The Eternal Giant NRS- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    The Eternal Giant NRS

    This is a thread to cover how to keep an old Giant NRS going, forever. smashysmashy created a thread about customizing his NRS (https://forums.mtbr.com/26er-bikes/r...k-1098573.html). This is a bit different as its really about keeping an old NRS ridable and maintainable. There are not many of these around, but as I have one and have done a bit of work keeping it going, I'll post my helpful hints and part sources here.

    First, a bit of background on the NRS.

    The NRS is one early of a Horst Link design inspired full suspension bicycles. When it was designed in the early 2000's, most full suspension bikes were fairly basic and traded ride quality for efficiency. So if it rode well, it would bob under pedaling and require a shock lockout to be an efficient climber. This was a real issue for cross country racing. So Pascal Tribotte, an avid mountain biker and a member of the Renault Sport Formula One team, convinced Giant to allow the Renault team to design a suspension for their cross country full suspension bike. They wanted a bike that was very efficient without requiring a lockout. This would provide an efficient pedaling platform with the advantages of a full suspension ride.

    What they came up with was the NRS or No Resonance Suspension. Essentially the design relied on pedaling forces to extend the shock while tuning the linkages to eliminate resonance, which, left unchecked, would amplify bobbing. The sweet spot for the design was between a cadence of 45 to 90 rpm. That was the theory anyway. And they succeeded. The NRS design has the efficiency of a hard tail, but some rear suspension compliance, even under pedaling.

    While the suspension lived up to the theory, in reality, the suspension design didn't provide much small bump compliance and was harsh in comparison to other designs. As well, it was not tolerant of an incorrect setup. The design required fairly precise no-sag setup by varying air pressure in the rear air shock. However, it must be remembered that the NRS was designed for cross country racing in the 2000's. Trails were generally tamer than today and efficiency was the overriding design criteria. The idea of a trail bike hadn't even occurred to anyone.

    Other than the rear suspension design, the NRS was fairly conventional. Lower end models were aluminum frame construction with lower end spec'd components including rim brakes. Higher end models had first generation hydraulic disk brakes and eventually the option of carbon frames. The NRS3 was the lowest end bike with the NRS1 being the highest end aluminum framed bike. The later carbon frame bikes received NRS Air designation. NRS Team bikes had special paint jobs and were produced in aluminum.

    Giant started selling the bikes in 2001 and the last model was sold in 2005. There were several tweaks along the way. The first revision was in 2002 when the rear shock mount and frame received some reinforcement. In 2004, the rear frame geometry was changed slightly and the chain stays redesigned. The rear pivot bushings changed to cartridge bearings in 2004. The shock pivot arms came in a few varieties depending on the market and spec level with some variants having multiple upper shock mounting holes to provide an option of two travel settings. Shock options varied by the model with earlier bikes receiving RockShox and later receiving Fox, depending on the market. Most of the design was standard for a mountain bike of the time. The rear hub spacing was 135mm. The front fork had a 1-1/8" steering tube diameter without taper. Stem length was long and the bars were narrow and flat for a cross country racing position. For most models, the head tube angle was 70 degrees with a seat tube angle of 72 degrees. Chain stay length was 425mm across the lineup. Wheelbase ranged from 1047mm to 1081mm. Rear travel was 85mm, all in up-travel. Front shock travel was 80mm. Depending on model spec, the bike could weigh anywhere from 24.5lbs to over 28lbs. Swapping in light weight components on a carbon frame could get a build in the 23lb range. Typical NRS1 build would be 26lbs. Thatís fairly light for a mass produced full suspension bike of the period.

    On the higher end models, Giant was pretty cutting edge for the time. The aforementioned carbon construction in the latter half of production, hydraulic disk brakes, tubeless UST tires on Mavic rims and 27 speed drivetrains were fairly advanced for the early 2000's. Pricing ran the gamut as well, with low spec NRS3 starting just over $1000US, high end aluminum bikes around $2000US and carbon bikes approaching $4000US. So not an inexpensive bike for the time.

