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Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

El Guapo ---- First Ride Report

It doesn't help, recession or not, when what started out as a search in 07' for a practical do-it-all frame culminating into today's irresistable EG. While retaining the characteristics I've been looking for, a 6" bike that climbs as well as it would descend. Would have probably traded off the roadie and maybe even the SS just to get the EG. Thankfully none of that is necessary.

So a year and a half later... finally it's all setup staring back at me for the last 4 days before a chance to hit the trails this morning. Decided to do Ketam Trail with its series of rollers and rock gardens over good ol' speedy BT trail. After all the objective was to test the capability and see if it lives up to all that has been said. Guess more importantly, whether my search in the last 2 years on AM bikes has been on the mark. Really, I just needed to know that this is "The One" as I'm not one that enjoys changing bikes every 6 months.

A shot of the ending rocky section from a previous ride by Pris.

With the exception of the fork, now an 09' 36TALAS, a front TA Hope II hub, a 50mm stem and a CC Double XC Flush headset, everything was simply transferred over from the ML II, including tires. My rant with the ML was that it just wasn't enough bike to be called a Do-It-All rig. Every part that can be strengthened and beefed up had been done in the last year. It only meant 2 things, frame and fork....and thus the EG.

What a day to pick! Sweltering 34 degrees Celcius (or 93 degrees F) halfway into the ride with the usual 100% humidity under the jungle canopy. Totally dry throughout even though I'm writing now with a thunderstorm just brewing outside. Luckily we came back quickly enough. Weird weather these days!

Ok, ride report proper, first off, after adjusting the bar height down by 2 spacers, hitting the gravel straights did not feel much different in terms of body positioning despite the travel now at 160mm up front (vs my usual 120mm on the ML).

In fact it felt faster as the pedaling tempo picks up. To be fair, tire pressure is slightly higher than my norm and the dryness probably help with the increased speed. At this stage, dwelling on the suspensions is probably moot as they are being run in and the stiction on both front and rear is pretty apparent. Getting the front to sag 27-30% without wallowing and fork dive proves to be elusive for now. Hence things are a little stiffer than what they should be.

Next came the climbing test, but first, entry into the trail head was via the double black diamond rocky crop. Previously on the Motolite it was always a gingerly affair, more of the slow, steady xc-ish approach. The EG simply bomb down and ate it all up (after I checked and made sure the rebound on the fork was fast enough not to be packed down at the last drop off).

Lacking ride pics but with the burning heat and humidity, all we could do was focus on the riding.

As usual, right after the rocks, straight from trail-head are the tight switch back climbs. At full travel, no problem whatsoever. The shorter 50mm stem now and better tracking from the stiff TA fork definitely helped. Even with a longer wheelbase than my ML, the EG turning is really responsive. And the most important thing that I've been looking for--- no lifting twitchy front. Ok. No. 1 point on my list, checked and crossed off.

With the encroaching heat making everyone heady after a few km, it became tempting to switch the travel down on the climb. But giving in to that came only much later. Was determined to test things out. Maybe I was too quick to comment elsewhere the adjustable travel is not needed. Then again maybe its just the weather. The only time the front starts to wander a bit is on steep eroded climbs with jutting square edges. On reflection, I guess it would happen to any bike.

BB height??
Ketam trail has not been known to be nice to bikes sporting low BB; with sections where one has to climb over foot high rocks right at the start. But with the familiarity on this trail and a bit of quarter cranking aided by the King's high engagements, there weren't any significant pedal strikes over what's usually experienced. Overall for a 6 inch travel bike, the BB height on the EG is and "feels" low. However that adds to its stability on the down. It probably contributed to the "beefed-up-xc-on-steroid" feel when I eventually turn the travel down to 130mm.

What about 100mm? Oh that really wasn't necessary even with me brains cooking away and dripping buckets over the top tube on the climbs sucking in more moisture than oxygen beneath the trees.

The roll down on the Double Black at the trailhead was confidence inspiring enough that for the rest that follows there was hardly a flicker of doubt as to what the bike can do when pointed down. Only nagging thought was the fork not having broken in yet. Braking power on the new front 7" rotor was a boost to confidently hit the levers late at the end of descends or turns. Twice it hit a couple of jutting rocks harder than I would have liked and the bike lifted off a little (attributed to sus not properly dialled in) but no problem, wherever i pointed it to land, it was spot on and the pedaling starts all over again as my mind meanders towards the next mental waypoint.

Taking a closer look while resting, the pivot placement refinement on a 4-Bar Horst-link seems to have paid off. I'm not terribly good at describing such things in technical terms but as one looks at the way the links move, the movements are not not excessive and I am throwing a lot of comparison with various designs I have seen. Not too sure of the plushness with a seasoned rear shock at this point. It's firm but on descends with a bit of speed over 1-2ft bumps, it hasn't thrown me off the saddle either. Seems like Titus sticking to a true and tried design is not a bad thing after all. The only thing I found better on the new and much touted DW design was taking the abrupt jolt out of square bumps. But being more of a type that relies on momentum and consistently shifting the body weight around all these years, the 4 bar Horst design has never been a problem for me. Just have to remember how a bike was ridden in the old hard tail way as I still do on my SS. 100% reliance on suspension to keep butt glued to the seat is simply a lazy way to ride imo.

The firm feel of the overall design with the rear RP23 is still my preferred choice on local trails. A DHX might be in store if I do decide to change the feel of things a bit or head north to our neighbour's for the bigger stuffs in Penang and KL.


If there is anything, I would say the need to use a down-swing front dee. Never liked it as the shifting needs to be done under load for it to be precise.

Estimated weight puts the current EG built at 15.8kg today, that's ~35lb for the "metric"-challenged. This, compared to the small ML that weighed in at a hefty 14.68kg (32.2 lb).

Few other points to note. The cable stops and routings are really a nice touch on the EG. On a bare frame the stops on the headtube look a little out of place. But once everything is on, one starts to appreciate the fact that the cables aren't going to be flopping around the sides of the headtube. (I ran things slightly different with full cable housing though out, so the portion that goes through the shock is a little different than recommended)

Oh..just have to say this, the top tube is just uber sexy

One and only action shot as we finished off and headed for lunch.
Crappy bunny, not enuf tuck on equally crappy flats. Those pedals done their time, definitely needs to be changed. Anyway it seems now that clipless will be history for me.

Some Other Pics from today.
Pre-Ride: Pressure check, Equipment check

Group pic on the way back... as usual at the insistence of Orange Cam Whore :)

Bikes taking a well deserved break after being ridden hard.....

Let's Rock Da Boat........Owner of proud EG still too hyper to call it a day

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