Mountain Biking: The End of My Erotic Cycling Journeys with FB2016b.3
Every now and then I write some thoughts on mountain biking products and solutions that are working for me. This is such a post. You can catch all my other posts on this topic here on this site.
These posts are not paid endorsements and your mileage and satisfaction may vary. Duh. These posts are only intended to give you one person’s feedback - mine - on cycling products they have used.
Industry Nine Cross Country Wheels
In 2021, I was fixin’ (as we say in the US South) to replace my flawless, perfect, impeccable, Stan’s 355 wheels with Hope Hubs. This was NOT an issue of dissatisfaction. It was an issue of age and performance. The entire setup exceeded every expectation on price, performance, weight, and ESPECIALLY durability. I could never have asked for a better wheel set. My sincerest compliments to the folks at Stans and Hope.
With supply chain issues being what they were at the time, being unable to get Stans and Hope products, and being a resident of The Old North State - great state or the greatest state? - I decided to go with Industry Nine (I9) wheels and hubs.
There were considerable delays compared to what we came to expect before COVID but the folks up in Asheville kept us (me and Uptown Cycles in Charlotte) up-to-date at all times as I waited.
I’ve had them on for a year now and lots of miles in all sorts of different riding conditions. They are quite possibly the most high-performance product I have ever owned in any sport. The wheels offer the best blend of weight, performance, and durability (so far). They come at a cost. A VERY high cost.
They are incredibly stiff and the I9 hubs are in a nearly infinite state of engagement. They are simply amazing.
Maxxis Ardent Race and Forekaster
Keeping things on the ground (so to speak), let's talk about tires.
The fact that Maxxis tires are now on about 105% of all mountain bikes (at least in the US) is nuts. But for now, I have 0 issues or complaints with their products and their performance. That includes their price. The first pair of tires I vibed with were the Ardent Race tires. Light. Fast. Little rolling resistance. What you gained in speed you lost in control due to their relatively low profile. But still, for the Niner, they were a good fit. Surprisingly, they were really durable and lasted well past a full season.
This year, Maxxis released the Forekaster. I'm about 250 miles in and right now, I think they may be my favorite tire ever (second may be the old Specialized RollX Pro D2). Low rolling resistance, soft rubber, higher-profile, incredible cornering, and just generally a great, all-around trail / XC tire. Maxxis really nailed it with the Forekaster!
Enve stem + Raceface Risebars
The winds of cycling change blew and those winds say we don’t run 90 to 100mm stems anymore. Fine. The winds have also whispered through the pines and into my ears and said, “Yo dawg, I hope you like a 5 foot long rise bar. Cuz I got one for ya.” So with that, I upgraded to a carbon fiber Enve 60mm stem and a carbon fiber Raceface Next R Carbon 35 rise bar. The bar has a 10mm rise and I've left it at the stock 800mm width. As far as performance and durability go, I’m happy. The change in geometry took some getting used to but the shorter stem and longer bar work really well. I'm happy I kept an open mind and made the adjustment.
WTB Silverado Saddle
I’ve been running - sitting on, to be exact - a WTB Silverado for years. Many many years. After an impossible number of miles, years (I think the exact number is 13!!!), and serious abuse, my last Silverado gave up and just about exploded. We wish it warm sunny days in the fields and hills of Elysium. I replaced it with a WTB Silverado carbon saddle. So basically the same saddle but lighter.
In the title of the post I referenced "the end" of my Niner. That's because this year is going to be its last as my primary ride. It's been an incredible run for this build. I couldn't have asked for a better, lighter, more durable, and most importantly, fun bike. I'll be moving back to a full-suspension build and that build will most likely be anchored by the Santa Cruz Blur frame. But we'll see.
Bonus: Notes from the Road(bike)
I haven’t traditionally spilled any ink on road biking in the past. I’d like to make two quick entries that I think are noteworthy. …the thinking here being, if you’ve read this far, you’re clearly interested in cycling or reading whatever I write.
ENVE 45 wheels
If you’re new to ANY form of cycling, my advise would be to look first to your wheels when considering an upgrade. In my opinion - and the opinion of many enthusiasts and professionals alike - upgrading your wheels will give you the most bang for your buck. You’ll feel the upgrade in the wheel stiffness, handling, weight, and in the hub's engagement.
Two seasons ago, I upgraded to a set of ENVE 45 carbon fiber wheels. The ‘45s are an entry-level carbon fiber wheel set (unlike the carbon trail wheels from I9 referenced above). The dishing makes a huge difference in what one may be accustomed to in a standard wheel. I noticed crosswinds really got me the first few hundred miles or so. But after some adjustment, I’m off, riding, and incredibly satisfied.
Much like my I9s, the ENVEs have made a huge difference in the quality of my rides. They are light, stiff, and even the entry-level hubs are a big step up from your standard OEM-provided Mavic wheel. Two enthusiastic thumbs up. Top notch wheels from a top notch company.
Shimano Di2 shifting
There is far too much No True Scottsmaning these days on the topic of electronic shifting. I have bikes with cable shifting and it’s fine. I know how to install, configure, and adjust them on my own just fine. But nothing compares to the shifting performance I get out of my Di2s. I realize the cost-of-entry is still pretty high (for now) but I love mine and I have no regrets. While the shifting is more crisp and precise, the thing I love about electronic shifters is the ability to quickly, easily, and accurately get your derailleurs dialed in. Once, while riding in Beech Mountain, NC, I adjusted my front derailleur while still riding. That's a difficult feat to accomplish on old school derailleurs.
Shimano Di2: Easy peezy. Highly recommend.