interesting. i live in the UP michigan and we don't have any alpine climbs, but we do have hills. i did not take the 29er up any steeps (chicken), but i did go on some rollers. The famed 'momentum' was there at the bottom of the hill, but i felt it die out near the top. Accelerating over the top of the hill then became a problem. I would say this was the most disappointing aspect of the experience. The second most disappointing aspect was that the 29er fried my legs. There seems to be a different force requirement when you go over the top of the stroke as compared to my lighter 26 wheels, but i think this would be mitigated by physiological adaptation, and maybe lighter 29 wheels.

    I did some back to back timed loops, for what it is worth

    Loop 1 26FS 14:52
    rest
    Loop 2 29HT 15:05
    short rest
    Loop 3 29HT 15:55 (legs fried at the end)
    rest
    Loop 4 26FS 15:30
    all I get from this is that my times are similar and who knows what would happen if the 29er had specs similar to my 26 FS

    My conclusion to this experience is that I think my 26 HT, which i have used as a cross bike, is no longer relevant for me. I am going to build up a 29er no-name carbon frame with light wheels and move my parts over from the 26 HT (except for the nice SID team fork, too bad). If nothing else, this will be my UP cross bike, as our cross races are really more short mtb races.

    I am not ready to give up on my 26 FS though...

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    I just built a 29er single speed. I agree on the handling, the anthem handles like a dream. The superfly didnt seem as eager to turn. My legs were also pretty fried, but, my bike is a single speed.

    Do you race the cross series, or just some local stuff up by you?

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    UPcross is definitely a fun fall activity

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    I just built a 29er single speed. I agree on the handling, the anthem handles like a dream. The superfly didnt seem as eager to turn. My legs were also pretty fried, but, my bike is a single speed.

    Do you race the cross series, or just some local stuff up by you?
    I did the whole series except the final. Had to move up from C to B midseries and had a couple of humbling experiences in B, but was able to move up a few places in the last race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    I did the whole series except the final. Had to move up from C to B midseries and had a couple of humbling experiences in B, but was able to move up a few places in the last race.
    I was thinking about racing c class this year. Never tried cx yet. I'll be on a ss cx bike. I'll probably get some more seat time on my 29er this weekend. I'm coming up your way for the great deer chase. I'm doing the 17 mile single speed.

    Comparing some lap times, my average speed is higher so far on the single speed 29er, and so is my top speed. I figured I'd be bombing down hills much faster on my anthem. More testing. I'll try back to back runs like you did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    I know i might be the last mtber in the US to try a 29er, but for those who could still be wondering...

    The 29er I tried out was a Motobecane Fantom Pro. Sort of a mid level spec, with the strong point being the fork (reba race) and the weak point probably being the wheels (tubed wtb trail with no-name hubs). I am not sure about the weight, but just from picking it up it was clearly heavier than my 26FS. The tires were tubed small block 8 s run at 25 psi under my 170 lbs (can't get that last 10 pounds off)

    I am 68 inches tall and was on a small, but still got close to my normal riding position with the post out to the limit.

    I usually ride a 26 Giant anthem x and 26 ebay carbon HT, both with very good specs including tubeless stans 355 that i switch between the two, so any comparison is going to be strongly and unfairly impacted by wheel weight. But here are my impressions anyway.

    The behavior of the front end of the 29er was truly amazing. The roots, rocks and even 1 foot, ramped, step-ups were greatly muted. The back-lash was that at first, i did not know when to get off the seat when the rear hit these obstacles, so I did have some 'ouchies'. But when i figured that out, it was clear that the ride was much, much smoother front and back than on my 26 hardtail and smoother in the front than my 26FS, but not quite as smooth in the back as my 4 inch anthem x as I did still get some bouncing over rocks/roots in the back.

    Turning did have a short learning curve as i was pretty late in the first few turns. it was clear that where i just had to lean in to make a turn on the 26, i actually had to turn the handle bars on this 29er. But after about half an hour, i had it pretty much figured out.

    Hills were interesting. i live in the UP michigan and we don't have any alpine climbs, but we do have hills. i did not take the 29er up any steeps (chicken), but i did go on some rollers. The famed 'momentum' was there at the bottom of the hill, but i felt it die out near the top. Accelerating over the top of the hill then became a problem. I would say this was the most disappointing aspect of the experience. The second most disappointing aspect was that the 29er fried my legs. There seems to be a different force requirement when you go over the top of the stroke as compared to my lighter 26 wheels, but i think this would be mitigated by physiological adaptation, and maybe lighter 29 wheels.

