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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Golem Minor part II: The Ride

The last post rambled on how things got to where they are. Reckon it's better to cut up the pieces and focus on the actual ride here...

Day 1:
The "26+" didn't really look that big from a casual glance. Then again,  3.0" on 50mm Rabbit holes looked kinda normal from far as well.

Busted pressure gauge meant relying on  fingers-0-meter and the dodgy gauge on the air pump...  Started out at an estimated ~10-12 psi on the trail.

Not wanting to to risk a flat, had them raised to ~15-16ish psi (I think). Moreover at the earlier  pressure there were a number of tire roll and rim strikes on short test runs and popping around.

Eyeballed a 15-20% deflection over the rear rubber, that would give close to a 3.0" contact footprint with the ground.

Moment of truth.. Stud or a dud after a fortnight of cobbling?

Gunning what's left of "gnarly" and flow impeding sections that  local "flowsters" have not managed to hack/chop/mutilate or move around in their rock chess sessions, it was point and shoot time at speed over oblique finger roots spaced just sufficiently apart by Ma Nature to endo the unwary.

The biggest difference for me between regular mtb and fatties is the slow speed balance/stability. The slo-mo-lean-that-turns-into-a-foot-down moment on a regular bike that can be easily saved on a wider patch of rubber with low pressure. Of course those crucial  half second track-stands clawing over a techie rock/ square edge filled slope is a lot easier on a fatter tire.

The last few years of riding true to size 2.35" - 2.5" rubbers was a boatload of improvement over days of 2.1" but 4-5" of obese rubber simply blows all that away.Yet vision blotting 5" rubbers aren't without their cons...

On the subject of air volume, width is the first thing that comes to mind, but that's rather incomplete. A significant volume is increased with every millimeter that can be tucked between rim and tire. Going for that extra pneumatic cushioning? I'll wager all my spare change into the height factor. It's not just the 4.8" rubbers on a 100mm rim that makes things awesome but how those rubbers blow a 26" rim into a 29ish profile is where fat-natics derive their pleasures of regressing into that Zensation of Being One floating amniotic mass...

Looking down, I kept wondering if cramming in a 2.75" Wizard is possible. Things would be perfect with an additional ~15-20% increase in volume. Based on the rule of thumb that vol. increase is proportional to the cross sectional area of tires, the 2.75" would  actually give ~27.5% increase! and in fact, quite likely a little more vol. since the "base" is a 48mm rm and not exactly rounded.

As measured.. right now with the Ibex 2.4" which is ~62mm at the widest and the Wizards should come in at about 70. Assuming cross section is roughly round

The percentage is calculated as:  [((70.0/2)^2 x 3.142)-((62/2)^2 x 3.142))]/((62/2)^2 x 3.142))

Given the description that it is a tire that would give a 26" the size of a 27.5"-- that would mean much of it comes from an increased buffering of air between the rubber to the rim itself. 

The mods were never about going faster but was I ever wrong as the rig start tearing the trail new ones at different turns... took a lot of slightly different alternative lines in the usual tight twisty trail.  Hard to describe but in my vocabulary challenged typing state now.. let's just say this chimera feels snappy and "sticky" , achieving that desired ease flying over chatters in full control  without feeling much of the terrain beneath at the same time

It translated into more than just extra comfort over rough. Behaving like a lusty banshee scrambling down in heat at the waft of some young innocent male.... And victims it did find, in the form of unsuspecting hikers that managed to jump out of harm's way in the nick of time. Sadly, like most of the riding locally, there's never enough descent to fully unleash a caged beast that's waiting , waiti... ....

Big tires and suspension takes away all the fun of what a hard tail or rigid will dish out? I beg to differ. Different bikes ride differently and in this case it allows riding faster and pushing harder, taking lines that would not normally be considered on a hardtail or short travel rig. Or at least by half baked riders like myself save for those accidental miscues..

Certainly even if intentionally riding over the same lines... those bikes would hardly ever be able to perform on the same scale as I did today, thus minus that thrill factor. Yes there are days I relish the sensation of a hardtail soaking up each bump in the terrain, forcing me to remember "how to ride" and uncap handling skills that may be long forgotten otherwise....   Very much opposed to having that fast nippy arcade sensation that is really more about an adrenaline rush on bigger bikes...

