Catchup Post

This weekend, I went to the Brown County Breakdown for the most amazingly epic Midwest mountain biking of my life.  I’ll have pictures and details to come, but for now, you’ll have to trust me when I say that I was covered with mud from head to toe.  COVERED.  It was less of a race, and more of a epic endurance ride…a question of how much suffering you were willing to endure.  It was fantastic, in the way that only amazing challenges can be.  I’ve been meaning to write a few posts of late, and haven’t gotten to them.  So this is a catchup post.  Here’s the deets:

1.  Gore Singlet

I’ve written about the windstopper Gore Singlet before.  I also wrote about them here.  It’s fall, going into winter, and you need to be prepared for cold.  The Windstopper singlet is one of my very favorite Gore pieces.  I wore it on Sunday, in the pouring rain, when the temps were right at that “freeze on the descents and burn up on the climbs” temperature.  It was perfect, amazing, and awesome.  It’s just a perfect piece of kit…and it enhances any jersey or jacket you wear it under.  If you’re looking to manage cold and moisture, improve your existing kit, and get into Gore inexpensively, this is a fantastic place to start.

It helped keep me dry, wicking away moisture.  It helped keep me warm when on a descent, by blocking wind if my jacket was open, and it helped keep me cool by letting the air cool (but not penetrate through to) my chest if I was hot and opened my jacket.  It seriously is one of the very best pieces of kit I have, and carries my highest, unconditional recommendation.

2.  Gore Oxygen Jacket.

I previously wrote about the Gore Oxygen jacket here, and then again wrote about it here, after a rainy ride in Solvang, CA.  You may notice that I tend to write about things more than once, if I truly love them.  The Oxygen falls into that category.  It’s cut slender, for road riding.

On Sunday, I busted it out for a day-long downpour slog through mud.  Since I was wearing a hydration pack, I wanted a slender jacket to wear underneath, so it wouldn’t bunch up.  While the Oxygen jacket is perhaps not intended for mountain use, I popped it on.  It was PERFECT.  Let me say that I started with a jersey and my windstopper singlet, and after the rain started (and I was a bit wet), I put on the Oxygen.  It managed my moisture all day, to perfection.

The long tail (shown below) kept the slop coming off of my rear tire from reaching me, or reaching my jersey.

The waterproof zipper provided warmth when I sealed it up to my chin, or allowed airflow when I was overheating on climbs.

And then there are the zippered cuffs, shown here.

There are some things you don’t appreciate until you see their true genius.  I’ve always viewed the zippered cuffs as a bonus, but didn’t truly appreciate them until Sunday.  The zipper is at the perfect angle on your arms that you can ride a bike with the cuffs unzipped, and still shed rainwater.  The zipper is on the bottom of your arm when you’re riding.  So when I was hot, I could unzip the cuffs and get good, cooling airflow up my arms and into my jacket without letting water come in.  When I was cold, I could zip them up and they would snugly seal against my gloves, keeping cold and water out.  The placement of the cuff zips on the arms is perfect.  Riding in those conditions made me realize that this great piece of kit is even better than I had thought.  It’s a great jacket…and an investment.  I rode until it was COVERED in mud…hosed it off, threw it in the washer, and it came out looking like new.  Plus, it has Gore’s lifetime warranty.  Another fantastic piece of kit.

3.  Salsa Spearfish

Just wanted to drop a note that the Spearfish performed amazingly well at BroCo.  There is not a single other bike that I’d rather have been riding.  It was fantastic.

4.  The End of the Road

This past weekend marked the end of Wednesday Night Road Rides at North Central Cyclery.  With the changing weather and early nightfall, we’re switching to gravel rides that depart at 7:30pm.  I’m excited to go back to gravel, but surprisingly, will miss the road.

We had a new format this year, which I’ve previously written about.  It involved neutral sections and ‘open sprint’ sections, instead of previous years’ format of pacelining.  This year involved a lot more strategy, and a lot more suffering.  At the start of the summer, I was getting dropped on every sprint, and was hating the rides.  I had a long talk with BPaul and contemplated dropping the Wednesday night rides.  He convinced me to persevere, and I listened to him.  By mid-summer, I was doing much better.  By the end of summer, I was having fun.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m not the strongest by a long-shot…but I came to enjoy the strategy and tactics that were needed to hang with the group.  Seeing those tactics play out, learning when to attack and when to let go, determining when to grab a wheel and when to play out some rope–those were fantastic lessons.  I’m a better rider because of this summer.  I’m faster, stronger, and more tactically astute and aware.  The new format, which we owe to Lenny, reinvigorated the rides.  It was a blast, and kept me coming back.  As we turn to fall, I look forward to spending more time with the Moots, but I’ll miss the hypoxic rush of Wednesday Night Worlds.

5.  Salsa Warbird Ti.

I’ve had these pics since the Salsa Demo Days…here’s the stock spec on this year’s Warbird Ti.  Carbon seatpost, Belgium HED wheels, my favorite bar tape, and awesome components.  I particularly like the black shift cable/red brake cable combo.  It’s a fantastic bike, and I just want to look at it for a little bit.  (Of note, I love the Ti finish on Salsa’s bikes for the past two years.  While I love my Ti Vaya, the new finish is amazing in person, and amazing in pics).