    I did some back to back timed loops, for what it is worth

    Loop 1 26FS 14:52
    rest
    Loop 2 29HT 15:05
    short rest
    Loop 3 29HT 15:55 (legs fried at the end)
    rest
    Loop 4 26FS 15:30
    all I get from this is that my times are similar and who knows what would happen if the 29er had specs similar to my 26 FS

    My conclusion to this experience is that I think my 26 HT, which i have used as a cross bike, is no longer relevant for me. I am going to build up a 29er no-name carbon frame with light wheels and move my parts over from the 26 HT (except for the nice SID team fork, too bad). If nothing else, this will be my UP cross bike, as our cross races are really more short mtb races.

    I am not ready to give up on my 26 FS though...
    The bike you tested is a 27 pound bike without pedals. Add the pedals and you are probably in the 27.5/27.75 - 28 pound range. That's what my Niner RIP 9 with Enduro I-9 wheels weighs in size XL that has 120mm travel front and rear. In other words, the Motobecane is a fairly weighty bike out of the box.

    Compared to other typical XC 29 HT's that you can ride in the 20-23 pound range, that certainly may account for the lack of snap and get up and go due to a lot of that weight being in the rotating mass of the Motobecane Fantom Pro. In addition, the 22/32/44 crankset gearing along with the 11-32 cassette that is typical on that model is pretty tall gearing when compared to a 26" bike with the same rings and cassette. A 29 or 30T middle ring and a 38 or 40T large ring (or even a 42T) seems to be a more preferred choice for the big wheels (granny can still remain 22T, but many have touted 20T granny rings for those that live in the mountains along with a 11-34 or even a 11-36T cassette).

    That bike would certainly come to life with a lighter wheel set, different tires and a change in gearing. MBA did a "cheat legally" test back in 2006 by altering the wheelset, tires, rotors, cassette, etc... to get more get up and go snap in the 29"er. And of course, since 2006 there are a plethora of wheels, tires and builds for 29"ers that trump the heavier, and more sluggish build of the bike you tested. At your weight of 170, you are light enough to ride any of the weight weenie components with rider weight limits (ZTR race wheels, Egg Ti pedals, etc...). No need for you to be riding a 27-28 pound HT.

    The 2011 Scott Scale 29"er line up seems to be one of the better examples of build/weight/price ratio for an XC 29"er HT. Top of the line Scale weighs 21.15 pounds out of the box and as you work through their 5 model Scale line up down to the entry level, the price lowers and the weight increases. The entry level weighs 28.63 pounds out of the box - or 7 1/2 pounds more than the top model. In fact, they were so successful in getting it right that the demand outstripped their supply this year.

    I would venture to guess that your test, thoughts and opinions would be altered for the 29"er had you tried a higher end, lower weight bike model with the big wheels. Maybe even better if you had test ridden one of the lightweight, full suspension 29"er race bikes that weigh in at 22-25 pounds to compare to your 26" FS bike. I am of the opinion that you can't really compare a 29"er HT to a 26"er FS. A 29"er HT is still a HT.

    BB

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    I'm pretty impressed

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    The bike you tested is a 27 pound bike without pedals. Add the pedals and you are probably in the 27.5/27.75 - 28 pound range. That's what my Niner RIP 9 with Enduro I-9 wheels weighs in size XL that has 120mm travel front and rear. In other words, the Motobecane is a fairly weighty bike out of the box.

    Compared to other typical XC 29 HT's that you can ride in the 20-23 pound range, that certainly may account for the lack of snap and get up and go due to a lot of that weight being in the rotating mass of the Motobecane Fantom Pro. In addition, the 22/32/44 crankset gearing along with the 11-32 cassette that is typical on that model is pretty tall gearing when compared to a 26" bike with the same rings and cassette. A 29 or 30T middle ring and a 38 or 40T large ring (or even a 42T) seems to be a more preferred choice for the big wheels (granny can still remain 22T, but many have touted 20T granny rings for those that live in the mountains along with a 11-34 or even a 11-36T cassette).

