Buying a new bike should be… an easy choice for any regular rider but the sheer choice can be daunting. Adding the complication of the recent development of more wheel sizes and the decision becomes harder than ever before.
I have more than a few miles on the Ibis but I was not looking to replace this directly instead I was seeking something complimentary that would be used primarily as a winter bike and maybe some SDW type riding.
I tried a short spin on some other Brightonmtb regulars new steeds and although the 29er wheel size felt strange I thought this may be the way to go. Now I like 26ers and did consider a race light bike softened for Stanmer duties and looked at both carbon and titanium frames but Tuesday rides seemed to highlight the big wheel advantage at full pace uphill as I got stalled at times and others continued smoothly. Young, powerful legs overcome this easily but as soon as you reach forty then technology becomes your friend and lighter kit beckons you ever closer.
Thursday riders with different bikes and different skills and different fitness highlighted the need to find a good bike whatever the size so I started looking at everything available.
Geometry first, so not too twitchy and not too slow and something that should not break the bank if it proves the wrong bike for me so it had to be either relatively cheap or hold the resale value. I could not decide on the best geometry or even the wrong geometry to reduce the list but considered some Chinese frames, some euro racers and some Yankee boutique brands. Chris Noble (link on the side) offered some racer’s insights into flex and stiffness showing all frames are not equal and some reviewers of the same bike, but from different perspectives, offered conflicting opinions so eventually I set a maximum head angle which would allow me to stick between the trees but not lose the line completely in a short, steep drop common on our local trails.
The USA offerings were generally slacker than the euro geometry and the UK targeted designs seemed to be moving from the euro to the USA model. Several early adopters of big wheels who have changed frames seemed to agree on the slacker angle and riding old versus new highlighted the difference to me.
I went to the QECP demo (which you can find using the search box) and was surprised at the different feel of the bikes on the same short loop. Forks play a big part on this but some frames just felt odd and very steep geometry on one particular bike meant a tight descent corner required pushing the bravery button, so not for me.
I swayed with suspension and hardtail and excellent reviews meant I considered am expensive Tallboy or a Ripley. I really liked Nathan’s Tallboy right up to the time it was replaced under warranty and the Ibis offering seemed short-changed in the travel department so my lack of certainty on the new format pushed me towards a hardtail. Ashley and his Jones demonstrated clearly that hard can be fast but I am not as brave as him and so front suspension required despite the weight penalty.
I would have bought a Chinese frame happily but exchange fluctuations reduced the value shown so Carbonals and others were dropped in favour of a Lurcher from On-One at less than £300. This had the mud clearance, head angle (just), fat head tube and most importantly the absolutely essential colour requirement so frame bought, everything else easy.
Not true – it takes ages to find the right bits without spending a fortune. This was meant to be “ a few hundred pounds, a thousand at most” and I quickly realised that without some reserve I could easily double that. So I went choosing and hunting.
Forks first and although I have had only Fox for years two Kashima coatings had failed the chalk challenge so I wanted another option. Considered SIDs but opted for Reba when Merlin offered a discount but I would have bought something else like Xfusion if the price was better.
Wheels next and nearly gave up as I could not find light and strong and not silly expensive. My existing Easton wheels have been good although the mileage means I have trued frequently and rebuilt hubs so I looked for reviews of the Havens but new ones (the improved ones!) are pricey and kits for fixing the prior year models were not available. Other wheels like American Classic were over budget and although my list included Raceface, Mavic, Crank Bros, Fulcrum and everybody else I could not find a good deal for a good model.
Some were light but narrow rims, some were cheap but out of stock and some were really heavy at over 2kg a set. I bought the Superstar with the Pacentti rims which may be soft and ding easily but I will see. Feedback has also mentioned fragile hubs so jury is out.
Other kit was all bought discount and included carbon bar, quirky Crank Bros stem, fat grips, WTB saddle, Crank Bros seat post, XT brakes and single XT shifter. I would have bought XTR Shifter if available instead.
Headset was awkward and so I had to fit different series top part and bottom sections, but both Cane Creek and at over £50 seemed expensive. The push fit bottom bracket seems a flimsy design and prone to creaks it seems but I am used to that recently and will glue/grease/change it if required.
I wanted to simplify the transmission by opting for 1×10 and cassette, chain, rear mech are relatively cheap but dedicated chainsets are either heavy or really expensive. Triple cranks are more complicated to manufacture and have more bits so a single crank should be much cheaper. I never found a crankset to buy but Tom provided an XT crank for me to use and with some cleaning and some paint it looks the part. An orange thick/thin chainring and some fettled chainring bolts seem to fit centrally in the chain line and my only concern is the tightness of the chain set up. This may just be the mech spring but I will be careful at first.
Tyre discussion with everyone on ride nights lead me to Maxxis Beaver with thin sidewalls but Storm Controls were more expensive and also had their detractors. I did fit tubes to allow easy tyre swapping but filled them myself with orange sealant to combat punctures so a little weight penalty.
Lots of other bits including cheap pedals, a funny bash guard, QR seat clamp, wheel skewers, brake adaptors and a partridge in a pear tree brought the total to around £1500 so my few hundred pounds is out of the window.
This is also much more expensive than the stock built Lurcher but better kit can be swapped out and without light wheels and a good fork I would not be able to judge whether a 29er is the way to go for me.
So far my trundle around the crescent is less than necessary to offer much of an impression but it feels like my old Triumph 5 speed road bike from 1972, as it winds up well but clunks over tiny bumps with the stiff rear triangle.
The top tube seems long at the front and the handlebars, although fairly wide, feel narrow and the stem seems to stretch out in front, lifting the back wheel needs some practice and my sitting position may require some morning stretching exercises however David has a Lurcher and usually hurtles uphill so getting dropped on a Tuesday will still be a pilot problem rather than the equipment.