The first change we made before we even rode the bike was to cut the outer sections of the grips down so we could move the shifters – and more importantly the
brake levers – further outboard to make full use of the 25in wide bars. Gripshift make a specific “Shorty” shifter but we didn’t have to get one in so we’ll use this modification for now.
We’d forgotten just how fluid Trek STP’s are. Sure some riders will hate the front to rear flexibility but there’s a backbone of strength that keeps you
on track, and the agility and flickability through tight sections is inspiring. The lateral flex and natural compliance of the carbon also helps
to hold grip far longer than we expected. Cue big comedy moment as we hit a notoriously slippery single-track corner and slid both wheels all the way
through the turn, and ended up sideways across the track. As Mark, riding behind, rightly pointed out “You only fell off from the shock of still being upright”.
You’ll notice from the pictures that the bike is built low and long. This is mostly on account of the
stumpy legs and long back of the rider. The length means that the front end is left pretty light. By the end of the second ride our retro-racer experiment with flat bars was consigned to the spares bin. Instead we bolted on a set of low-rise Roox carbon bars which end up as being retrofitted to every long-term test bike I ride. Light, 25in wide, with an inch of rise they have about the right amount of sweep and shock absorption. They are still shallow enough to fit through the single piece clamp on the Pace stem.
For the same long bike, light front-end reasons I’ve just changed the kinked, laid back, seat post to an in-line Thomson post. Not quite as much stretch, but the forks are doing more work and the bike can be nailed through corners much more aggressively.
On rooty, rocky single-track the SID shock really takes the edge off any hits, increasing traction enough to increase confidence smoothness. The great thing is that the STP never takes away the sense that it’s actually you cleaning sections not the suspension. Add in the immediate, not to mention instant acceleration kick and the bike will launch itself out of slow speed, or even stalled, climb situations and it’s a brilliant
Mechanically, we had no problems with the bike on the first two runs (about 10 miles of single-track each time) apart from slippage of the front shifter
simply because we hadn’t tightened the clamp enough. Our only worry was how fast the ceramic rims were eating through the brake blocks, particularly on
Having switched the bars and pulled assorted greenery out of the brake levers and transmission it was time to hit our favourite local loop on the
rock and rut trails of Nidderdale. Throughout the rides we’d been gradually increasing the air pressure in the rear shock until we weren’t getting full travel, and the bike was kicking around and skittering
more up the rocky haul east out of Ramsgill. The Trailblasters still managed to scrabble traction out of the mixed rocks, ice and frozen tractor tyre
divots. We stopped to drop pressure back down to 75psi (50psi in the negative spring chamber) at the
same point we ditched our gloves and Buff to cool down, and the bike settled back into its chatter-smoothing self. The only surprise came when we rode, albeit gently, straight into a gate on a slight downhill. The cause was traced to ice building up on the rims and the rear cable gaiter. Nothing a quick tactical pee wouldn’t solve! Mintues later we had
the sun on our backs, totally deserted trails, no wind, and cranking hard along the ridge line we were slaloming icy puddles just for kicks.
The bike might feel flexy but when it matters it can be relied upon to nail the forks right into the line you want with the rest of the bike shifting around to comply when necessary. We binned the diagonal descent last time we were up here but this time the bike took total care of us. Planted even on the off-camber stuff,
but instantly cut and pasting across lines and rain runs. The Pace forks were now beginning to plush out and the softer rear shock gave far less kick back, and more settled landings than a proper hardtail.
All hunky dory so far, so something had to go wrong on the steep grassy climb back up. It’s a long grind so I dropped it straight into the granny ring and the chain started skipping and banging. I’d noticed it doing that a couple of times on the first climb but just put it down to bad indexing, but after five dismounts on a normally climbable stretch I decided to take a closer look.
The problem? Somehow the biggest, 34 tooth, sprocket on the cassette had twisted out of line, toward the spokes. The second sprocket was also bent. There had been no impacts on or off the bike and both the cassette and chain were brand new. All we can think of is maybe we trashed it on an under-pressure shift. Lightweight, or not, this is designed for race conditions when every damn move is likely to be under pressure. Let’s just say our vocabulary made it clear we were unhappy. Straightening with Gerber pliers got the second sprocket back into action and I winched the bike up to the top.
As long as we stayed out of bottom gear the Gripshift drivetrain was instantaneous and accurate from gear to gear and we love the fine tuning on the front shifter
to stop the chain rub that drives us nuts with Rapidfire units. We suffered a
couple of mis-shifts as we twisted the wrong part of the grip, but that’s a lot less trauma than we’ve had trying to use reverse action Rapid Rise mechs
that we’re not used to, so we’ll reserve judgement till we’ve had a fair go.
The rest of the ride saw faster speeds and more confidence as we settled into the bike. Once we remembered it was there we also used the fork lock-out far more than we’ve done before, if only because it’s so damn convenient on the bars.
If the terrain is smooth and you’re standing on the pedals, give the cute little lever
a quick flick and kerpow it’s rigid bar wrestling time. Heading back down?
No trouble, one quick flick and everything softens up again.
By the descent back into Middlesmoor we were down to the bars with the brake
levers even with the barrel cable adjusters fully out, but gloved hands
froze so fast on the road section it was academic anyway.
Overall the STP build-up is exactly what we wanted; fast, super responsive, and vertebrae-saving but without taking the fun or challenge out. Our major gripe is with the warped cassette that stopped us short on all the technical climbs where otherwise the STP looked like recording new benchmarks.
We’re out again on a long haul, scoping a new North York Moors bike route with the Singletraction club and the National parks folk, so we’ll let you know what happens with our straightened cassette later. Hopefully the Pace forks will be fully active by then too.
Unless anything really dramatic happens, expect the next update at around 100 miles.