FB2016a.1: An Erotic Journey into Mountain Biking
I recently finished building a new bike. This is my quick review and thoughts on that build.
I had been riding a 2009 Soma Juice for 6 years. It was nicely appointed but in the end, the frame was too big (my decision) and too heavy. If I’m being honest, it was really more of a novelty. What was needed was simply more performance. After months of measuring, thinking, sacrificing small animals, and talking to peers, I decided on a Niner Air9 RDO frame. It has a chain stay and top tube I like and a headtube angle I’m ready to tackle as a rider. It is light, backed by Niner as a manufacturer, and backed by the support network of Niner reps and shops. I had been looking at BMC and Santa Cruz. I simply couldn’t get the support I needed and didn’t feel great about the geometry.
The decision to get the Air9 RDO frame meant I needed to upgrade my suspension by virtue of the tapered headtube requirement. That was an awful bit of scope creep <sarcasm/>. That choice was simple: Fox. I’ve been running Fox for 15 years off-and-on now and while I’ve tried other suspension and it seems fine, Fox has a long history of building a superior product and has a network of dealers that can support that product. Bottom line: I’m not going away from a manufacturer with whom I’ve had such a long and positive relationship. I settled on the Fox Float 32 Terralogic 100mm.
There were some modifications I couldn’t justify making:
Stan’s wheels and Hope Pro II hubs: These are old. So? I can’t kill them, they’re still performing, I’m not impacting my weight enough to care and I can spend my money someplace else and get more impact. And so what that I needed hub conversion kits?
Specialized Tires: No brainer for me. I love the tire, love its tread pattern, and I find them to be incredibly durable and reliable. I also must say that Specialized and their resellers have been great to work with the one or two situations where I’ve needed support
Easton & Raceface: Easton seat posts are on notice from me after breaking 2 of them in the last 2 seasons but for now, I kept my standard posts, stems, and bars
Avid Brakes: I don’t like them. I’m swapping them out in the near future. For now, I can nurse them along
Shimano and Look: The XT group and Look Quartz pedals give me all the performance I’m used to at a reasonable price. To be honest, Look products pack some of the best pound-for-pound value of which I’m aware
Saddle and Grips: I like my WTB Silverado. Why change? My buddy Steve turned me on to lock grips a few years ago. I love them. I’m currently using Lizard Skins from my old ride.
Wow! My decision to jump down to a medium frame paid off. The bike is more nimble and responsive and simply easier to get in and out of situations. This makes perfect sense. What isn’t so obvious is its stability and control in descending. I’m finding it to be incredible. Part of this is the suspension. Fox has made the Float 32 Terralogic simpler yet better performing. Even while dropping 20mm I’m finding I have considerable cushion where I need it yet firmness in climbing or cranking situations.
I’m not used to such a large bottom bracket area and I can really feel the translation of my pedal strokes into power. I also think the tapered head tube lends itself to added stability. I notice the weight and power translation where you would think I’d notice it: climbing. Climbing is an area where I’m relatively strong (relative to my other areas of riding which are all weak). I’m able to be much more explosive in climbing situations and when I’m hitting a switchback, the size and weight improvements are really obvious.
This entire review feels like the journal of Captain Obvious. I went from a Steel frame to a high-end Carbon frame and upgraded my suspension. “No kidding” is probably what a reader would think. What blows me away though is I thought my Soma - FB2010a.3 - was solid in certain areas and it simply wasn’t compared to this new ride.
I’m 100 miles in and I couldn’t be happier with FB2016a.1. Talk to me next year. But for now, hey, good job Me!