That’s all for today.  Happy riding!

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2014 Salsa Spearfish Review

Let’s be clear: I love Spearfish.  I am not an unbiased observer.  I spent the better part of a week on them in Sedona last year, and followed that up with the build of my very own Spearfish 1, which has become the Superfish.  It’s a bad, bad, bad machine.  My love of my Spearfish lead me to look at the new Spearfish closely.  According to Salsa, the new Spearfish sports slacker geometry up front, and shorter chainstays.  A note on those two changes:

When you start riding bikes with short chainstays, you start wishing that every bike you owned had short chainstays.  The difference in power transfer and handling with short chainstays is amazing.  Amazing.  On a mountain bike, the ability to weight the rear tire and unweight the front tire is critical to happy handling on hard trails.  So as I look at things to change about my Spearfish, the longer chainstays that make for an excellent and stable XC bike and super-climber are something that I’d love to change, just a bit.  The idea of shorter chainstays on the new Spearfish strikes me as a move in the right direction.

And then the front geometry…my Spearfish has race-fast steering up front.  That’s great in a lot of conditions, but on downhills, it’s a bit intense.  I went to a 110mm fork up front to slacken things out a bit, and have enjoyed that.  But on the new stock build, it’s already set up to be a bit slacker.  That sounds great.

I had a chance to see the beautiful, annodized blue XX1 build.

If you missed it, the new build weighs in at 23.6 pounds, stock, tubeless.

For serious.

It sports the Split Pivot suspension that I recently detailed here.

Also, note the Stan’s Crest tubeless-ready XC wheelset and Schwalbe tires.

XX1

34T for your XC needs.

I don’t think a 38T would fit…

Fox CTD with boost valve.

Fox Kashima CTD Fork.

Really nice Salsa carbon flat bars and Thomson stem and seatpost.

As I said in the Horsethief review, it’s nice to see a build that comes stock with the parts you’d want…instead of getting the bike and throwing on a new wheelset, stem and seatpost, the Spearfish comes with the blingy parts you want.  (I still wouldn’t mind an ENVE edition though…in black.)

Also as I said in the Horsethief review, that bike works so well that it might start infringing on Spearfish territory.  A stock Horsethief now weighs what my ‘last gen’ Spearfish weighed stock.  This stock XX1 Spearfish weighs what my heavily-modified Spearfish 1 weighs…in the 23 pound range.

I continue to think that the very best argument against hardtail mountain bikes is the Spearfish.  I cannot think of a single circumstance where I would prefer to have a hardtail 29er.  Particularly with a CTD shock, where you can go into climb mode and essentially lock out the suspension, there is simply no drawback.  (And the only time I’d lock out the suspension is for seriously flat riding, like Night Bison.  There is no need to lock it out for climbing).  The suspension is active anytime you need it, and completely unobtrusive for the balance of the time.  No pedal bob, no brake jack.  Comparing the Split Pivot to the ‘old’ Spearfish, I think the Split Pivot is better at isolating braking action.  I don’t have any complaints about the ‘old design’ for pedaling efficiency, but the Split Pivot might be a smidge better at small bump compliance and remaining active under power.

The shorter chainstays are awesome.  I do really envy those–they are noticeable and wonderful.  Likewise, the slacker front end is confidence inspiring when things point down, without an untoward effect on race handling.  Coupled with the wide bars and slack chainstays, I would venture to say that the new Spearfish is more playful and more aggressive than the previous generation.

The component spec is impeccable.  Any regular reader knows my love of XX1, and the brakes functioned perfectly.  A well-build set of Crest-based wheels will weigh about the same as a set of ENVEs (though the ENVEs are stronger, more aero (yes, I said it), and prettier).

I’ll go back to a point I made earlier: the Spearfish obviates the appeal of hardtails.  Anything a hardtail can do, it can do better.  And when you ride the Split Pivot Spearfish, you’ll have a hard time believing it only has 80mm of travel in the rear…it feels like 100+.  Seriously…what is the advantage of a hardtail?  Cheaper, sure.  Maintenance?  Not really…I’m well over a year into my Spearfish, and I don’t lose weekend time on rear end maintenance.  Lighter?  I’m all about lightness, but unless the path is completely smooth, I’d give up a couple of pounds for the rear suspension’s ride any day.  It allows you to stay in the saddle, putting down power as you hit rocks, roots and rough spots, instead of having to stand and absorb with your legs.  It allows for more speed and greater efficiency.  It’s a win-win.  I wouldn’t say that of all full-suspension bikes…but the Spearfish is just so good…

If I had to pick between the new Spearfish and new Horsethief, I’d probably ultimately go Spearfish, because the new geometry is great, and because 100/80mm of travel front and rear is all I need to conquer midwest singletrack…and also because I’m a big fan of going lightweight, and did I mention it only weighs 23.6 pounds, bone stock?  In the ‘punching above your weight’ class, if I had to pick between a Spearfish and a carbon Superfly, at this point, I’d have to give it to the Spearfish.  It’s a fantastic bike.

2014 Salsa Horsethief First Ride Review

Yet another review coming out of the Salsa Demo Days at North Central Cyclery.