Initially suspected the burgeoning girth might put a wedge to the speed, instead, by taking out most of the trail chatters in combination with the suspensions, it allows for more non stop pedaling over sections where I usually coast. The prototype Xfusion STAGE shock has totally broken in by now. Works in perfect sync. with the rest of the bike and the wheel set. Pedal strike was not much concern even when cranking over most of the roots and rocks. 3 clicks to slow down the rebound was all that's needed to dial the front end. 

Increased momentum from the additional rotational weight  was a boon rather than curse. Since I've been on a Moonlander and gotten so used to it, the start up now feels natural (for someone coming from normal lighter bikes, that might be a point to really bitch about). In any case the old setup was a little too light to my liking. Total weight ranged between 12.2 to 12.9kg depending on parts put on.  Now its about 300gm of additional rotational weight on each wheel.

For whatever extra effort it takes to crank across rolling sections, it compensates by rolling a lot easier with less resistance and more momentum, just like my fatbikes but with the additional comfort of the suspensions. While having no way of quantifying  I attribute the reduced fatigue experienced on fatter wheels boils down very much to having expend a lot less energy balancing a bike as compared to normal or thinner wheels. Again just like on fat bikes. Its things we do so naturally on a bike that we do not even realize but the accumulated effort shows itself over an extended period as the muscles get tired eventually.

Pump the bike with the correct timing and it's faster than actually pedaling at times. Anyway this is another biking skill I am  still working on to improve.

Overall , it reminded me very much of the Moonlander.. Once spinned up, just keep gunning. Don't Stop. Let Rip ROll and MOW!

Suits the characteristic of this frame too.. The EG begs to be ridden fast, it just gets better if you aren't the slow chugging spinner. However our narrow winding local trails are really difficult to maintain speed for long with all those natural "speed limiters" of fallen trees, sudden abrupt turns and all thrown in. While it still won't translate to those gonzo warp speed DH sessions but with these "float over whatever may come" wheels .. I can see how some things will change in my rides from now on.

The suspensions soaked up more than what 5" of blubbery but undamped tires can dish out. Without  the spiking trail chatter sending neurons pinging down the lumbar vertebraes... it was just pure buttterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Loose gravel was a no brainer.. Just go ahead stave off the beckoning  of the brake lever and whip the body and let the friction from the widened traction control the speed

Overall it increases the liveliness and fun factor on the bike.

Rolling resistance--- Maybe its the tire but again things ran sort of counter to what I thought. Despite the increased contact patch-- things were definitely easier or rather it just feels a lot less tiring at the end of the day.

It doesn't accelerate as fast as a lighter wheelset but whatever power put in lurch the bike forward with more momentum. I was a lot less beat up even after 7 laps when my usual ride around here is about 3-4.  Is that because of the change in  the roll-in angle now??  Not too familiar on this point, gotta read up a bit more to find out later. These Onza Ibex 2.4 are nice too in that they don't start to push dirt in softer ground.

Synapses are firing overtime wondering about all the new found speed with factors that "logically" says it shouldn't be there. Whatever the reasons and physics behind... obviously I'm not complaining though ;)

Well, being alone today and speedometer-less as usual, there could be some bias on my part. Let's wait to hit the trails again with the guys and see if there really is a difference to all that speed sensation.

Over the course of 7 laps, two different bar setups were used..  wasn't till back at home that a final change seemed to be "the destined one"on this build. Much as the 710mm Fun Fat Boy mid riser gave some good control but really 710 these days is just a tad short. With the change in riding and lots more off the saddle powering down on pedals.. the 720mm  15 deg backsweep flat SOMA Odin didn't cut it either... and moreover  twas a little too low. So it was back to a bar that hasn't been dusted in a while, the 760mm Reverse XXL with a little lesser rise. Well I'm seldom wrong when simply sitting down and a setup already gets me into that in-the-bike sensation ... but let's see.

Day 2: Front tire pressure was off, probably some slow leak over the week  but it held about~ 8-10 psi. Anyway the last ride seems alright so I thought to just give it a go and see where the limits are.

Gunned everything, trashed every inch as fast as I can ride the bike.. AND right on the last descend ... Pssst.

Putting the bike through a stress test the whole time and that last rocky section that did the front in was considerably faster and harder. Came down with a flat and my 0.1 ton friend broke his chain trying to chase me thru that corner....

Thinking back, I was hitting a fair bit harder than the week before even though today's ride was short. Based on all that had transpired on the trail, safe pressure for my riding weight @ 72kg.. the previous week's range of 14-16 psi seems right on the mark with the kind of plush floating comfort factor. Any lesser would have increased the comfy factor without sacrificing much speed but given that there's gonna be a lot of small drops and "unnecessary" bunny hops whenever I can find space to pop... too low a pressure didn't sound like a good idea.