    The bike won a number of accolades, including bike of the year in 2001 from several publications. The bike enjoyed some racing success with custom carbon prototypes built for Giant team racers such as Rune Hoydahl, Bart Brentjens and Christophe Dupouey,

    In 2006 the NRS was replaced by the Anthem which introduced the new Maestro suspension design, delivering nearly the efficiency with better ride quality. The Maestro design continues in Giant's line-up to this day.

    NRS Trivia:
    In the US, Giant decided to license the Horst Link design from Specialized. Part of the agreement required application of stickers to the frames, before delivery, giving Specialized credit for the rear suspension. This delayed the introduction of the NRS to US markets. Many would argue that the NRS is not a pure Horst link design due to pivot locations and geometry.

    Many efforts were made to soften the NRS's ride. Some riders would introduce rear sag into the system which resulted in bobbing and brake jacking. Giant even suggested introducing some sag in the later years of the NRS. After-market rocker arms were marketed to increase travel and soften the ride. The results were mixed. Cane Creek marketed a replacement shock for the NRS which was said to improve ride quality.

    Giant isn't the only one who designed a suspension that counters bobbing by topping out the shock. Brian Berthold, who designed the Magic Link for Kona, now has his own brand, Tantrum, which showcases his very own Missing Link suspension deign. While vastly more complex than the NRS design, the Missing Link design allows the shock to top out, limiting bobbing under power. Of course, the Missing Link provides a vastly improved ride and is intended for a trail bike.

    Weaknesses of the NRS design:
    Ride quality: Some joked that NRS stood for "No Rear Suspension." The rear suspension had no down travel and pedaling forces made it even stiffer. So often the ride is compared to a hard tail. While never described a plush, the NRS always had an active rear suspension even under pedaling, but it would take a large bump to get it activated. If you are used to a hardtail, the NRS will feel familiar. It takes the edge off the largest of hits.

    Rider Weight: Giant recommended a rider weight of less than 220lbs. The reason being the pressure limit of the rear shock. Giant recommended a positive air pressure of the riders weight in lbs. plus 20 psi. Most of the rear shocks available for the NRS had a positive pressure limit of 250psi, thus the weight limit recommendation.

    Rear Shock Availability: Rear shocks for the NRS were specific to the NRS design. They are a dual chamber non-platform shock. There are none available new today that would work well on the NRS. Some of the shocks had both positive and negative air pressure adjustments, others had only positive air adjustments.

    Next: My NRS
    Last edited by Old Ag; 06-07-2019 at 10:39 AM.

  2. #2
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    My Giant NRS

    Disclaimer: I will admit this build is a waste of money. No one in their right mind would throw these nice parts at an old bike like this. But I never claimed to be in my right mind. I don't encourage this type of frivolous spending on a bike almost old enough to vote. The NRS is a horrible design that will kill you if you ride it on anything more than a sidewalk. So if you wish to warn folks off an old NRS, it's too late. I've already done it. Go complain elsewhere. Now, where was I?

    The subject of this thread is my 2002 Giant NRS1. Itís the highest spec'd aluminum framed model. At the time the bike came with Rockshox SID front fork and rear dual air shock. It featured Hayes Comp hydraulic disk brakes, Mavic UST wheels, Formula hubs, Raceface Crank and Titec stem bars and seat post. Drivetrain was primarily Shimano 27 Speed Deore LX. Stock tires were Hutchinson Python in the 26" x 1.9" size. The yellow silver and black paint scheme is specific to the 2002 NRS1. Most models had a unique paint scheme for the year they were produced. Here is mine today:


    Parts replaced:
    The first thing to go was the Raceface crank. The spline connection would creak with any wear. It was replaced with a Shimano Hollow Tech II crank. This was recently half-replaced with a later version of the left side arm with a 4iiii power meter built in. Thus the bike's crank is half back and half silver. The chain rings were replaced with a single Raceface 34 tooth narrow-wide ring as part of a 1x conversion. Also of note was the use of Raceface spacers for the ring bolts. They provide a nice finished look to the front ring and allow the reuse of the original ring bolts.


    Second to go was the front fork. The first generation of SID air shocks had 27mm legs and were very flexible. This bike got a 2009 SID Team fork which increased the diameter to 32mm increasing stiffness considerably. The replacement fork has 100mm of travel which slackened the head angle by about 1 degree.


