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Mountain Biking: Continued Erotic Journeys with FB2016b.2

The latest iteration of my Niner Air9 RDO

In 2015, I began the process of building a new bike which I documented in a blog post. The build was anchored by a Nine Air9 RDO frame. The bike has undergone some modifications since then but by almost any standard, it’s been my favorite bike. This is a post on what I love about the ride, what changes I’ve made since that post, and what things I haven’t. Additionally, it’s a note on what other things I’m liking or loving on and around the bike, now called FB2016b.2.


What I love

The bike is light and stiff. It was when I bought it. It still is. It’s stable, comfortable for long rides (I’ve spent 5.5 hours in the saddle with minimal discomfort), and clearly durable. I find it can do yeomen’s work ascending, descending, in smooth cross-country scenarios, and in rough technical downhills. I have a minor issue with the rubber cable housing stops on the frame popping out but I can live with that.

The bike is a first-rate hardtail mountain bike.

What’s New

Hope Race Evo X2 Brakes

I noted this purchase a few years back and have put a number of miles on them since. They’ve delivered exactly as promised. There was a period of about 2 months where I was tinkering with the adjustments on the rear brake but since that point, they’ve required nothing but riding. The engagement, the modulation, the throw adjustments; it’s all first-rate. These brakes are pricey for sure but they deliver on every dollar spent; much like myself. 1*

Shimano 1x11 group

This is a new look for me as, being the conservative chap I am, I’ve resisted this movement for a number of years. As of just a few months ago, I was still rockin’ the 2x9 Shimano drive train. No longer.

If you’re new to cycling, a “1x “indicates 1 chain ring that is connected to your crank arms and pedals. A “2x” indicates 2 and so on. Additionally, you should note that the number of rings in the rear chain ring - called the cassette - has increased over the years to now support what I run, which is 11 gears. Hence, the “1x11.” The benefit of running a 1x is decreased weight and added simplicity while maintaining a similar gear ratio to your old “bottom gear,” ie, the gear you use when you’re struggling up that steep hill. What you lose is your “top gear” which is the gear you’d use if you were going downhill or peddling quickly away from a herd of stampeding bison. As I rarely need to outrun a herd of bison, I felt ok with losing this gearing.

To be honest, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Ever. Once I was descending and ran out of gears but honestly, on a hardtail like mine, who cares? Rather, I wish this setup existed years ago and that I would have jumped on it sooner. …I’m probably going to be saying this about a dropper post but as I said, I’m super conservative and slow to change.

If you haven’t already done so, I’d say now’s the time to swap out that 2x or 3x (gasp!) group for a 1x.

Garmin 530

Last year I rode a bit more in Pisgah and DuPont and felt like I needed a better computer with better maps. I bought the Garmin 520 and hated it. About 30 minutes into my first ride with it, I put it in my pack and never used it again.

This year, my older Garmin was held on by duct tape and while descending at Beech Mountain, it fell off and was subsequently run over by a tri-axle truck; just to rule out any doubts about its ability to ever work again.

You can read the reviews and watch the videos but the tl;dr here is that the 530 is fantastic. Some have called it Garmin’s best computer to date. I’ve had 4 now and it is certainly my favorite. The new processor makes the mapping much better, the app and Bluetooth integration are solid, and the integration with trail forks is incredibly useful but also seamless. There are just too many features to cover and a ton that I become aware of each and every ride.

Sidi Shoes

Sidi is one of those brands about which I’m hyper-militant. When people tell me they bought a non-Sidi shoe I recoil in horror. Now, I know there are other shoes and I know each person’s feet require a unique fit and that perhaps a Sidi shoe isn’t right for everyone (but I doubt it). But in my experience, there’s nothing better.

After about 14 years - 14! - and thousands and thousands of miles, my old Dominators finally died. Naturally, I went to the local shop (LBS) and picked up a pair of new Dominators. They were able to score me a previous model year for a nice percentage off. Again, this is why you build and nurture a relationship with your LBS.

Here’s the thing with these shoes: they’re just like the old ones. That’s not a bad thing. The old ones were perfection. Sidi improved the ratchet system and made some aesthetic changes but by and large, it’s still the same shoe. It’s comfortable, durable, adjustable, and has a stiff fit on the sole. And it will be that way for another 15 years. But hey, 2035 is right around the corner.

What’s Old

Fox fork

A few months back I commented on teh twitter that “as we dads like to say, ‘I’m not mad; just disappointed’” with Fox. The issue was around service of my Float 32 100mm fork which could have gone better. In the end, Fox serviced my fork, it basically feels like new, and when I’m old and grey, I won’t have any recollection of it happening. The larger topic is the performance of the shock which I can say is second to none. It’s lightweight, high-performing, adjustable in just the right proportions, and resilient.

Noting that a Fox fork is first-rate is like saying John Legend can sing. It’s barely worth the time and everyone knows it's true.


As I noted in my intro piece to FB2016a.1, a few years ago I was jumping all-in on lock-on grips. I decided to go with Lizard Skins as I had tried their products in the past with satisfaction. I have a pattern identical to the Northshore (the model that I have on there now is long-discontinued) and couldn’t be happier.

Given the sheer number of options Lizard Skins has in their catalog, I can’t imagine not finding a grip pattern that suits your style. I can attest to their durability and performance. Top notch.

Hope Hubs

Hope is probably one of my favorite manufacturers among all of the cycling component manufacturers. I love their brakes and I especially love their hubs. I’ve ridden a lot of hubs over the years and Hope has exceeded them in every category. The durability and performance - two things that sometimes have an inverse correlation - are simply second to none.

I’ve owned, and subsequently beat the hell out of, these hubs for 11 years (what!?) and have done 0 maintenance on them. They are literally as good as the day I bought them. I experienced few products that have exceeded expectations like my Hope hubs.

Plus, these hubs are loud. I mean ungodly loud. Gaudy loud. Ridiculous loud. So loud and distinct that I was riding one day and heard, through the trees, “Zimmer! Zimmer?! Hey, is that Brian Zimmer!? I hear you!”

Stans Wheels

I’m still running the same set of 355s that I bought in 2009. I have them running on FB2016 and honestly, I just can’t justify replacing them until I crater one of them. This is a unique problem to have that companies like Stans, Sidi, Hope, and Look create: products so good, they simply never fail thus, they don’t need to be replaced.

Stans wheels are not cheap but they deliver in each and every category. Performance, durability, weight, and service. Hard endorse.

Look Quartz Pedals

From 2007 to 2009 I probably went through 3 or 4 different manufacturers and 5 or 6 different types of pedals. In 2009 I settled on the Look Quartz pedal and I haven’t looked back since. The Quartz are incredibly cost-effective, durable, and light. They provide a little bit of a platform for those who like something to stand over but not much. A few months ago, one of the pedals started - gasp! - creaking a bit. I removed it, greased the threading, and threw some Triflow on them. Now, after 11 years and thousands of miles of wet, dust, dirt, and Carolina clay, they’re like new.

Not coincidently, I have Look Keo Sprints on my road bike (A Cannondale Synapse with a Di2 group) and they have a minimum of 16k miles on them with not a hint of wear. What’s interesting is - and this is why I bought them - they’re lighter and cheaper and have equal performance to their closest competitors.

I know pedal discussions aren’t the sexiest but it’s awfully hard to move a bike without them. I move all of my bikes with Look pedals.


That’s it. FB2016 is still rockin’ better than ever. I hope that if you read this far either this was interesting or perhaps you’ll get something out of my thoughts and recommendations. Happy riding!

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