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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Long travel XC-- The Test

Continuing from before, took the bike out at 5am this morning to test out if things will work to mimic XC handling with long travel and slacker angles than those usually associated with typical "XC" setup.

100mm 6 degree stem flipped down still felt a little short but manageable esp after some field tweaking after the first lap. Apart from that, rear traction suffered due to my cheapness on insisting to use an old tire (Fat Albert 2.35) that's probably overly hardened from the elements from 2 years of on/off usage as a front rubber. Promise I'll kill it and change to the new 2.55 WeirWolf LT Race by the next ride.

Bike setup Notes:
100mm 6 degree stem (flipped down) matched to Nitto Torsion Bar on a 16" Ragley Blue Pig
Suspension: PIKE 454 sagged 40-42mm ( 28-30%) 
Tire Presssre : Front, 2.4 MutanoRaptor @ 19ish psi and Rear 2.35 Fat Albert @ 20.5ish psi
Geared up Riding Weight: ~75kg
Tire height deflection @above weight and pressure, probably ~20% deflection against unweighted bike. Not too concerned, so long as its not puncture prone.

Today's riding condition: Wet and gritty interspersed with smelly grey muddy gooey patches. Challenge for traction on the usual rocky climbs that gets slicker when wet.
Fork broken in previously, so stanchion stiction won't be a factor for those sudden weight shift over slow turnings on the climb. Something I find especially acute in a make-or-break it section as front travel gets longer and bar height of bikes increases.

Key to the whole XC-able setup lies with the the right bar & stem as I have earlier suspected. From last week initial doodling with a 70mm Raceface Diablo which made the front felt way too short, the current 100mm still felt inadequate and I kept thinking "what if the stem is now at 110, no, better yet, 120mm..."

When placed horizontal to the ground with the full 15 degrees backsweep as favored by many during singlespeeding, the chromo Torsion Bar felt short (and it is short by today's standard at 666mm). Weird too, as almost the whole front wheel kept looking back at me when me nose start pushing forward on the climbs.

Tilted the bar up before the 2nd lap which lessen the sweep and made the stem felt a little longer. Ergonomics were also improved and the "scoop" allowed for the front end to be pulled up more easily over logs but not to the point of making the front end twitchy.

(Note: Just measured the thing and 15 degrees sweep effectively negate about 55mm off the length of the stem. Therefore if stem is 120mm, effectively that will be roughly equivalent to the upper recommended stem length of 70mm that's meant for this frame. Which is in line with what I felt when using a normal riser previously with the 70mm Diablo. Have a hunch that when it was designed around 50-70mm, the bar length in mind was probably around 700mm. Therefore the whole flat bar big sweep and long reversed stem setup really only does one significant thing: KEEPING THE FRONT END LOW  ).

End of ride, all hosed down and ready for chow time.

The Ride & Handling
Not being lazy and moving the body more fluidly helps with the steering. Getting a set of good tires would be crucial on days like this. something that will give the confidence to rail without fear of the side knobs breaking before they should in a turn.

Ease of climbing without being conscious of a high front that needs an excessive conscious effort to shift the weight up front too much (Yes, the steep seat tube angle of this frame really does help a lot).

Typical fast turns on the down is a bit retarded as to be expected with longer stem and a relatively short short bar used here but nothing too scary. Again moving the body along helps greatly as compared to sitting one's ass squarely on the saddle on everything

Verdict: Definitely do-able as an "XC" even with a heavy setup like this (~14+ kg??)
Some fine tuning and having a lighter kit will probably help but for weekend "AM" warriors looking to get their occasional XC fix. But for non weenie like me, its good enough.

Slap a change back to a low riser with a 50-70mm stem--the bike changes back instantly to as "AM hardtail" as an "AM hardtail" can get!

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