Here she is…

This is the 2014 Salsa Horsethief, shown in Horsethief 1 livery.  Essentially, that means that it has the ‘new for 2014′ X01 SRAM 11 speed drivetrain.  All of the functionality of the XX1, significantly less cost, a little more weight.  Aluminum cranks in lieu of carbon, for example.

A fully built Horsethief comes in around mid 26 pounds….lighter if you go tubeless.  That puts you in a full suspension, 130/120mm front/rear travel 29er.  I’m not sure how they’re getting the bikes that light…that’s around what my 2013 Spearfish 1 weighed, stock out of the box.  This bike has 30mm more front travel and 40mm more rear travel.  Insanity.

I wrote about the new Split Pivot suspension a couple of days ago.  It’s amazing.  Let’s get down to Horsethief.

X01 Drivetrain, 32T Chainring and 10-42 Cassette.

Note that sweet, ‘in the chainstay’ internal cable routing in the rear.

Split Pivot top linkage:

As you can see, this demo bike was ridden hard and put away wet.  There was not even a scintilla of play in the rear suspension.  She was as tight as a drum.

Fox CTD with Boost Valve:

The controls on the shock were incredibly responsive.  In particular, adjusting the rebound speed had a huge impact on the bike’s personality.  I was setting it up for pretty fast rebound, and was amazed by how compliant/reactive/quick the suspension was.

I also loved the clever top linkage connection to the shock.

Remember when bikes came with crappy OEM wheels and you had to upgrade right outta the box?  Not so much, anymore.  Tubeless-friendly Stans Arches.

And yes, those are Schwalbe Nobby Nics.  Amazingly great tire spec for a stock build.

Fox Fork with color-matched graphic:

CTD controls on the Fork, to compliment the Shock.  Thru-axles front and rear.  Also, note the blingy Thomson parts, stock.  With past bike purchases, I typically go through the spec and instantly start picking out the upgrades.  New tires, stem/seatpost, saddle, possibly wheels…getting rid of the lowest-bid stuff that bikes come with.  Not so much of an issue here–everything is first rate spec that you’d want to keep and run forever.  Note that the XX1 version is fully-Thomson’ized.

I wanted to spend some quality time on the Horsethief.  I’ve ridden my Superfish a ton, but was not as familiar with the Horsethief, and thus I wanted to really experience it.  To that end, I talked to E-Fred, we picked out an appropriate size, and set it up.  This particular Horsethief had an automatic suspension setup system.  I hopped on to it, and the pressure and sag were automatically adjusted, like magic.  (Ok, perhaps E-Fred brought his full-suspension genius to bear, and perhaps he adjusted the fork and shock to befit my weight and riding style).

Coming to a bike with significantly more suspension travel like the Horsethief was a new experience for me.  When I saw how much sag was in the fork, riding away from the shop, I was ______________.  Confused?  Surprised?  A little worried?  Turns out E-Fred was right-on.

My thoughts on the drivetrain:  from a functionality perspective, it is indistinguishable from XX1.  If I didn’t look down, I wouldn’t know the difference.  I continue to think that 1x is the way to go for mountain bikes, and I think we’re going to continue to see it take over the market, particularly as more ‘entry-level’ options become available to supplement the top of the line XX1.

Wheels and tires: great choices.  The Nobby Nics aren’t exactly fast on hardpack, but they’ve got incredibly great traction in a wide array of conditions.  I’ve ridden them on other bikes, and love them.  The Arch rim selection is also an inspired choice…given the slightly beefier nature of the Horsethief, the Arch makes sense in lieu of the Crest offered on the Spearfish.

Brakes:  Say what you will about Avid brakes…they worked perfectly.  I’ve had them on a handful of bikes, and while I might personally like the handle on XTRs a bit more, I cannot fault the Avids’ function.  The look great, as well.

Parts Spec Generally: As I said, I’m incredibly amazed by how nicely spec’d out the bike is.  It’s not a spattering of nice labels to brag about–every component is something that can fairly be described as “high-end”.  The Thomson seatpost is a particular favorite of mine, and has enough length to accommodate just about any rider.  The stock saddle was also surprisingly comfortable.

I had a blast playing with the suspension on the bike.  Because it’s so comparatively light, it’s easy to move around.  With the available travel (and E-Fred’s great setup), you could preload the suspension and get a ton of hop to clear an obstacle.  In the alternative, you could bomb into an obstacle and let the suspension do all of the work.  Either way, the front and rear suspension were amazingly balanced.

I had thought that the Horsethief would be more like an axe, compared to the razor blade Spearfish I’m used to.  I was wrong.  The Horsethief is an incredibly versatile bike.  When you’re riding XC, it has capabilities you won’t need–that’s true.  But they’re not obtrusive.  Because the Split Pivot works so well, you don’t notice the extra travel bobbing around.  When the path turns gnarly or downhill, the extra capability is immediately perceptible and greatly appreciated.

The risk of Salsa making the Horsethief this good is that it starts eating into the Spearfish’s territory.  If I was buying a mountain bike tomorrow, I’d have a very hard time deciding between the two.  The fantastic thing about this situation, though, is that neither bike is a bad decision.  Two amazing bikes.  (More on the 2014 Spearfish soon).