    That bike would certainly come to life with a lighter wheel set, different tires and a change in gearing. MBA did a "cheat legally" test back in 2006 by altering the wheelset, tires, rotors, cassette, etc... to get more get up and go snap in the 29"er. And of course, since 2006 there are a plethora of wheels, tires and builds for 29"ers that trump the heavier, and more sluggish build of the bike you tested. At your weight of 170, you are light enough to ride any of the weight weenie components with rider weight limits (ZTR race wheels, Egg Ti pedals, etc...). No need for you to be riding a 27-28 pound HT.

    The 2011 Scott Scale 29"er line up seems to be one of the better examples of build/weight/price ratio for an XC 29"er HT. Top of the line Scale weighs 21.15 pounds out of the box and as you work through their 5 model Scale line up down to the entry level, the price lowers and the weight increases. The entry level weighs 28.63 pounds out of the box - or 7 1/2 pounds more than the top model. In fact, they were so successful in getting it right that the demand outstripped their supply this year.

    I would venture to guess that your test, thoughts and opinions would be altered for the 29"er had you tried a higher end, lower weight bike model with the big wheels. Maybe even better if you had test ridden one of the lightweight, full suspension 29"er race bikes that weigh in at 22-25 pounds to compare to your 26" FS bike. I am of the opinion that you can't really compare a 29"er HT to a 26"er FS. A 29"er HT is still a HT.

    BB
    I understand with the larger diameter wheel that any excess rim/tire weight issues will be greatly magnified in terms of performance.

    Even so, I was pretty impressed with the 29er HT ride quality. The front end ride was just shockingly smooth.

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    For me the biggest learning curve had to do with cadence when switching to a 29er. Initially I was trying to keep the power on all of the time to maintain a high average speed like I did "had to" on my 26er. I experienced that fried leg syndrome as well. It wasn't until I followed a few riders on 26ers that I realized that I didn't have to pedal/pedal/pedal to go just as fast as them "especially on anything relatively flat". Accelerate up to speed them jump up a few gears and soft pedal a big gear and just fly/motor/recover. Over the last few days I have been playing around with a buddies 26" FS and it is crazy how much harder I am having to work to go fast! It's very smooth but honestly all it has made me do is want a FS 29er.

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    I'll get to try this out

    Quote Originally Posted by Flat Ark View Post
    For me the biggest learning curve had to do with cadence when switching to a 29er. Initially I was trying to keep the power on all of the time to maintain a high average speed like I did "had to" on my 26er. I experienced that fried leg syndrome as well. It wasn't until I followed a few riders on 26ers that I realized that I didn't have to pedal/pedal/pedal to go just as fast as them "especially on anything relatively flat". Accelerate up to speed them jump up a few gears and soft pedal a big gear and just fly/motor/recover. Over the last few days I have been playing around with a buddies 26" FS and it is crazy how much harder I am having to work to go fast! It's very smooth but honestly all it has made me do is want a FS 29er.
    Thanks for the advice.

    My 29er carbon frame (direct from china), xx reba and stans wheels/tires are all in route. If everything goes well, I'll have this built up in a week or two and begin the learning curve in earnest.

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    As Bruce brown said, not a comparable comparison, will be very interested to read your thojughts once you get a more equivalent bike, both in weight and quality parts to your 26" HT.

    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    Thanks for the advice.

    My 29er carbon frame (direct from china), xx reba and stans wheels/tires are all in route. If everything goes well, I'll have this built up in a week or two and begin the learning curve in earnest.
    One day your life will flash before your eyes, will it be worth watching??
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    Comparing some lap times, my average speed is higher so far on the single speed 29er, and so is my top speed. I figured I'd be bombing down hills much faster on my anthem. More testing. I'll try back to back runs like you did.
    So, I took my anthem out on the same loop, and I'm 3 min faster per lap on the 26er. My max speed was 1.2mph faster also. So far, I like 26" wheels better in single track. I'll be doing 2 races in the next 3 weeks on the 29er though.

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    O2s?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    So, I took my anthem out on the same loop, and I'm 3 min faster per lap on the 26er. My max speed was 1.2mph faster also. So far, I like 26" wheels better in single track. I'll be doing 2 races in the next 3 weeks on the 29er though.
    You going to race your 29er SS in the ore to shore?

