Saturday, October 26, 2013

Going on 1000 miles

This spring I built up my Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. My primary motivation in building the bike up is new trails are designed around big wheels with suspension and I'm not getting any younger. Factor in some close calls and dangerous confrontations with motorists this year, I found myself riding mostly off-road again. The Tallboy takes the edge off some of the longest loops I ride locally, increasing the fun-factor of trail riding. I basically fell in love with mountain biking all over again.

The Tallboy has been my go-to bike for much of the riding season. There were a few things I had to adapt to. With 5+ inches travel front and rear with 29" wheels, I could steamroll right over stuff I used to carefully pick my way through with my 4" travel 26" wheel Racer-X. It took a while to gain this confidence.

I have a pretty wide handlebar on the Tallboy. That is the trend these days. Where I used to be able to whiz right through tight spots with the Racer-X, I now need to be exceedingly careful. That is how I broke my ankle a few years ago, riding my 29er hardtail with a wider bar through tight trees.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment riding the Tallboy is wheelbase. Tight switchbacks become much more challenging, as you feel more like driving a school bus than a WRX. I'll take that hit in handling to gain huge increase in stability any day.

As far as the Tallboy frame goes, there is nothing I don't like about it. It seems to be a flawless design. With nearly 1000 miles on the bike, it has gone through the paces.

The only nit I have in the build is the Rock Shox Revelation fork. I regret saving $200 over a Fox fork. The Revelation air fork automatically adjusts negative chamber pressure from the positive chamber that is filled. The problem I'm having is after a few long rides, the negative chamber appears to over fill, letting the fork sag way to far in it's travel (like 30%) when unloaded, and then ramps up very rapidly when hitting bumps. It acts more like an 80mm travel fork than a 140mm travel fork. So after 100-200 miles of riding, I have to release all of the air from the fork via the lower leg screw. This empties and resets the negative chamber. I then re-inflate the fork to spec. The ride is heavenly plush the first ride after, but gets progressively more harsh as the negative chamber pumps up.

I built the bike up with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, the snake skin version. I rotated the tires a while back. Interestingly, with almost 1000 miles on the tires, they are only slightly worn. What's up with that? I've always heard the Ralph's were good for only a few hundred miles. From the looks of them, I could go 2000 miles on them. With leaf drop, the Ralph's are a bit terrifying now, so I'm contemplating changing them out for something more aggressive.

Schwalbe Racing Ralph with over 900 miles of trail riding on it.

Speaking of wheels, I picked up a new set in the 4" size. It's that time of year again to start thinking about off-season activities, particularly cross country skiing. I do a little rollerskiing in the fall to begin building up some of the skate-ski specific fitness. I've been using cheap Pursuit rollerskis without speed reducers. That really limits the terrain I can train on, as you cannot go down much of a hill with those things.

I also have a pair of Niflheim rollerskis, which have speed reducers. However, they are quite heavy, and I found the speed reducers to be unreliable and not powerful enough to control speed on steep descents.

So I finally invested in premium rollerskis, V2 XL98's. They utilize a carbon shaft, not so much to shave weight, but to dampen road vibration. They also have a dropped shaft, which improves stability and makes them feel more like a skate ski on snow. Neither of my other rollerskis have dropped shafts. The XL98's have superb speed reducers that are easy to operate and can control your speed on the steepest descents. I was able to try my buddy's pair a while back and really liked them. The company that makes the XL98's, Jenex, is based nearby in Milford, NH, so I was able to swing by and get a CSU club discount on a new set. They still weren't cheap though.

Pretty, eh? Built-in fenders, but not sure I want to take them on wet roads. Not good for bearings.

Four speed reducer set-points. Maximum means you'll probably be double-polling downhill.
Notice the carbon shaft is dropped from the wheel axle.


Chris said...

>> The ride is heavenly plush the first ride after

I can think of a simple, free solution to your problem, that would make every single ride plush......

DaveP said...

I like that they're made in the USA. I always try and buy stuff made in the USA, but it isn't easy!