What would I like to see?  I talked to E-Fred about this a bit…Salsa’s done the limited edition El Mariachi.  What about an ENVE edition Horsethief?  ENVE bars, seatpost, wheels, stem…maybe talk ENVE into doing a custom run of bottle cages…  Salsa showed a pre-production model rocking the ENVE parts, and it was beauteous.  How about a limited-edition, production version?  Sell it tubeless, stock.  Rock the XX1.  Build up the wheels with some DT Swiss hubs and the DT Swiss RWS skewers like the new Beargrease.  And make it annodized in red or black.  Call it the RATG edition.  Tell people it means “Really Awesome Trail-Goer.”  It’ll be our little secret what it really stands for…  Remember how hot this bike was in the promo pics?

Back to reality…I had a chance to ride Trek’s Rumblefish a few months ago, and more or less panned it.  I haven’t had a chance to throw a leg over the Fuel 29ers yet.  The Horsethief lays down the gauntlet.  It is what the Rumblefish should have been. More travel, more efficient suspension, lighter, more nimble. It is the proverbial quiver-killer.  It’s fantastic.  I’m running out of superlatives.

Salsa Carbon Beargrease: First Ride

You knew it was coming.

At the Salsa Demo Days, I threw a leg over the Carbon Beargrease, and pedaled to my heart’s content.  At the outset, I have to send a shout-out to North Central Cyclery for having such an awesome event, with such amazing bikes.

They had a couple different sizes, and both XX1 and 2×10 versions.

XX1 Hotness:

Full Carbon Everythang.

Surprising clearance.  I’m very confident that a Bud or Lou will fit on an 82mm rim, and perhaps on a 100mm rim, up front.  Note the super-nice DT Swiss RWS skewers, standard front and rear with thru-axles.  These are, bar none, the best skewers on the market.

Some beautiful Salsa carbon bars, and a Truvativ stem.  (I do wish it had the Thomson stem that comes on other blingy Salsa mountain bikes).

XX Hydro brakes and XX1 Drivetrain.  It has triggershifters, which I was a bit nervous about.  I love the gripshift on the Superfish, because it allows me to dump the whole cassette at once…that’s useful on a 1x drivetrain, because you cannot shift chainrings.  However, I found that I was able to shift as rapidly, and as much, as I needed to with the triggershifter.

The downtube is so massive, fenders would be redundant.

How massive is it?

This is a bad angle, but it’s about 1/2″ wider than a dollar bill.

Rear tire clearance is a bit tighter.  BFLs won’t be a problem.  A Lou on an 82mm rim might fit.

Chainstays:

Neat little frame protection:

28T Chainring.

28×42 is pretty darn low…and 28×11 (Edit: 28×10) is still pretty low.  There’s easily clearance for a 30T, and probably clearance for a 32T.

For churning deep snow, 28t may be perfect, but I suspect that a bigger ring will be nice for multi-purpose riding.

So…initial impressions?

I’ve seen a few making hay out of the fact that it doesn’t have rack mounts.  When I got the Schweet Mukluk, I had a rack on it.  I used it precisely 3 times.  Then, it came off, never to return.  Frame bags are where it’s at.  Unless I’m doing long-distance touring, frame bags are a better solution, in my opinion.  I don’t see rack mounts as an advantage on this type of bike.  That means it’s a bit less versatile, perhaps, but I’d rather have the cleaner lines, lighter weight, and fewer spots to catch mud.  I know that’s a reversal from my position on some bikes’ notable absence of rack mounts, but on this bike, I think it makes sense.

The new geometry is hugely noticeable.  The chainstays are significantly shorter, and the front, suspension-corrected fork is appreciably slacker.  That makes the bike a lot more playful and tossable.  I’ve read many reviews suggesting that the Pugsley rides like a mountain bike and the Mukluk like an off-road touring bike.  The new geometry makes the BG ride like a mountain bike.  Or like a giant BMX bike.

The drivetrain and brakes were flawless.  Gear range is huge!  As noted above, I think 28T might be a bit to small, but time will tell.

The tires are a great choice.  Light, fast rolling, but great in snow and loose conditions.

Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder…but to my eye, Salsa has hit it out of the park this year on their bike appearance…and the BG is no exception.  Little touches like the color-coordinated drivetrain bits (green on the cranks, shifter, derailleur) are high-class, and show attention to detail.

The formed BB and chainstays are certain to be mud, muck and snow resistant…crud should just fall right out…keeping you from experiencing something like this:

Oh, when the Mukluk was young.

Component spec is spot-on.  As noted above, I’d look at replacing the stem with something appropriately zoot-ey.  The Salsa carbon bars are surprisingly nice–and the finish quality is significantly improved compared to previous years’ parts.  The low-key matching graphics are also great.  And back to aesthetics…the black on black looks amazing.

It’s suspension corrected, so when the fat forks come out in 2014, you can slap one on if you wish.  In the interim, it’s supremely easy to loft the front end, based on the light weight and playful geometry.

The bike is remarkably stiff–perhaps more so than the Aluminum Mukluk.  The thru-axles, carbon frame, and whole of the parts combine together for an athletic feeling bike.  I rode some cobbles and to my trained butt, vibration dampening seemed improved compared to the aluminum predecessor…but time will tell.  With my massive 150#, I’m not straining its abilities when pushing the pedals hard, but the stiffness it exhibited suggests to me that larger riders won’t have any issues, either.

