Posted on 8:08 AM by Schottler
My first full suspension race bike, and all I have to say is "Holy (insert creative profanity)." The first thing I notice is how easy it is to sit down and pedal through anything. Most importantly to me, how little energy the bike still takes to propel, it really isn't much different than my hardtail Cannondale Flash 29er. Any extra energy taken from the rear suspension can really add up over a short or long race, so it's important that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Which is why I am choosing to keep both the full suspension and hardtail for this year, each bike has an advantage on different courses. Also, it's VERY nice having a bike to steal last minute parts off of.
The first thing you probably notice are the tube shapes and design. It's beefy, yet it weighs nothing. It's obvious a serious amount of computation time and head scratching was put in to create shapes with specific material thickness' at different area's to obtain one of the lightest, stiffest, and most efficient 29 full suspension frames on the market. Seriously, look at the headtube.
The seat stays are also specifically shaped:
It almost came from factory the way I wanted it. I swapped out the wheels to Stan's Race Gold's, which are about 1,300 gram wheels, down from the 1,750ish gram DT Swiss Tricon XM 1550's. I am still using Sram XX, for now. I might be changing both bikes to Shimano XTR at some point this year, just to experiment. I'm not sure of the weight after the wheel swap, I am guessing 23 lbs with pedals. Tim Johnson's Scalpel 29 weighs in at 22.1 lbs. I got to check his out back in August, sort of, while he passed me in the Leadville 100 going up Columbine.
The only concern I have, which isn't really big, is the clearance of the bottle. Solution is to be careful or just use a smaller bottle and throw a spare in a jersey pocket.
And of course, Ergon GS1 grips.
I've always heard people tell me how amazing Schwalbe race tires are. Amazing in how well they hook up, compliance, and ride quality. The only experience I had with them were flats, instant flats. But, the tires I was using were designed for tubes and I was running them tubeless, with too much pressure. So, I don't feel right basing my opinion on them by my own incompetence. The bike came with Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tubeless Ready tires. The first ride I did with them, with tubes (too lazy to take them out,) they flatted... because I was running 20 psi. So I put Stans in them, and to surprise, they seated with a floor pump instantly. I took them out to Swope Park for a couple hours and was amazed. If you've ridden there recently, there are numerous technical rock sections just waiting to shred sidewalls. The result: They are still intact! In addition to this feat, they hook up better than any other tire I have used and conform to anything they roll over. I kept going faster and faster around the corners and they never let go, far beyond the speed that my trusty Bontrager 29-3 2.00 tires could handle. I've used those Bontragers for over 2 years with zero flats, but they really don't handle very well, especially around low speed tight corners. Not to mention the compliance is pretty horrible, mainly due to how narrow they are. In the end, it doesn't matter how great a tire performs if it can't keep air half the time. You'll lose A LOT more time and positions fixing a flat than going slightly slower around the corners. I'll keep riding these Schwalbe's this winter and see if they stay together. I wish they had a bigger selection of 29er tires, especially ones with sidewall protection, I'd buy them in a heartbeat.
Swope Park, here in Kansas City, is amazing. So many people riding the trails while I was out there, it was great to see. Unfortunately it's about a 30 minute drive from my house and there really isn't a way to ride there without getting run over or shot. I'll probably be riding to Smithville more this winter.
First real training rides start tomorrow, the 3rd. I've been working out 6 days a week for 30-60 minutes, which is starting to catch up with me, but I can feel a huge difference. Hopefully this low back race pain issue will disappear... the full suspension should help that out as well. I cannot wait to start training again.