    In its latest incarnation the bike received a 1x12 SRAM Eagle X01 drivetrain, including the chain, cassette, derailleur and shifter. This gives a 10-50 rear sprocket range and eliminates two of the three front chain rings. This drivetrain on this bike is way overkill, but it was destined for a bike build that never happened, so it found a home on the NRS, for now. I must say, I really like it. Please excuse the rust on the cassette. I wore off the coating in a single epic ride and it rusted overnight. A bit more riding should cure it.


    The bike received a PNW Cascade dropper seat post. This was chosen for the external collar mounted cable. This keeps the cable at the frame end of the dropper and doesnít require drilling of the frame. I used the existing cable routing system to run the cable from the handlebars, basically following the path of the old front derailleur cable. My medium framed bike can fit the 150mm version so thatís what I got. Again, overkill.


    I also used their Loam lever. Itís a well-engineered piece of kit that complements the dropper nicely.


    I replaced the Titec bars and stem with Raceface Turbine bars, and stem. I went with a wider set of bars at, 740mm with 3/4" rise, and a shorter 60mm, 6 degree stem. I modeled the whole thing out in CAD to achieve a close to ideal Rider Area Distance (Lee McCormack's method of MTB fitment) while widening the grip and keeping the reach and seat height reasonable. The result is a more modern fit and better riding position for getting over the back of the bike. It is very comfortable for an all-day ride. The steering is not too twitchy. The grips are Raceface locking grips.


    The tire were replaced with a 26" x 2.25" set of WTB Trail Bosses. These were the most significant improvement to the bike. They work well in almost all conditions, except deep mud and are quite fast as well. That they are available in 26" UST compatible sizes makes them one of the few tire choices left. There's not a lot of clearance with these.


    The bike has two sets of pedals. One set of Time ATAC aluminum clipless pedals (a favorite of mine) and OneUp composite platforms for more casual riding.

    Modified:

    The front and rear wheels received all new spokes and nipples in the last rebuild this year. The rims are a Mavic 918 equivalent. But to accommodate the SRAM drivetrain, the rear wheel received a new hub. The old hub was well past its prime, but the rims have an unusual 24 spoke count. About the only option available is Hope Pro 4 hubs, which is not a bad thing. So the rims are original as is the front hub, but all else has been changed. The Hope Pro 4 is a very good hub with many configuration choices. The only thing to consider is that it is loud. So loud that I have no need to warn walkers of other cyclist when I come up behind them. Hope takes care of that with its buzz saw ratcheting.


    Also of note is the unique Mavic threaded eyelets. When rebuilding an old wheel that hasn't been apart in a while, plan on replacing a few of these. They are getting harder to come by, so get some spares. Also note they require a special wrench. My wheel building prowess has been challenged with these unique wheels, but they came out perfectly.


    Retained and Preserved:

    Apart from the frame and aforementioned rims, there are only two other original components on the bike. The brakes and rear shock.

    The brakes are Hayes Comp hydraulic disk brakes that came with the bike. Due to their plastic lever body, they are usually noted as being subject to snapping in a hard wreck. That hasnít happened to me as of yet. While they lack take-up adjustment, they still work well with good modulation and plenty of power for one finger operation. They are easy to bleed and brake pads are readily available as Hayes used the same brake pads for years across their lineup. I use the sintered metallic pads. They require proper break in but work in all conditions. Here are the ancient brakes and the new shifter.


    Lastly is the component whose failure usually means the end of an NRS, the rear shock. Mine came with the RockShox SID dual air shock. In my opinion, this is the most desirable. It has the most adjustability and is the only one with a hope of being serviced. The key is to know that the RockShox BAR shock uses most of the same seals and its service kit can be used to service the SID. There are some seals that are not available, but they are non-wear seals and shouldn't need replacement. But there are two things that will render a SID unserviceable. First is if the anodizing has worn off the piston rod. If so, the negative chamber won't hold air for long. Secondly is if the hydraulic damper has lost its charge. If so, there won't be any dampening. If you let all the air out of the shock, and remove the valve cores, the charge in the damper should extend the shock. The oldest generation of SID (silver colored) allowed the damper to be recharged using some clever, if not questionable bodgery. The black colored SIDs can't be recharged. With the Bar kit, the positive and negative o rings can be replaced and leaks eliminated. Judy Butter is recommended for reassembly, but it must be used sparingly or leaks will develop. If you reassemble the shock and find it leaks, you probably have too much grease inside. It takes only a thin coating to work.