This is a bike that seems like more than the sum of its parts.  I had thought that a carbon fatbike would be an evolutionary step.  I was expecting a lighter, more nimble ride…along the lines of when I swapped a carbon fork onto my Mukluk.  It’s not evolutionary.

It’s revolutionary.  It’s a game changer.  Last year, I opined that the front-suspension fatbike was the most important fatbike of the year.  This year, I’ll revise my opinion.  There’s a critical weight, below which a fatbike becomes ludicrously light.  The Carbon Beargrease is below that weight.  It’s counter-intuitive…almost shocking…how light and playful it is.  It just plain rips.

At this moment, if you gave me a choice between a front-suspension/hardtail fatbike and a carbon fatbike, I’d get the carbon fatbike.  In fact, I’ve already made that choice.  I considered converting my Mukluk to a Lefty, and instead decided to sell my Mukluk and order a Carbon Beargrease.  XX1, of course.  In the ‘have your cake and eat it too’ category, the BG is suspension corrected, so once the forks come out, you can throw one on here.  At this point, I don’t see myself running to do that conversion.  The lightness of the bike is an incredible asset.  It reminds me of the old saw that the best defense is a good offense.  Instead of needing a fork to soak up the trail, the Carbon Beargrease is light enough to dance over the rough spots.

In the end, my thoughts are overwhelmingly, glowingly positive.  This is a bike that I’ve ridden, and want to own.  That’s the highest endorsement I can offer.  I am working on an alternate name (the Stealth Fattie?), because I’m not a big believer in “Beargrease”…but that’s a sacrifice I’ll have to live with.  Life should be so rough.

The bike industry is jumping the proverbial fatbike shark, with big manufacturers jumping in with uninspired product offerings.  The Carbon Beargrease reassures me that category innovators like Salsa will continue leading the way with new innovations that will continue to inspire new riders, and continue to blaze a new, fat path down the trail.

UPDATE:  Steve Fuller (@zenbiking on Twitter) pointed out that Salsa’s website indicates the bike is compatible with 29+, 3″ tires.  Here’s my thoughts on that: 1) 29+ will fit.  2) I have no doubt that a Bud or Lou will fit up front on an 82mm rim…and perhaps on a 100mm rim.  3) I think that a Bud or Lou would likely fit in the rear triangle on an 82mm rim.  I don’t think it would fit on a 100mm rim.  There’s definitely more clearance than my old Mukluk had.  However, I don’t think the drivetrain will clear all gears with that big of a tire.  Particularly on an XX1 bike, I think you’ll lose too many gears.  4) I have complete confidence that BFLs will fit, front and rear, with full gearing, on 82mm rims.  If there’s any more official word, I’ll pass it along.

Oh, and as for Carbon durability, here’s Chad getting crazy on a 2×10 Carbon Beargrease.

Salsa Split Pivot Review

Last night was the Salsa Demo Day at North Central Cyclery.  (Thanks for an amazing evening!)  That meant a sneak peak at the 2014 lineup, including the Warbird, Colossal, El Mariachi, Spearfish, Horsethief, Mukluk, and…<drum roll>…Carbon Beargrease.  I swung a leg over each of those mounts, and learned a great deal.  As I sit down today and reflect on those bikes, I’m so excited about the 2014 lineup that I’m having a hard time deciding which bike to write about first.  I’ll give individual thoughts on many of the bikes in the days to come, as I’m excited to see many changes and upgrades across the board, but the first thing I want to write about is a feature, not an individual bike.  That feature?  The Split Pivot suspension.

E-Fred, Salsa’s Numero Uno field guy / full-suspension bike setup wizard / all-around-great-guy, did an amazing job of explaining how it works, to isolate pedaling and braking force from the shock, freeing up the shock to just deal with vertical travel.  The Design of the suspension means that you don’t deal with pedal bob or brake-jack.  The suspension remains active throughout pedaling and braking, cornering and railing, jumping and rolling.  It doesn’t care if you’re a spinner or a masher…the suspension is isolated from your efforts.

E-Fred explained it in both a technical and non-technical fashion, and made the design easy to understand.  The Split-Pivot design is elegant in form and operation.  Salsa has recently posted the following video on their newly updated website, which explains Split-Pivot:

The video is on their Split Pivot page, here.

I’ve spent a lot of time on my Superfish, going all the way back to the School of Spearfish trip.  I feel pretty confident commenting on the function of the previous generation of Salsa F/S bikes, with the ‘flexing seatstay’ / rear-pivotless design.  I’ll comment on the Spearfish and Horsethief separately in a day or two, but I wanted to focus on the rear suspension shared between both bikes, first.

The Spearfish has a 80mm travel Split Pivot design, and the Horsethief has a 120mm travel Split Pivot design.  Here’s the Spearfish:

Check out that quasi-internal routing.  Hawt.

Here’s the Horsethief:

Note the fantastically well-engineered upper link that connects to the shock on the Horsethief.  Beautiful.

So I said this was going to be all about the linkage, but then I remembered this picture, and I have to post it up.

Spearfish.  XX1.  Bone Stock Medium.

What’s that say?

