14 April 2010

29er, anyone?


I recently started riding a 29er (Haro Mary SS - very affordable, steel, and very affordable) and I don't quite know if I'm a convert - at least not yet - and believe me, I'm big on keeping an open mind about these things!

I actually had a hard time finding a Mary, but I did find a Haro Ally SS to test ride (even more affordable, aluminum alloy, lighter, EVEN MORE AFFORDABLE). Here's what I noticed right away:

  • much less small object chatter under the wheels
  • with a 32-20, a little easier to pedal than the equivalent 32-16 26er with the same tires (Kenda Nevegals)
  • much heavier wheels (I know it was stock, and that the tires are heavier, but still worth stating, right?)
After just the parking lot ride, I wanted one, but I wanted it in steel - always good to have something different in the quiver, and a 29er singlespeed in 4130 fit the bill. Based on how hard it can be to find a Haro Mary (there aren't that many, to my knowledge), I was happy to find out that All Terra in Home Depot had one (priced right, too!)

So I was all set to pick up my Mary, BUT - and note, it's a big BUT just like JLo's - it came stock with a rigid fork. I hadn't ridden rigid since a Surly 1x1 a few years back, and I knew where I could pick up a nice little 29er suspension fork on the cheap, so I figured no biggie and loaded the Mary into my little car.


Ride 1: My first ride was at the Aguinaldo track. First time there, too, so I had no idea what to expect. Just to be on the safe side, I had my wingman on a Santa Cruz Heckler go ahead, I didn't want to get run over or hold him back.

All said, its really a different ride from a 26er. Much more body english involved, and A LOT more adjustment on the twisties and the switchbacks. Better? I don't know, but definitely different.

I did notice that I was feeling a lot less vibration on the downs than usual (steel + 29, I guess) which was nice.

Ride 2: Figured I'd take it for a test ride down Rojas in Maarat (someone please correct me if it's actually spelled Ro"x"as)... Here are some things I noticed:

  • I've gone down clipless before, but it was a bad idea going clipless on a new ride - part of my brain was concentrating on clipping and unclipping
  • Ruts didn't seem as big, especially when you're crossing over them, so I just ran through
  • Roots didn't seem as big either, didn't feel the need to jump over them (but I really should've, I checked my rear wheel when I got home and I had to get out the truing stand to get the alignment right)
What I can't quite understand is that at the bottom, me and Heckler-riding buddy checked out our fork travel - I was under 3 inches and he was at about 4. I know I was going faster and I set both our forks up, so must be that a 29 inch wheel just offers that much more damping before it compresses - or something...

Would I do it again? Sure, but I'd add some gears first, cause getting up that mountain was a bitch and a half - I could get traction when I was standing, but my legs would run out before I hit the crest (I know, I know, I'll work on getting some stronger legs, too)

The point of all this? I couldn't imagine doing the ride on the bike WITH the stock rigid fork - I already pick my lines because I'm usually the only guy on a hardtail, I can't imagine how much pickier (is that even a word) I would have to be with a rigid fork.


Up and coming - a Ragley Titanium 29er! Design by Shedfire, manufactured by Lynskey and designed specifically to run a rigid fork. This thing is made to go fast! It's designed to fit a 440mm axle-to-crown fork. That's 10mm shorter than the rigid fork designed for my 26" wheeled Orange P7!

Oh, but it must be okay to add a suspension fork, right? Nope - not a chance - this is extremely niche, and designed as such. It's one of the things I'm sure not everyone will get, but I'm under the impression you'll know it's for you when you see it.

On a personal note, do I get the whole 29er thing (and more so, do I get the whole rigid 29er thing)? Not yet - but then again, I've only gotten two rides on a 29er so far, so we'll see how it goes...

Those of you who've gotten more time on 29ers (and with rigid forked 29ers, at that), feel free to chime in...

After the pic, more details straight from the brains behind the ride:

An unashamedly specific design, the TD-1 is a “rigid only” 29er. Meaning you can’t run suspension forks on it.

Well, I suppose you could, but it would handle awfully. It’s designed around a 440mm fork – which is a common size for 26in wheeled bikes – but a 29in wheel fits in there just fine. Typically 29in bikes run 470-490mm forks, and so by running the shorter fork, we can lower the handlebars by 30-50mm. Which means a more racey position. What’s that? You don’t like a low racey position? You want a suspension fork? Well hey, I guess this isn’t the frame for you.

But, if you’re fed up with bars-in-the-air, bouncy forks, and just want something pure and rigid and fast, then here’s something for you. Race proven too – our races Dave and Jase got 2nd and 3rd at the ludicrously tough Strathpuffer race earlier in the year, riding their pre-production prototypes. - From Ragleybikes

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