Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter Project

Seeing it still looks a lot like winter outdoors, I'm not to late to dive into a winter bike project. Slade at Rhino Bike Works hooked me up with a Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC frame. The LT stands for long-travel, the C for carbon. Several long-travel 29ers are showing up on the market in 2013. I had my eye on the Niner RIP 9 RDO, but they aren't scheduled to ship until this spring. The new Tallboy was in stock.

I was skeptical of the whole 29er thing when they first popped on the scene. I reluctantly bought a hardtail. I didn't much care for the handling characteristics at first. You have to learn to ride big wheels differently. I even once said full suspension 29ers made no sense.

Now here I am, not only buying a 29er dualie, but one with 5+ inches of travel front and rear. Should feel like riding the sofa through the woods.  So what do I like about the Santa Cruz frame? For one, it is very light. It actually weighs exactly its claimed 5.5 pounds (2.5kg).  That is frame, shock and rear axle. The frame utilizes a 142mm x 12mm thru-axle. This "standard" seems to be gaining acceptance. The bike will have slightly relaxed geometry compared to my 26" Titus Racer-X. That with big wheels and another inch of travel should make riding Harold Parker less daunting.

The build kit is on order. I struggled mightily with wheel selection. Most of my bikes have either Shimano factory wheels or custom wheels with Shimano hubs. I really like Shimano hubs. They are old school with loose ball bearings. All you need to service the hubs are cone nut wrenches. You can keep the hubs finely tuned with no play, and it is easy to repack the bearings. They last essentially forever if you maintain them.

Shimano XTR hubs come only in their proprietary CenterLoc rotor attachment design. I prefer Hayes brakes and don't like having to buy additional adapters that add cost, weight and clutter to a bike build. Shimano CenterLoc rotors interfere with Hayes calipers.  Thus my struggle. Do I abandon the most easily serviced hubs in favor of industry standard 6-bolt rotor attachment? I've had bad bearing experiences with other hubs, especially Easton, and also Mavic's with the free-hub bushing. I opted to go with Hope Pro 2 EVO hubs. They are reasonably priced, weigh only a little more than XTR, and the hub can be broken down without any special tools should a cartridge bearing need to be replaced. The Hope's will be laced to Stan's Arch EX rims with Wheelsmith 2.0/1.7/2.0 double butted spokes. Not very light, but I've proven this build to work very well for me on my 29er hardtail. Reliability trumps grams any day in my book. I probably won't be racing this bike anyway.

I also struggled with fork selection. I'm a big fan of Fox forks, having early early years problems with Rock Shox forks. SRAM owns the brand now, so maybe Rock Shox is a solid brand. The cheapest Fox product for this frame cost nearly $1000. I just could see spending that much on a fork. The Rock Shox Revelation was more than $200 cheaper and weighed half a pound less. It is not as beefy, with smaller 32mm stanchions. Fox uses 34mm stanchions. We'll see how it goes. I still run a Rock Shox SID fork on my winter beater bike. It must be 10yrs old and I haven't had to put air in in for about 2yrs. Bushings are loose though.

I opted for a 2x10 drivetrain. Hope I like it. All my other MTBs are 3x9 drivetrains.  With big wheels, a 38t big ring is the same as a 42t big ring on a 26" bike. I do give up a bit on the low end with a 24" ring. A 36t cassette helps make up for it. Many outfits are blowing out Shimano XT gear right now, as much as 50% off. Comparing XT sale prices with near full price on top-of-the-line XTR, it was about a third the cost. Gram savings just weren't worth the extra cost. I'd be spending something like $5 per gram saved. That exceeds my threshold, even for a race bike.

Much of the remainder of the build kit is stuff I use and trust. Thomson stem and post. Easton CNT riser bar. Hayes Stroker brakes. Could be a couple weeks before all the stuff comes in. More photos will be posted when complete.


DaveP said...

You remind of ice-cream, but not the hard kind anymore..soft..with rainbow sprinkles.

I swear, didn't you at one time own a SS?

Hill Junkie said...

Ok Dave, I have to admit that one cracked me up a little.

CB2 said...

Those are really nice. I'd be curious how you did dollar-wise vs. one of Santa Cruz's factory builds. The SPX kit is XT w/ Thomson post and stem, and DT 350 hubs laced to some pretty wide WTB rims. I like Shimano hubs too, but DT v. Hope, I think I'd lean towards DT.

Hill Junkie said...

CB2 - I never really thought compare my pricing with factory build kit options. I'm pretty choosy in what I put on my bikes, and there were a lot of things in the factory standard kits I don't like. It is interesting to see that the Fox fork is cheaper than Rock Shox, yet after-market it is the other way around. I prefer Fox forks but have had good luck with Rock Shox products too. Bottom line is my build will cost about $700 less than factory XT kit, and I get the wheels, brakes and several cockpit components I like. I got a modest break frame price too, which helps. Even if buying my own build kit costs the same, I'd still do it. It is just too much fun spec'ing out and building up a new bike!

the bully said...

Say goodby to the Racer X. Soon there will be no 26" bikes in the stable. Good for you.