23.6 Pounds.  23.6 Pounds.  A bone stock Spearfish XX1, split pivot, with a standard fork and stock build wheels…is as light as my ENVE rim’d, DT240 hub’d, Lefty fork’d Superfish.  My mind is blown.  A stock Horsethief is a shade under 3 pounds heavier.  If I didn’t see it personally, I wouldn’t have believed it.

So…pictures, video, weights.  All good stuff.  But what about the ride?

Understand that I was in an urban environment.  No trails to huck, no sweet bermed corners to ride.  What I did have was a construction site, a lot of curbs, some limited trail, and 2 demo bikes to rail.  Here are my preliminary thoughts:

  • 80mm of travel on the Spearfish feels like a lot more.  A.  Lot.  More.  It’s amazing.  The suspension is super-active.  It feels better at small bump compliance than my Spearfish.
  • The effectiveness of the suspension at dealing with pedal-bob is undeniable.  My Spearfish is very efficient…but when hammering on gravel, for example, I lock out the rear suspension.  On both the Horsethief and Spearfish, the SP suspension makes adjusting the suspension less important.  I could push as hard as I wanted and there wasn’t noticeable bob.  Even if you tried to induce it, as soon as you stopped ‘actin’ a fool’, the suspension immediately returned to a neutral state.
  • I’m pretty sure that the suspension travel on the Horsethief is bottomless.  They say it has 120mm, but I think they’re kidding.  I’m reasonably certain that it defies the laws of physics, and has something like 8,000mm of travel.  I started hitting a few curbs and construction site obstacles gingerly, lifting the front and tucking the rear.  Then, I got more brave.  Then, more brave.  Then, braver still.  Pretty soon, I was just pointing the bike at big things, getting up speed, and blasting over.  Sit, stand, whatever.  The Horsethief feels invincible when you’re using its travel.  I didn’t come anywhere near the limits of the bike, but it’s amazing what 40mm of additional suspension travel will do for you.
  • Both bikes are thru-axle rear.  There is no discernible lateral or torsional play in the rear end.  It’s solid, and you know exactly where your rear tire is at all times.
  • Because of the shorter chainstay designs, the rider is closer to the rear tire.  That enhances traction, makes it easier to put the front end where you want it, and gives you a better sense of your line and rear tire placement in challenging terrain.  I could ride a curb like a skinny almost indefinitely, and the bike was planted.
  • Other than the shift of body weight, braking doesn’t adversely impact the rear suspension at all.  No brake-jack.  As you apply rear brake, you have a very, very good feel for the amount of traction available, and the limits of the bike are progressive and predictable.  If you purposefully lock them up, recovering traction is simple.  Moreover, if you lock the brakes in a turn, to skid the rear end, when you recover traction the rear suspension moves predictably and doesn’t hop or buck.
  • I used all of the travel on the Spearfish.  I didn’t feel it bottom, but apparently, it did.  I used most of the travel on the Horsethief, bombing some construction-site obstacles.  It made me feel positively heroic.
  • This comment is partially attributable to rear suspension and partially attributable to general bike design: the bikes are incredibly easy to balance.  Allow me to explain…envision a parking lot with a 4 foot wide curb dividing different areas.  Assume you’re going to bomb that curb at full speed, and not try to hop it.  That’s an awkward length curb to hit.  The front tire hits, the front comes up, and just as the rear tire is hitting, the front is coming off of the curb.  This kind of motion translates to real trail riding, where you have tables, log crossings, or other obstacles that are around the length of the bike’s wheelbase.  On some bikes, it’s incredibly difficult to manage the conflicting inputs of the bike going up and down in opposition, front/rear, and you end up getting bucked out of the saddle, or towards the bars.  On the Horsethief, it’s almost as if there’s a hidden linkage between the front and rear suspension.  When properly set up, the bike is unbelievably stable, and it’s easy to keep the bike tracking level.  Because the suspension is so effective, the bike inspires confidence to handle varying conditions.

It’s simple.  It works.  It enables short chainstays.  It engenders confidence.  It’s fun.

The Split Pivot suspension design is a huge step forward for the Salsa Full Suspension bikes.  I was prepared to be a skeptic, as I’m in love with my Superfish, and frankly, I have a hard time buying into the sales talk that “this linkage can end pedal bob, cure brake jack, improve bike efficiency, and end world hunger.”

But it works.  It really does.  It’s pretty darn amazing.  If you get a chance to ride a Salsa with the new Split Pivot design, you should.  If you get a chance to buy one, you should send it to me to be broken-in, first.

Fat Carbon Rims

The past few days have been interesting in the fatbike realm.  Salsa posted the following tweet on the issue just a few days ago…

That’s got me wondering if QBP has something up their sleeves.  There’s also been discussion about another set of Fatback prototype carbon fatbike wheels coming to market, anticipated to weigh around 600 grams.

However, first to market appears to be Borealis, which has released their new 590 gram, 85mm carbon fat wheels.  They’re anticipated to retail for $1,599 for a set of rims alone.

Pics and details are from Pinkbike.

