Tag Archives: what mountain bike

Buying a new bike… 29er vs 26er

Buying a new bike… 29er vs 26er

When my On One 456 was nicked I had every intention of replacing it with a carbon version of the same bike. I don’t like to sound like a sales rep for On One but I just think they make great bikes and they don’t take the piss with their prices, I mean why would you pay more than £200 quid for a few steel pipes welded together? I had my heart set on the SRAM X9 456 build for £1299, unfortunately there’s been some delays in getting the money together and the price has now gone up to £1499, still great value but at this price point there are other options that present themselves. One is a new carbon 29er called the Lurcher that is arriving in the UK in March, it’s been in the pipe line for nearly 2 years. The 29er is the new standard that everyone is talking about, the fact is that big wheels roll over big rocks more easily and now that designers have got a handle on the geometry needed to solve the handling issues of early incarnations of big wheelers, there’s no reason not to give them a try.

Having owned a 26er and loved it, it’s very tempting to stick with what you know, that said I know that I ended up going over the handlebars of that bike a number of times. Most of these instance I put down to bad positioning on the bike, but there were several times where I felt that being flung over the front was a harsh punishment for a minor error. The more I think about the times I’ve scrubbed off speed on the approached to a steep section or step and not had the momentum to roll over the first root, rock or rut that’s met my front wheel, bringing the bike to a sudden halt and sending me over the bars, the more I think that the 29er is the solution.

I went to One One’s showroom at the weekend and although the staff were very helpful it didn’t really make the decision any easier. The carbon 456s are very pretty and chucking my leg over a 20 inch frame felt like home but I also got to see the Lurcher. I had thought I’d need a 19.5″ in the 29er but the cockpit of the 18″ prototype felt very roomy even with a short stem and is probably the size for me. I’d be happy with either bike, the 150mm travel of the 456 is great but you don’t need as much with the  a 29er, making the fork cheaper or a lighter, higher spec fork the same price. It’s a tough one but the Lurcher has it by a nose at the moment, it’s not landing until the 2oth March so plenty of time change my mind.

[slideshow]Here’s a list of 29er problems that I believe have been solved.

Handling – Big wheels may be stable but they’re not as manoeuvrable as 26″ wheels

I think this has been solved with the geometry of the new breed of 29ers, I needed an 80mm stem on my 26er, the longer the stem the less responsive the steering, but 80mm was necessary to fit a 6ft 2in bloke on to a 20 inch frame. The 18″ Lurcher had a longer cockpit, and a shorter stem (about 40mm),  shorter stem means more responsive handling, my theory is that these differences in layout should negate any differences in handling between the two bikes.

Parts and Spares – 29ers are not as common and replacing parts is a problem and there is not the choice.

The 29er standard is being embraced by all the major manufacturers and with Fox and Rock Shox expanding their range of 29er forks in 2012 this problem is of the past.

For big guys only – 29ers are only good for bigger riders

You may have a point, I read that really big guys (25 stone +) should stick with 26″ wheels, but shorter riders may not experience the benefits of big wheels in the same way as us six footers. Would you want a 16″ frame with 29″ wheels?

Wheel Strength – Bigger wheels have more flex in them, don’t track as well and are weaker than 26 inch wheels.

I understand that the shop return rates for both standards are about the same, you could argue that there are less 29ers out there so if the return rates are the same then that suggests 29er wheels are weaker. That said I’ve bent in half a 26 inch wheel, mainly due to being fat and clumsy, but if 29er geometry suits a bigger rider it might make wheel bending accidents less likely. With the introduction of the 15 and 20mm front axles last year the issues of tracking for both 26 and 29 inch wheels should be a thing of the past.

No good for Down Hill – You’ll never replace the 26″ standard in this discipline, it’s just the best tool for the job.

Only time will tell, I guess we won’t know until riders start winning events on 29ers.

Having not yet ridden a 29er this is all conjecture and imbibed wisdom, but I thought I would share my decision-making process with you.  I hope to have a 29er in place by the end of March so then I’ll be able to speak from experience.

Getting used to a different bike

Getting used to a different bike

Despite telling myself “that it’s just stuff” I’m still very angry about my bike being nicked. In attempting to rationalise the problem I have tried to see the positive angles. The insurance has covered 95% of the cost of the stolen bike, I’ll be getting the next one through the cycle to work scheme, saving me a few hundred quid, and my boss has kindly lent me his mountain bike.

Up until this point my frame of reference has been a heavy Orange hire bike and a light well specced On One 456, both hard tails. I now have at my disposal a Dawes full suspension bike with a Marcozzi fork and Shimano Deore brakes and chainset. Mountain bikes have come along way in the last six years and it is somewhat of an education to ride a bike from an era when disc brakes weren’t the norm and lighter full suspension bikes were starting to become affordable. It’s first outing (maybe in 6 years) was a loop around Beachy’s house in Diggle, Oldham. First impressions were good, it climbed better than expected and didn’t leave me gasping for breath at the back of the pack. Not being fixed to the pedals felt unnatural down the first rocky track and the rim brakes were no substitute for the Elixir 3 disc brakes on the old 456. The stout, grippy winter tyres impressed as we crossed claggy fields and descended muddy frozen tracks.