    All of my link bearings and bushings are original. My bike has lead an easy indoor life and has received lots of maintenance. It has no discernable wear. This vintage of NRS was subject to bottom bushing wear (lower joint near the wheel axle). I always disassemble the rear triangle and clean the plastic bushings after a muddy ride. I don't apply lube to them as that attracts dirt and grit. All the bearings can be serviced in place by disassembling the rear triangle and using an exacto knife to remove the accessible seal on the bearing. Brake parts cleaner gets the bearing clean and a quality waterproof bicycle grease keeps them going. Replacement bearings are available, but it will take research to get the right ones. The bushing kits are harder to come by. Excessive bearing wear will manifest as lateral play in rear triangle and tends to cause ghost shifting. Newer 1x11 and 1x12 drivetrains are very sensitive to lateral movement in the rear triangle.

    Other notes:
    Chain stay clearance is tight on these frames. A 2.25" wide tire is about the most that will fit and clearance will be too tight for muddy conditions. For mud, a max width of 1.9" is recommended.

    UST spec tires are becoming increasingly rare, especially in 26" size. However, all 26" tubeless ready tires will work on a 26" UST rim such as the Mavic rims original to this NRS. The difference is the UST spec has a specific rim interface that makes for a positive "snap" fit. Technically UST tires could be run without sealant on a UST rim. But with the advent of tire sealant, most manufactures now rely on sealant for leak free performance. WTB is one of the few companies that make UST compatible tires in 26" sizes. Although technically not a UST spec tire, WTB is compliant with the rim spec and works very well with the Mavic rims. Sealant is required though. The Mavic rim is 19mm inside width which any tire that would fit this bike would work with. Check the tire spec before ordering.

    Fitting a 27.5" inch rear rim and tire requires a very narrow tire on the rear. Some have done it or run a combination of 27.5 in the front, on a 27.5 fork and a 26 in the rear.

    Other Odds and Ends

    For trail tools and a tire pump, I use OneUp's EDC system. It has available a 100cc pump that fits a tool system in the handle. I carry this along with their chain removal tool and plug kit, which also fit the inside the 100cc pump. I run this as my get home tool kit on all my bikes. Here's a bunch of OneUp goodness.


    For a spare innertube, I discovered Tubolito's thermoplastic innertube. It's very compact and combined with a Park tire boot, rubber banded around the tube, this thing fits under my saddle above the top of the seat post. The unique mounting system of the Cascade dropper gives me two bolts for the tube to nest in-between. I use a spare valve stem cap to prevent the tube from bouncing out from under the back of the saddle.
    Last edited by Old Ag; 05-22-2019 at 09:19 AM.

  3. #3
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    I started mountain biking on an NRS. Yours is beautiful!
    Smog builds character.

  4. #4
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    Comparing the Antique Giant to a Modern Bike

    Lots is made of how outdated a bike like this Giant is. And it's true. In many ways new bikes are quite different. XC is all 29er. Trail bikes are 27.5+. Some short-travel 29ers are even sneaking into the trail category. Geometry across the board has moved toward steeper seat tube angles and much slacker head tube angles. Wheels are wider and drivetrains are all 1x. So how does this old junk compare to the shiny new have-to-have's? Well, I set out to see.

    My modern foil is a 2019 Santa Cruz 5010 C S+. Itís a mid-travel trail bike with a carbon frame and carbon 27.5+ wheels. So not exactly a fair comparison. I should compare this to a new 29er XC race bike, but I don't have one, so this will have to do. And I really ruined the Giant for XC racing anyway.



    In reality, even though the bikes are meant for different purposes, the Santa Cruz comparison isn't as ridiculous as it might seem. Wheel diameter isn't that far off. Drivetrain is very similar. Both have droppers. The Giant's cockpit setup isn't that different than the Santa Cruz's. Chain stay length is the same and so on. They are both mountain bikes after all.