By way of comparison, Holy Rolling Darryl rims weigh around 860 grams in a similar 82mm width.  Marge Lites are 65mm wide (20mm narrower) and weigh 690 grams.  Comparing like-side rims, you’re dropping 270 grams per rim, or 1.25 pounds for a set of rims.  However, you’re also dropping $1600 for that weight reduction.  Hopefully, as more vendors come on line, prices will drop.

The other big advantage I see is the smoothness of the rims.  In snow and mud, the holes on existing ‘lightweight’ aluminum rims attract and retrain crud that: a) looks like crap; b) gets into the drivetrain; and, c) adds weight.  Smooth rims should shed snow and mud much more, while still offering the lightweight advantage.

The disadvantage?  The uncertainty of carbon.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my ENVEs, but I’d be a bit scared of an unknown manufacturer jumping into carbon.  In particular, with fatbike wheels that run super-low pressures, it could be interesting territory.  On my Mukluk, I bent a rear rim running 3-4psi, tubeless.  With carbon, that could be an expensive proposition.

I’m interested.  Definitely interested.  Not ‘writing a check’ interested, but interested.

Project 321 Lefty Update, Part Deux.

So after a few minutes of briggling in the garage today, here’s the update…

  • I removed the 70mm Thomson stem and replaced it with a 100mm 5 degree Salsa stem.  (Surprisingly, the Salsa stem is 2 grams lighter, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be, like, 50% faster.  Everyone knows that stem weight counts the most).
  • With the longer stem, the bars clear the fork.
  • I now have the stem slammed, set up for negative rise (5 degrees down).  With the ENVE DH riser bars, it’s about perfect.

Pardon the crappy pics.

Once I confirm that this is the hot setup, I’ll do some steerer tube trimming.  I’m doing the Brown County Breakdown in a few weeks, and will need to confirm that I’m going to be happy on this seatpost.  The more and more I ride, the more I want a longer seatpost.  We’ll see.

This does make me retract, or at least limit, my previous Project 321 criticism, though.  If you can live with a longer stem, it works.

Project 321 Lefty Update (Salsa Spearfish)

Oh, she’s soooo hot.

The Superfish was my mount for the recent Night Bison gravel ride detailed here.  It features the Project 321 Lefty conversion detailed here.

The original installation was a 100mm 2013 Carbon Lefty XLR fork, to match the 100mm of travel on the stock Fox fork.  I love the feel of the Lefty.  However, in practice, while the “measurements” of the two forks were close to identical, I wasn’t thrilled with one aspect of the Lefty: it felt shorter.  The steering felt faster and more nervous.  On descents and sharp transitions, the bike felt too short up front.  Going over the bars happened more than I’d like to admit.

I talked to the good folks at Project 321 about extending the travel, and they advised that they could do a no-cost extension of travel from 100mm to 110mm.  They also said that they would want to try 110 before being more extreme and going longer.  I popped the Lefty off and shipped it in to them.  While they had it, they also changed the fork oil, and gave it a once-over.

Now having the fork back for about a month, I’ve been putting it through its paces, and can say with confidence that the 110mm travel is GREAT.  The bike is still clearly XC, but the extra length had a palpable influence on bike handling and made it much less nervous.  If you’re contemplating going Lefty on a Superfish, go 110.  I haven’t tried 120, but I’m very happy with 110.  Handling and stiffness are great–it’s a significant improvement over the stock fork, not to mention the significant decrease in weight.

I frequently get asked if I “notice” the Lefty in an adverse way.  People seem to think that a rider would notice the “missing” right side of the fork.  I can honestly say that I’ve never noticed that.  Not once.

So are there any downsides?  Well…there’s one.  If you look at the mounting, you’ll note that I have a couple of spacers under the stem.  That is as low as the stem can go.  I prefer a short stem/wide bar combo.  If I try to remove spacers, the bars hit the top of the fork.  I could go to a (muuuuuch) longer stem, but it would take a lot to clear the fork.  So the downside is that I cannot get the bars quite as low as I’d like for aggressive handling.  (In the pics above, the bike isn’t perfectly flat, so it’s a bit deceiving…but it’s still an issue).  In a perfect world, I think I’d have perhaps a 5mm spacer above the stem  Instead, I have quite a stack there.  See update here.

As I’ve gone forward with the bike and gotten more confident in my mountain biking, and as I’ve grown accustomed to more aggressive riding positions on the Madone and Moots, I’m looking to develop a more aggressive position on the Superfish.  However, the Lefty keeps me from doing so.  I love the weight reduction and incredible handling of the Lefty.  However, I do regard this as a significant concern with regard to the positioning of the stem and bars.  I’ll keep looking for solutions to this issue, but at present, I do have to say that this problem does give me a bit of reservation about an unconditional recommendation of this setup.  If you’re comfortable with a bit more of an upright riding position, by all means, I think this is the way to go.  For pure XC, it’s hard to beat.  But if you’re looking for a do-all bike, this is a fit issue to be aware of.

In terms of my mountain bike plans, the Superfish is pretty hard to beat.  Light (around 23 pounds) with stiff, ENVE wheels, a solid 1×10 drivetrain and XTR brakes, plus full suspension, makes a killer Midwest mountain bike.

North Central Cyclery Salsa Demo Day September 18

If you’re in greater North America and you’re not busy on the night of September 18, stop by North Central Cyclery for their Salsa Demo.  Details are on their page here.  They’ll have all sorts of carbon and split pivot hotness and various bikes to ogle, touch and ride.