Day 3: By now I have no reasons to doubt how the bike will perform rounding down the packed winding berms scattered all over BT.  But will see how well it goes with the whole roller coaster terrain including more ups now. Couple of sections in the past has proven to be a bit of a challenge on my antiquated 1x9 on this bike. I'm still on 30 x 11-34. No granny to bail.

It was easier than the previous wheelset running Halo Freedom with 2.4 Ardents @ 21/25 psi.. as every inch gained full traction now @ ~17psi. Only tweak after today was to move the saddle up half an inch... I really wish the EG has a couple more degrees to its STA which is about  the only "outdated" geo no. that matters on this frame.

Up till this point, like my fatbikes, there is a tendency to "understeer" or self-steer, attributed to wider footprints but not as noticeable. Its one of those things I do not like on fat bikes but guess its hard to avoid everything negative and only want to pile on the good ones.

Ok time to employ some good riding techniques.. another skill yet to be enforced till it becomes second nature. Kneeing in to the frame at speed turns.. Once I got mentally adjusted, that really change the nimbleness and responsiveness. Ok more practice and practice till it becomes ingrained as my next level of riding habits... No, not trying to follow all those videos out there, it's just something that really works. But today I really felt One-With-The-Bike.

All in, I'm trying to do a lot of things in these last few sessions and ride a little differently than usual. When the pressure is right, it behaves a lot like a fat bike on the trail. Leveraging on the additional traction now to rail while easier to stay off the brakes due to the extra stability. Its feels odd but it works and that is all I can say.

This pic kinda sums up what I feel so far... ;)

A second pair of semi wide rims, maybe this time the Velocity Dually might be next on the other bike. ... but let's see if the novelty wears off or is this 26+ really an improvement. All I know now is that for now  it's just too much fun to go back to regular hoops on the usual weekend rides.

Now that everything is more or less in place.. I'll let the fat cat out as to the real reasons with all these changes. Obviously to stand out and ride something a little different from everyone else cannot be denied. After all fatbikes is so mainstream these days eh...need a little diversion to distract myself and stay on the Path-of-All-Things-Cycling :)

I love the fat rubber sensation but not some of its steering characteristics that arise from being that big at the same time. Namely the understeer and how they always want to shoot off a berm instead of railing it at speed.

Looking for agility with additional comfort factor was certainly an important part of the equation. My regular beefy AM/ Enduro or whatever oxymoronic terms a bike is given these days is still the usual go-to choice many a time, so it makes sense to franken up these rigs rather than the other bikes.

That led me to think "Can I whip up something that contains the best of both worlds?"

The simple answer now of course is yes. Can and done.

Next... While all the gravity oriented vacations has been fun so far ter it's been really tempting looking through the more epic sight-seeing type of cycling holidays some of my friends have been doing. Those that require more pedaling but are also rewarded with breath taking views during descents. While most of the downs are generous swathes of singletracks, I'm pretty sure there are can also be places where one can ride up but go back down in gnarlier stuff that is more to my liking.

The problem with trying to ride all of these in one go is having to compromise on the bike to bring. For the pedaling, my usual setups are no fun over 4-5K ft of climbs. But noodly xc and puny stanchion builds for the sake of pedaling and climbs would likewise not cut it in the adrenaline rush descents I'm seeking. Something else is needed...

While I have not been convinced by all the goo goo ga ga marketing of 650B/ 27.5 but given the frivolous nature of how people change out bikes.. if some 27.5 frame should come my way cheap enough... it would be interesting to jam these 26+ on. Im still hedging a bet it will go faster and nicer than actual 27.5 hoops given that they will reach the actual diameter of those touted 'tweeners with the right tires but cush along on a bigger air padding.

Last but not least-- the Salsa Bucksaw has really gotten my attention. Just not sure how much I'll be suckered into ordering one of those expensive balloon boinks... so all the experimenting here hopefully can serve to extrapolate and let me mull on whether that or better yet, an even beefier version of a fat-sus will be my next DO-It-All... I'll let it simmer till things in this genre has matured a little more.

Right now there are a few points that's nagging in my bike filled skull that doesn't feel right but reckon I'll keep it to myself for now and not dampen the mood. I know a lot of people out there are really excited with these new soon to be delivered Buckies.

Ok the real test is gonna come in the form of the 8hr race on 17th Aug.

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