Monthly Archives: July 2013

An itch, scratched

 

These days there are so many mountain bike niches that it’s hard to keep up. In fact now that I really think about it these niches themselves are now sub divided with wheel size choice.

Rather than working out whether you need your all mountain 4″ travel or the full on downhill bike for that trip to Wales , life is easier when you have fewer bikes.

I have had just 2 decent mountain bikes, a full sus and a hardtail. Each running different tubeless tyres so choosing the right bike isn’t that difficult. But I’ve just complicated the whole equation and added a niche bike that I’ve been after for ages but never been able to justify.

For many people the complexity of a mountain bike is a part of the pleasure, triple, double or single chain rings, how much travel, shock pressures, head angles – it goes on and on. I don’t really like this. I like to ride, any bike, any terrain, just ride what you have and adjust. So this new bike is right up my street. There is nothing to think about, apart from riding.

Worked it out yet? It’s either a stupid bike or a real bike. Why would you ride a fully rigid bike these days? Or a mountain bike with just one gear. So a rigid singlespeed makes either no sense or perfect sense.

It’s a bike I’ve wanted to try for ages now. The people who ride them love them, some do Mayhem solo on them – and do very well. So when the Yeti was upgraded and I had a spare pair of old wheels the cunning plan was to use them on a singlespeed. I could never justify buying a frame, forks cranks and SS kit when I don’t need another bike but when I got an email from Al at Plush hill cycles asking if I was interested in a Genesis iO ID frame with a few bits thrown in, for a stupidly low amount of money I couldn’t say no. The deal was frame, seatpost, collar, saddle, stem, spacers, bars grips and headset for way less than just the cost of the frame. I took 10 seconds to reply.

To keep costs down I bought some rigid forks and decided on a SS crank, re using the wheels and old SLX brakes from the Yeti.
Last weekend all the bits came together and I had a few enjoyable few hours fettling and building it in the garage. It all seemed to work (although the brakes have a squeal I just can’t get rid of) so 2 nights ago I took it for its first proper ride.

It was a shakedown ride so only 9 miles, and it took half that to stop myself trying to click the gear shifters. I also put flat pedals on and I’m still not convinced with that choice – although it might be that I need better shoes.

So the verdict.

Let’s get the niggles out of the way. The brakes need sorting, no power and squealing despite cleaning the rotors and having new pads. The chain isn’t quite lined up so I need to fettle the spacers by a mm. I think I’ll put on some clipless pedals but these are minor really.

The Looks
I love the simplicity. It’s a lovely deep red colour and even Ali likes it. Indeed both my girls seem to think it’s now their bike. I’m glad I went with black forks and a SS specific set of cranks. the chunky BMX chain gives it a robust look, like it will take all the power you can throw at it.

The Ride
Size-wise the medium is about right. The stem could be longer for me but Ali and Ellie can also ride it so it’s perfect. Gearing is always a compromise and I think a 32-16 is right. On the flat my usual cadence means I ride at 16-17mph which is fine and there are so few hills near home that I’ll be fine I think. It took me a while to get used to coasting when I’m at this speed and I’d normally shift up and keep the power down. It makes for a more relaxing ride in many ways as I just can’t go any faster so you relax. I’ve become stronger in the past few months and I found the hills fine – in or out of the saddle the bike responds well and it was lovely to ride.

The tyres give the only suspension and to be honest it’s enough for the ride I did. Nothing too extreme although I did get bounced off the pedals. I’m used to riding out of the saddle so it feels quite natural but I imagine someone new to mountain biking and with only FS experience would find it hard.

Read all the reviews of a SS and the key point is simplicity – you just ride, There is a focus on maintaining momentum which I got slightly but not changing gears is quite pleasant. You ride at the speed you ride at and it evens things out. My average speed was a bit slower than I’d have ridden on my other bikes but not by a lot and it’s not all about going as fast as you can. I’m going to ride a full loop on it soon so I can get a better comparison.

I’ve been thinking about when I’ll ride it and it’s likely that it’ll be mainly when I ride by myself. I’d be compromised on the road sections and we often push each other when we ride in a group. It’ll be perfect for long rides on the canal and as it has loads of clearance I can see it being the ride of choice in the winter. As it’s got slots for an Alfine hub I may well get a spare rear wheel built with an Alfine 8 at some point. It’ll be easy to attach as the cable guides use zip ties but it’ll cost about £400 to do this so it can wait.

Final thoughts.

N+1. What’s not to like about a good looking, simple, cheap new bike. Especially when it’s going to open up new ways to be a little bit mad.