You can also indicate your interest on their Facebook Event Page here.

I know what I’ll be looking at….

Night Bison, 2013

Another Night Bison in the books.  If you don’t regularly follow Axletree, take a look at their blog for some thoughts over there.  (What an amazing author they have…)

Last year, Night Bison was a hammerfest for me.  This year, I was all ready to make it another hammerfest with the new Moots.  I was ready, man…really ready.  And then it all fell apart.  BPaul had the “brilliant” idea of riding fatbikes.  He was all like, “we should ride fatbikes together, and just have a fun time.”  I know, right–who rides bikes for fun?  What a stupid idea.

But then everyone else got in on the bandwagon.  Tobie decided to ride a new Jones semi-fat that he had built up.  Nevdal broke out his Beargrease.  ChadG rolled out his Mukluk.  The tipping point for me was when Mr. Gorecik advised that he was riding his Krampus, and gave me this whole guilt-trip about bros riding together.  Well played, sir.  Not currently being in possession of a fatbike (Come on Salsa…where’s that Beargrease?), I busted out the second best option: Superfish.  (Tech note: the Superfish is now running a 110mm fork.  More on that in a few days).

I’m not going to repeat all of the pics from the Axletree post–I’ll assume that you’ll see them over there.  But we had over 100 riders show up, with about half shown here:

Here’s the better side of Tobie, the rear end of a Jones, and part of the group rolling out of town.

So we said we were going to ride slow, right?  We were going to detour, cut the route short, and stop for some S’mores, right?  Yeah.  No.  There’s a Justin Timberlake song that has the lyrics in it, “cause you the worst best girlfriend I ever had.”  That’s kinda how I felt about my friends at some points in the ride…the worst best friends I ever had.  They’re terrible.  I should’ve known better.  I started the ride with 48 ounces of water in a camelbak full of snack food, anticipating a short ride on a full-suspension mountain bike.  That didn’t happen.

We started out by pacelining at speeds varying from 20-28mph.  We stopped, turned back, picked up a GPS someone had dropped, and cranked on.  From the back-ish of the pack, we rolled up to near the front-ish.  We repeatedly stopped and then cranked it back up.  At the point where we were supposed to cut off, we were all having fun, so we decided to press on.  Long story short: Our planned 20-25 mile slow, fun ride turned into 50 miles at ludicrous speed on fatbikes.

Here’s BPaul, and yes, he does have a campstove in his backpack.  Literally.

ChadG putting it down.

Tobie, Aaron and Gecik.

You haven’t lived until you’ve pacelined, on gravel, at 26mph in a row of fatbikes.  According to my Garmin, our top speed was just over 30mph, on a flat section.  We held 25+ for a couple miles, and 20+ for a significant majority of the time that we were rolling.

The ‘official’ route was about 55 miles, so we did cut about 5 miles off with a little detour.  To effect that detour without leading the pack astray, we cut all of our lights, and rode gravel for a few miles completely blacked out.  It was one of the best moments of the night.

We did stop briefly and anticipated setting up a S’Mores station, only to find that we had no matches for the stove.  Accordingly, we set up a marshmallow handup station, and various debauchery ensued.  This is the only photo I can show from that stop without giving a parental discretion advisory.

Shortly thereafter, we hit the unexpected aide station described in the Axletree post.  Twas awesome.

And shortly thereafter, it was Harter B-Roads.

When on gravel, I had the suspension locked-out on the Superfish.  But on the b-road, I enjoyed full-suspension cush, and the traction of my trusty Schwalbes.  That was pretty enjoyable (compared to those sliding all over on cross bikes).

After the B-road, it was Harter gravel, and we were grinding hard.  We rolled up to Lynch, and I realized that with the change in plans, I had completely forgotten to eat anything.  I was out of water, and had downed no food…so while my ride reports usually talk about food and hydration, there was none here.  Whoops!  On that front, though, I am pleased to report that I rode well, even without a good food plan.  Lynch went by amazingly quickly, and then we hit Gurler Road.  For the last mile of Gurler, I went up front, got down as aero as I could, and spun it up to 24mph with a mild cornering headwind.  That was everything I had–literally everything.  It was more fun than it should have been.

We rolled back into town all smiles.  We were even happier to learn that our own Lenny Clapp had laid the smack down, dropped the lead group, and ‘won’.  He was handsomely rewarded with a custom Bison trophy.

The Superfish needs a seatpost that is about 1″ longer for gravel riding.  I’m all topped out on it, and by the end of the ride, my hip-flexors were screaming from having my knees come up so high.  It’s perfect for off-road, but too short for on-road.  Otherwise, it was flawless.

As it turns out, even when I anticipate and prepare for an easy ride, I can do a hard ride.  When I don’t think about nutrition or hydration, I forget to eat and hydrate properly.  And when I listen to my friends, I have an awesome time.  The ride included some of the best moments of this whole year–sharing amazingness with amazing people.  It doesn’t get any better.  And even though we did “only 50 miles”, we hammered in a fashion that lived up to RATG standards.  It’s not about the bike.

It’s about the people…and we have the best people.  Thank you to my friends, for an amazing, memorable night.