    Wish i had mine ready and vetted for O2S. I could see how there might be some advantages there. I crash in the various sand pits there almost every year and i did notice the 29er I test rode handled sand much better than the 26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    So, I took my anthem out on the same loop, and I'm 3 min faster per lap on the 26er. My max speed was 1.2mph faster also. So far, I like 26" wheels better in single track. I'll be doing 2 races in the next 3 weeks on the 29er though.
    I raced SS twice during our local Wednesday series which is very climbing-heavy (about 800 feet over a 5km course). My best geared lap times were about a minute faster than my best SS time. There could have been other factors of course, but its as close to a scientific comparison as I can get considering it was also the same bike, just set up with a different drivetrain. I was also more worked over on the SS. I guess what I'm saying is that the slower lap times may have to do with the fact that you're on a SS not so much the 29er. Or maybe not. Some people find they put in faster times on SS overall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    You going to race your 29er SS in the ore to shore?

    Wish i had mine ready and vetted for O2S. I could see how there might be some advantages there. I crash in the various sand pits there almost every year and i did notice the 29er I test rode handled sand much better than the 26.
    Nope, racing the soft tail tomorrow. You racing? The only time I crashed in the sand pit was last years race. I tried passing a guy and it didnt workout so well!

    My 2 SS races are great deer chase and tour da woods.

    Quote Originally Posted by M_S View Post
    I raced SS twice during our local Wednesday series which is very climbing-heavy (about 800 feet over a 5km course). My best geared lap times were about a minute faster than my best SS time. There could have been other factors of course, but its as close to a scientific comparison as I can get considering it was also the same bike, just set up with a different drivetrain. I was also more worked over on the SS. I guess what I'm saying is that the slower lap times may have to do with the fact that you're on a SS not so much the 29er. Or maybe not. Some people find they put in faster times on SS overall.
    I'm sure fitness is part of it. My legs felt pretty tired after just one lap. I did 2 laps on my anthem that day, my first being 3 min faster, my second lap, which I stopped at my truck, took off my helmet and gloves, and had a gel, was only 19 sec slower than my fastest SS lap.

    Ultimately, my comparison isnt very good. Since one is a geared bike, and the other a SS. I still prefer 26" wheels for handling at least.. Its much snappier feeling.

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    soft rock

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    Nope, racing the soft tail tomorrow. You racing? The only time I crashed in the sand pit was last years race. I tried passing a guy and it didnt workout so well!

    My 2 SS races are great deer chase and tour da woods.



    .
    again. not sure I will ever have the fitness to 'race' the 50 miler.

    Short or long deer chase/tour? I would think the tour da woods might be a 29er course with all the two track/dirt road mileage. The long deer chase course has a lot of twisty single track though, and a lot of sneaky elevation change.

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    update

    on my 29er trial.

    I built up the cheapest I could manage carbon hardtail race 29er using parts off my 26 hardtail, new crests, new reba xx, and a Chinese direct frame. The bike pic and description is at post Chinese Carbon 29er.

    I spent 2 weeks getting used to the bike. I set a new PR using the 29er on a flatish, bumpy loop of 00:14:14 vs my old PR of 00:14.31. I set a new PR on hilly 32 mile pavement plus broken pavement of 1:48:00 in the wind vs 1:50:00 (26 full suspension locked out). Given these results, I entered the 'Tour da Woods' race in Munising (about 26 miles) for the 'real' test of how I would get along with a 29er hardtail. This is the long race for this event and would correspond to a mix of cat 1 (expert) and cat 2 (sport) in the civilized world) and the remainder wishing they had done the shorter race. I have done this race the last 4 years, and never finished above 6th in my age class and never come closer than 15 minutes to the podium.

    The course is a mix of terrain. It seemed like this year we spent about half the time on sharply rolling single track and half the time on sandy two track with a few miles of dirt road thrown in there.

    The course was three to four miles shorter this year because of logging in our national forest, so direct comparison with previous years will have to be based on other racers and position rather than time. I was 4th in my age group this year and missed the podium by 3 minutes. Quite an improvement from my previous best showing (6th) and it was because I came in ahead of guys that had previously beat me.

    So was it the bike? Well, I got to say that there were times in the beginning of the single track I did wish for the full suspension anthem x, but as we went along, I started to get into the flow of the single track and really enjoyed the ride. I became comfortable enough to lock out the fork on the sharp uphills and stand and crank, then unlock and bomb (for me) the downs. My back held up much better than expected.

    The 2.0 ravens were at 23 rear 22 front and soaked up some of the shock from the roots and rocks and held the corners at the bottom of the downs pretty well, but I know I was not continuously pedalling in the single track like I can with the anthem 26, and that probably cost me some time. When we were on the straight sections of the two track and on the dirt road...well i passed a lot of people who had come by me on the single track and that is where the bike really seemed to fly. I think I can really improve on the single track with this rig with more time/practice.