My introduction to full suspension left me pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t horrible up hill, it felt competent on the descents, wider bars and better brakes would help but all in all not bad for an 6 year old, entry level rig. The real silver lining is the exposure to a different bike. It made me appreciate the lightness and superior components of the 456, but also left me aware of areas like ride quality and tyres where the old bike could have been better.

Shopping, making decisions and spending money.

Shopping, making decisions and spending money.

I didn’t know that mountain bikes are really expensive, this came as a bit of a surprise. Even a cheap bike that will cope with moderate abuse will cost you around £500 and will probably start dropping to bits shortly after being introduced to the more technical descents that the Peak District has to offer. I’m not very good at spending money or making decisions so I went to the pub with Mat and Gareth who were only too happy to give me suggestions as to where to spend my money and on what.

The budget was £1000ish which sounds like plenty to get a decent bike, and it is depending on the bike you’re after. My initial instinct was to get a full suspension rig because that’s what most of the guys I’d been riding with had, but a grand only gets you about half a good full sus frame. Not half a bike, half a bike frame. I didn’t really want to blow my budget on a heavy, budget full sus with low spec parts and the advice I was given by seasoned veterans was this:

“Don’t buy a full sus as your first bike, it makes it too easy. Buy a hardtail with a good, long fork and you can tackle the same terrain, you just have to be a better rider. This means you’ll get better at riding or break something trying.”

So buying a full suss straight off is like Mr Miyagi giving the Karate Kid a paint sprayer to do the fence. The first bonus of this reasoning is that a hardtail bike frame can be bought for as little as £170. This leaves more money to spend increasing the spec and decreasing the weight of all the other parts. The second is that I feel better about getting the bike I need rather than feeling disappointed that I couldn’t afford the bike I wanted.

Matt gave me a pile of What Mountain Bike magazines and started emailing me potential contenders. After much deliberation and research I was swayed but the astounding value of the On One 456 steel frame at £170. I briefly considered building it up myself but the 456 SLX package that On One offered had such at great spec (full Shimano SLX chainset, Elixir 3 brakes and 2011 Rock Shox Revelation RLT Ti fork for just shy of £1200) that it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I’ll build the next one.

I ordered the bike early April and it finally arrived early May. Unfortunately it arrived just too late for me to join in with the The Beast cable cam stunt, this descent lies between Hope Cross and the Lady Bower reservoir.

A bike centric diary about life…

A bike centric diary about life…

It’s the last day of 2011 and this is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Whether it’s because life has become more interesting or just that I want to forget less or perhaps remember more, whatever the reason, this feels like a good thing to do.

My obsession in life has been skiing, I don’t really remember that first trip to Italy with my parents and sisters in the early 1980s but I am told that the itinerary was left on the kitchen table so the first night we didn’t stay in our booked hotel as my parents couldn’t remember the name of it. My father remembered its name the next morning when he looked out of the window and saw it printed on the building on the opposite side of the road. Things went down hill from there, with almost no skiing, lost comfort blankets (gollies), family wide illness and a bout of athletes foot that almost went gangrenous.

So why the obsession? At 6 I went with my father, uncle and cousins to Italy again and this has formed some of my earliest and happiest childhood memories, I’m told that after a couple of tantrums I took to it fairly quickly and was racing my Dad down the nursery slopes by day two. Other memories include my first big crash and humming the theme tune to Airwolf as I snowplowed with great speed and precision down the pistes. I can think of few another events from my past that I remember the details of so crisply.

After a change in fortunes that prohibited expensive skiing holidays I skiied once more at 13 with the school and then not again until 18 when I mentioned to my father how much I would love to do it again and he organised a boys skiing trip for the two of us. This trip became a regular feature of our calendar for the next 10 years. At 28 I went on a trip to Zermatt with some University friends and got chatting to a bloke in a bar who had seen a group of trainee ski instructors snaking down the mountain, each on only one ski. The thought that you coud train to become a ski instructor had literally never occurred to me, thinking back, the ski instructor gap year course may have been a relatively new beast.

So I signed up for a course in Meribel the next winter, just passed, did some teaching for Interski in Italy before returning to the UK. The skiing bug was sated for a few years but it was not long before I got the urge again. Fortunately an understanding boss and a very understanding and supportive wife let me swan off to Verbier, Switzerland for 5 months to teach and train. The plan was to take the ISIA qualification but cost prevented me tackling this final hurdle.

The part of the season I enjoyed the most was a 10 day mountain safety course ISIA module. This involved mostly off piste ski touring which is a mixture of cross country and downhill skiing. The obvious advantages to this form of skiing are escaping the crowded pistes and the challenge and peace of skiing in the wilderness. The less obvious and in many ways more rewarding benefit is climbing up what you ski down also known as the opportunity to “earn your turns”. The bottom line is the it’s the adventure that commercial skiing isn’t. I guess I just got rather disenchanted with the snowsports industry.

I didn’t even realise that I missed  plummeting down a slope under my own steam until Beachy’s birthday bash in March 2011 at the Llandegla trail centre. My introduction to mountain biking had been at Llandegla for Beachy’s stag do in 2009, but a year and a half later and unwittingly suffering from adrenaline withdrawal I was ready to be bitten by a new hobby. I rented an Orange hardtail, not sure what model but it could have been called The Lead Pig,  I was also very unfit.

That weekend in March just about finished me physically but I was hooked and it was time to buy a bike and make use of the peak district which just happens to be on my doorstep.