    Where they differ the most is in length and geometry. The Santa Cruz is longer thanks to a slacker head tube and the resulting stretched out top tube. Reach is about 30mm shorter on the Giant. But most of that space is made up in stem length and seat position, so the positioning is not so different between the two. Stack is quite a bit higher for the Santa Cruz, but the Giant has spacers under the stem and a higher rise handlebar that make most of that up. Fit wise, I really don't notice a radical difference between the two. Granted, I didn't ride them back to back, as one lives in the Mid-Atlantic and the other in the Desert Southwest, but the only noticeable difference in terms of fit is the seat. I like the one on the Giant better. Easy fix though.

    Once you start riding, the differences make themselves apparent. The slacker head angle on the Santa Cruz is most noticeable. There's more bike out front, and it inspires more confidence on the downhills than the Giant, as one would expect. But the Giant doesn't feel like it will automatically launch me OTB, although, in fairness, it has on a couple of occasions. The Santa Cruz just feels like it has more margin when it comes to downhill stability. As well, the 2.6" wide Maxxis tires on the Santa Cruz have grip for days, and on the much wider rims, don't feel too squirrely unless you really drop the pressure. The Giant does feel more precise, but lacks the roll over anything attitude of the Santa Cruz. Then there's the suspension. The front fork of the newer bike has 30mm more travel. Definitely noticeable, but not radically so. The rear suspension is where the main difference is between the two bikes. With a VPP and 55mm more travel, the Santa Cruz is a marshmallow compared to the nearly hard tailed Giant. The Santa Cruz has decent small bump compliance but ramps up quickly to absorb the biggest hits without bottoming. It's not the absorb anything ride you get from a longer travel trail bike, but it's not punishing either. Despite being carbon framed and wheeled, the Santa Cruz pays for all this travel and burliness with 3lbs more weight than the lithe Giant. This makes the Giant more responsive to power, quicker to turn and a bit better slogging up a grade. But the Santa Cruz feels indestructible and light enough on its toes. Do I notice the stiffer front fork? No. Do I notice how much "lower and in-the-bike" I am? No. Do I notice how squirrely the 26er is with a short stem? No. Do I notice the extra mass of frame and tire on the new bike? No.

    Now the magic in the Santa Cruz is in how easy and willing it is to be thrown around. It loves to carry a front wheel off drops, is easy to manual and gives a lot of confidence getting some air under the tires. This is a lively bike and a blast to ride. It starts to feel over its head when the hits get really big, but maybe thatís just me. In the right hands, this bike is an acrobat.

    But, it's not a race bike. It's too heavy and slow, although the higher trim models do shed weight and you can get skinnier wheels. Its remarkably efficient when pedaling from the saddle, but bobs away when you stand on the pedals, requiring a rear lockout. The grip from the tires is as good as it gets, but the price to be paid is in rolling efficiency.

    The Giant, on the other hand is actually more willing to wheelie and manual (I use it to practice on), but jumping it feels like abuse. It really takes a delicate touch and finesse to land it without worrying that it will explode. That said, I've never bent a rim on it. Most likely due to the stout Mavic rims that are laced into a somewhat delicate 24 spoke wheel. I also don't seek out every bit of air a trail has to offer. Thatís for the Santa Cruz. The Giant is definitely a faster bike on a smooth trail, mostly due to the unexpectedly good WTB tires. But to get the most out of it takes a good bit of courage.

    Where there is little to no difference between the two are brakes and drivetrain. Despite being ancient, the old Hays brakes aren't that much different than the SRAM Guide R brakes. Sure the Guides have adjustable reach and a larger rotor, but they don't feel any more powerful against the 27.5+'s then the Hays do against the 26ers on the old bike. Both are one finger affairs and modulate well. The drivetrains are indistinguishable from each other. The Giant actually has the higher spec Eagle set, but blindfolded, you wouldn't know the difference. The droppers are both good. I actually prefer the action of the PNW over the RockShox Reverb by a small margin.