    So, in summary, I am pretty impressed with how a racey 29er hardtail performs on this type of course. The more technical races we have here, like the MTU MTB Rondevous (Michigan Tech Rondevous) or the CH Fat Tire (Keweenaw Adventure Company in Copper Harbor, Michigan 906-289-4303) might be tough on a 29er hardtail, but I might give it try next year.

    PS: I think Fakie may have caught me in the last mile, and pulled away at the line

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    PS: I think Fakie may have caught me in the last mile, and pulled away at the line
    Did I? I was spent by then. I worked hard to bridge a gap, only to catch this guy at the bottom of the "mini" uncle bills (?) climb. I think my heart rate was 189 when I started the climb I dont have granny gear either, I'm on a 1x9.

    This race seemed to grow quite a bit this year. Last year there was 12 guys in the 30-39 age group, and this year there were over 20 I think. I did pretty well in the race, not quite my ore to shore performance, but I was happy. Its my first "long" race. Usually I do the short ones. I came in at 2:02 and was 13th in my age group.

    I'm taking my 29er superfly apart, and selling the frame/fork on ebay. I'm going to keep the rest of the parts and probably build a anthem x 29er. I really did like having a soft tail in that single track. It was a super fun course, probably my favorite out of the 5 races I've done so far this year.

    Great review by the way

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    Did you finish around 2:02?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    Did I? I was spent by then. I worked hard to bridge a gap, only to catch this guy at the bottom of the "mini" uncle bills (?) climb. I think my heart rate was 189 when I started the climb I dont have granny gear either, I'm on a 1x9.

    This race seemed to grow quite a bit this year. Last year there was 12 guys in the 30-39 age group, and this year there were over 20 I think. I did pretty well in the race, not quite my ore to shore performance, but I was happy. Its my first "long" race. Usually I do the short ones. I came in at 2:02 and was 13th in my age group.

    I'm taking my 29er superfly apart, and selling the frame/fork on ebay. I'm going to keep the rest of the parts and probably build a anthem x 29er. I really did like having a soft tail in that single track. It was a super fun course, probably my favorite out of the 5 races I've done so far this year.

    Great review by the way
    A pair came by me in the last mile or so and I tagged onto the back. One rider looked alot like your picture you had posted on the forum and was riding a red FS 26, but I could not tell the make. You (or whoever) came around the other rider when he dabbed in the mud potholes right before the finish and you? dropped the both of us. I heard the announcer give the rider name (can't remember, lactic acid erased my memory) and location (Gwinn).

    As far as the course goes, they seem to get more single track in there every year. We really do have some nice 30 to 50 mile point to point courses in the UP and northern Wisconsin. And that last hill was a soul crusher.

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    Yeah, that was me. My anthem is blue, I had on a red hammer jersey. I can't believe that guy bobbled in the mud. That's how I crashed in ore to shore, a guy lost it in the mud and took me out.

    Yeah, I came in at 2:02.

    Are you doing the cross race at tech on saturday night?

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    thanks for dragging me to the line

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    Yeah, that was me. My anthem is blue, I had on a red hammer jersey. I can't believe that guy bobbled in the mud. That's how I crashed in ore to shore, a guy lost it in the mud and took me out.

    Yeah, I came in at 2:02.

    Are you doing the cross race at tech on saturday night?
    I'll try to pick you out of the crowd saturday. I'll probably race Masters (and get crushed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    I'll try to pick you out of the crowd saturday. I'll probably race Masters (and get crushed)
    I dont know if I'm going yet, but, if I do, I'll be on a specialized tricross single speed cx bike thats black.

    Are you going to race cross on the 29er? The build looks pretty nice. Now you need a rigid carbon fork for cross season.

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    The 29er is my cross bike this year

    Quote Originally Posted by Fakie1999 View Post
    I dont know if I'm going yet, but, if I do, I'll be on a specialized tricross single speed cx bike thats black.

    Are you going to race cross on the 29er? The build looks pretty nice. Now you need a rigid carbon fork for cross season.
    I'll put 35 mm tubeless tires on there, but the budget constraints means I'll have to settle for locking out the reba--no rigid fork for now..

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    By greenmacheen in forum Turner
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 10-05-2007, 05:22 AM

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