Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good For Nothing?

Well, maybe not exactly good for nothing as much as good at nothing as the case may be. That is the term that came to mind as I got intimately acquainted with my most recent bike build during a 3.5 hours cross-town MTB ride that Cathy and I did on Christmas Day.

The new bike is really just a reconfiguration of a bunch of old parts that I had hanging around the basement. For some time I'd been reading and hearing about the "monster-cross" bike configuration being the best thing since sliced bread. Having had sliced bread and recognizing what an improvement it actually is over an uncut loaf, I decided that I too must jump on the bandwagon and experience this phenomenon for myself. For those unaware, the "monster-cross" distinction is basically a mountain bike made to look like a cross bike, sort of. The idea is that drop bars and fat tires coupled with disc brakes and a more upright posture make a great, comfortable platform for dirt road touring and the like. Sounded reasonable so I figures what the heck.

The core of the bike was my old Soul Cycles Dillinger 29er MTB frame with the cracked EBB set screw mount. The folks at Soul had warrantied the frame with a brand new one and didn't want the old one back. I'd honed BB shell out to accept an over-sized Niner Biocentric EBB, so the frame was still usable. I had a matching rigid fork for it that I'd purchased along with the bike. The wheelset was the nondescript Specialized/DT set that came on my Epic. I'd rebuilt the rear with a SRAM 135mm QR hub to replace the crappy 142 x 12mm T/A hub. The only parts that I had to purchase were a pair of cheap dirt-drop handlebars and a headset. The rest of the parts were literally, hanging in the bin, including the road version of the Avid BB-7 cable actuated disc brakes.

The beast.

Here are the full specs for the complete build:
  • Soul Cycles Dillinger 29er MTB Frame
  • Soul Cycles Dillinger 29er MTB Fork (suspension corrected 80mm)
  • Cane-Creek 1.125" S-2 Headset
  • Specialized/DT/SRAM X-7 29er Disc Wheelset (QR 100/135mm spacing)
  • Shimano XT 11-32 9spd Cassette
  • WTB Exiwolf 29x2.3 Front Tire
  • Kenda Small Block Eight 29x2.0 Rear Tire
  • Avid BB-7 Road Cable Actuated Disc Brakes - 160mm Alligator Wave Rotors
  • Tektro Road Brake Levers
  • Shimano Ultegra 9spd Barend Shifters
  • Shimano XT Rear Derailleur
  • Shimano XT Front Derailleur
  • Truvativ Stylo External BB Crankset (44/32/22 Chainrings)
  • Easton Havoc 31.6mm Setback Seatpost
  • Sella Italia Flite Original Saddle
  • On-One Gary Dirt Drop OS Handlebars
  • Thomson X-4 31.8 x 90 x +10 Stem
  • Shimano M520 SPD Pedals
  • SRAM 9spd Chain
  • Full Housing Cables (brake and shift)
Yes, as you may gather I have a whole lot of bike parts kicking around the basement. It seems that I don't throw anything away and also consume a lot, which means lots of turnover and thus. lots of spare junk, that really isn't.

So you may ask, why the title of this post and why am I being so critical of this build? Lets start with ride impressions. At first my thought was that I'd use this as a spring training bike for foul conditions on the road. The idea was disc brakes and lots of fender room. As such I first had 700x25c slicks on the bike. It felt odd but fun on the pavement. The first ride, however, showed it to be a slow moving pig that didn't really handle that well at speed. Who would have guessed, what with a rakes out front end (compared to a road or cross bike anyhow) coupled with a short and upright stem and a serious freshman weight problem. The bike was portly and I felt as though I was a jockey riding a moose.

Ice on the pond.

That one ride was enough to realize that application wasn't going to work. Instead I though I would re-purpose the bike for that which it was intended in concept, a bike for "rambling". Although I don't tend to do a lot of that type of riding, I figured that this time of year is a great time to start and what better way to start that with a bike made specifically for that. I had a pair of 29er MTB tires kicking around on the tire-tree (yes, I have a tree rack in the basement with gobs of spare tires on it) so I mounted them up. Ooff, want to make a chunky bike even chunkier, try adding a fat 2.3 29er tire and tube. I haven't weighed her but she is definitely not svelte.

Last weekend, after the Christmas morning frenzy, Cathy and I suited up and headed out for a local MTB ride, a ride that is coming to be a Christmas tradition for us. The ride loops around town and hits most of the local conservation lands that are accessible this time of year and in these conditions, that being not yet frozen. I chose to ride the newly re-configured spruce-moose and Cathy rode her Kona Hei-Hei 29er fully, which she is growing more and more fond of as time passes. We looped about, connecting small chunks of land that we rarely ride with others that we almost never ride. The ride then culminated in a tour of our primary local trail stash, the PR. We used up most of the daylight and had a great time being outside together.

As we rode on through the day, meandering about town, one thought kept coming to mind as we would hit different types of terrain. The common theme seemed to be the simple and swift realization that with each new type of terrain, the bike was never really able to find it's mate, that which it was purposeful and adept at. On the pavement it was comfortable but handling was awkward and gangly and of course, horribly slow. On the dirt and cinder paths it still felt sluggish though comfortable to ride. In the single track the drop bars proved a challenge and the brake access was not terribly comfortable. The short stem and long reach to the hoods made the handling foreign. The bike was certainly not nimble though it was definitely capable. The sketchiest mix was high speed semi-technical descents. The drop-bar position was just, wrong.

So here we are. Initial impression isn't great but in all fairness I don't have a ton of time on the bike. Maybe it will grow on me or maybe I will be able to find the right mix of terrain for the bike. It's not costing me anything other than space so I will certainly keep it but truth be told, I'm not sure exactly what I will use it for. Who knows, maybe I'll find just the right match and the specific purpose for which this bike excels.

Or maybe not.


Ivy said...

Decadent grocery getter :-) Wishing you both a Happy New Year!

mkr said...

Happy New Year to you as well!

Jonny Bold said...

That was funny. You're a true tinkerer. I like the idea of it being a grocery store bike though.