    So where does that leave us? Well a new bike like the Santa Cruz 5010 is very relevant for today's riding style. It encourages showy riding, and making every little lip into an occasion. It is a very fun bike to take on almost any kind of trail. And you can ride it all day long, even if it requires going up hills. The "modernized" Giant, though, feels like a more competent version of its old self. Certainly not an air machine, but fun and fast if the trail isn't too nasty, and comfortable enough to ride all day and put some miles on. And occasionally you can dip a toe into the Santa Cruz's world by putting a little daylight under the knobblies. The Santa Cruz makes you feel like a natural on the bike when its ridden well. The Giant makes you feel down right heroic if you survive giving it half the huck you give the Santa Cruz. But most of the time, unless you are going all out or are in a bike park, the two bikes don't really feel that different. That's either testament to how well balanced the 5010 is or how well I modernized the old Giant. Actually, I think it's really down to how specialized mountain bike riding has become, with a bike for every niche. If you make an all-arounder bike today, like the Santa Cruz, it's going to be the same set of compromises an old all-arounder is, even if its created from something like an NRS. A new bike is a lot better at the edges of the envelope its intended for. But used for the types of trail riding most folks do, between well spec'd bikes, the improvements are really incremental.

    So if you have an old 26er, is it worth throwing a bunch of money at it or buying a new bike? If you have the means, a new bike, no doubt. If you can only throw a bit of money at an old bike, do just enough to keep it going. It can be every bit as much fun as something new. If you are a sentimental hoarder like me, then throw a bunch of money at your old bike, make it half good and ignore the haters. You'll emerge from the woods the heroic one, having wrung a hell of a ride out of an old bike.

    Old Ag
    Last edited by Old Ag; 06-07-2019 at 02:33 PM.

  5. #5
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    Racing this Heap

    So this isn't really a race report. It's an impression of what it's like to ride this "updated" NRS in a race. First I will say that this isn't the bike to choose for a podium finish in a Cat 1 race. Rather this bike will suit a more casual racer, in my case an age grouper Xterra racer. While MTB technology has advance in many ways in the last 17 years, a bike is still a bike, and this NRS still works.

    The most important part of racing an NRS is to get the setup right. It should be run with 50 psi in the negative chamber of the rear shock, and just enough positive pressure to eliminate any sag when seated on the saddle. The front shock should be set up according to its manual.

    Secondly is tire choice. On a dry course, a fast rolling XC tire is best. I find that 2.25" in width is the largest width that can be accommodated without rubbing. However, for high power bursts over 1000 watts of effort, it will buzz the chain stays with the outside lugs. For muddy conditions , a more aggressive narrow tire is best for mud clearance. I race with clipless pedals and use the dropper on the steep and jumpy stuff. I must say I don't jump my NRS unless I'm forced to.

    This particular race was a muddy Xterra triathlon in Virginia. The bike portion was two 15K laps for 30K total, about 18 miles.



    Video capture of the clown bike with silly mud flaps after the first lap. Lots of mud ahead...


    After the traditional refreshing swim portion, I started the bike portion about mid pack. At the start, I picked off a few riders, but soon the pack spread out and I found myself alone. Where the mud wasn't too bad, I could keep up a fair amount of speed, but had to slow for steep sections and high speed curves. After a few flow sections, the mud got greasy and deep. Speed slowed significantly and the wide, dry condition tires started collecting copious amounts of mud. Now, like the nerd I am, I had the foresight to add an SKS fender up front and zip tied its rear mate to the seat post, allowing the dropper to still function. So despite the mess, I remained relatively mud free and kept up the progress. Race officials started calling me Mr. Clean. I came off the bike once after a high speed pedal strike, but otherwise finished the first lap happy, thinking I could pick up speed the second time around given my new-found familiarity with the course.

    I was wrong. By the time the second lap came around, the trail was destroyed by everyone behind me on their first lap or ahead of me on their second lap. Almost the entire length of the course was now a muddy, slick, sticky mess. The flow sections of the trail were an exercise of picking my way around the curves without the front tire washing out and dumping me. Climbing traction was better than expected with the WTB Trail Boss tires, but lateral grip and braking grip were almost non-existent. It was like riding on ice in sections. My pace slowed.

    Then it got worse. Halfway through the last lap, the mud got molasses thick and caked up the tire, seat stay, chain stay and front fork. The bike would regularly grind to a halt from jammed up mud. I'd have to jump off and push the bike backwards, to be rewarded with a hearty splat, as the mud mass reversed itself off the tires and fell to freedom in giant glops. But it was never cleared enough to proceed, so all stops involved me finding a stick to dig mud out of the frame behind the seat tube and off all the surfaces that were impeding progress. Then back to either riding or pushing.

    This cycle repeated itself, perhaps a dozen times. Then the chain started falling off the front ring. When I converted the bike to 1 x12, I chose a narrow wide chainring over a chain guide. It worked very well in the dry. But now, with any coasting, particularly in the lowest gears (largest rear sprockets) the chain would quietly fall inside the front chainring. The pattern became; get stuck, clean off a lot of mud, ride the bike, coast, try to pedal just to realize the chain fell off, stop, reset the chain and repeat. After about the fifth iteration, I gave up hope of keeping the chain on. People I passed were starting to slog past me as I stood beside the trail, now shoveling off mud with my hands and trying to get the mud-caked chain onto the mud-caked chainring. Even identifying the narrow parts of the chain from the wide parts was impossible. So getting the chain on the right teeth was a 50/50 proposition, as if that mattered. The chain was now fully covered with a gritty, wet, red clay lube. At about the 10th remounting of the chain, it struck me that maybe the mud was forcing the chain off. But no matter what I cleared of mud, the situation wouldn't improve. I even stopped at an aid station and attempted to wash off the chain ring, one little Gatorade cup of water at a time. Then I noticed that the rear wheel had so much mud on it that the mud was fouling the chain as the tire turned. So I added clearing mud off the tire sidewalls to my mud hygiene regimen which magically solved the chain drop issue.

    So now it was time to pick things up. I started passing folks again, particularly the ones cleaning mud off their bikes. The faster I went, the better the bike self-cleaned, throwing mud in all directions. The fenders were paying dividends, as there was still a 6 mile run ahead, and the less caked I was, the better. I slid through corners on the ragged edge of control. I pressed up climbs with the rear of the bike squirming around as I hunted for a line with any grip. The grassy edges of the trail became the preferred line. I overcooked a few corners at the end of high speed straits, breaking gingerly to avoid a terminal off-piste journey into the trees. I'd white knuckled the braking then desperately force a drift to make the corner. I even perfected a new downhill technique that involved me dropping the seat then skidding down the steep greasy parts with two locked tires and a foot on the ground.

    But the time I made transition after the second lap, my cheering section (my wife) was not so cheerful, having spent several soggy hours awaiting my return, fully prepared to send out search parties and exercise my life insurance policy. I threw the old bike on the rack then proceeded to pick off a several more people in the run on my way to an unexpected 2nd place AG finish.

    In the end, the bike was not well set up for the course. The tires were too wide and not aggressive enough for the mud. I thought about ordering a set of narrower mud tires for the bike, but decided I would take my chances with mud. I chose poorly. But the bike did better than should have been expected. Riding a 26er wasn't a factor. Geometry wasn't a factor. The drivetrain did better that it should have considering the amount of mud it endured. Shifting was flawless despite the blob of mud covering the derailleur cage. The brakes worked well. And even with the long saddle time, I remained comfortable and fresh enough for the run.

    After returning home, the bike got a complete disassembly and cleaning. The drivetrain did show some wear, but not enough to effect shift quality or require replacement of anything. Most of the bearings remained uncontaminated, but the bushings got a good cleaning. The upper jockey wheel on the derailleur got the worst contamination but was cleaned good as new. The lower jockey wheel was fine despite having the ground clearance of a training wheel given it is an Eagle derailleur mounted on a 26er. The only things that showed wear were the front brake pads. Despite being newish with less than 200 miles on them before the race, the front pads were worn to the metal. The back set was a bit better. In the end the bike didn't help me, but that was my own fault for being tire-width greedy. That mistake added at least 45 minutes to the bike portion of the Xterra. But the bike didn't leave me by the side of the trail, mostly due to its modernized component set.

    So what is my opinion for the NRS in today's racing environment? Well, I'll leave it at this, the old Giant has been cleaned, lubed, polished and returned to top condition. Never to be raced again. But then again, I'm not sure I proved anything with this race. So perhaps another race, where the bike is better prepared is in its future. We'll see, I suppose.

    Old Ag

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