It’s been a while since we did an update on the scooter – our project ‘custom’ bike – so I thought you’d want to know how it was getting on at the 300 mile mark.
If it sounds like I’ve been taking ages to get the miles in then I’ll assure you it’s nothing to with the STP. Everytime I’ve got on it I’ve racked up the miles at an astonishing rate, it’s just that for the past couple of months I’ve mostly been riding other bikes.
People who remember its original set up will notice that a few things have changed since the last update, and a couple of things have now settled in happily too. We’ll start at the bottom corner for a change.
I had a few accidental problems getting used to Gripshift (ESP 9.0SL) after I foolishly trimmed the grips down, but since I got that sorted it’s been nothing but easy shifting pleasure.
Shifts are instant and accurate, and I find I’m rolling up and down the gears far faster than Rapidfire, which makes a real difference in sprint starts and tight technical situations. Going back to Rapidfire on other test bikes also makes me realise how annoying the chain grind at extremes of the cassette is, as opposed to the multi-position front Shifter on the ESP. Hopefully we’ll be upgrading to a brand new set of SRAM X.0 very shortly, and I’ll let you know all about that as soon as we get it.
Taking care of turning the chain in the first place is the job of the Race Face Turbine LP cranks. Despite a nasty habit of ripping cranks off bottom brackets very quickly, these ISIS units have showed not the merest sign of creak or wobble since I wound them. In fact power delivery is as rock solid as you could hope for from a carbon softail and we can attribute much of the slightly delayed pick up between rings (compared to Shimano) to the lack of a locking ring on the E-type front mech. To save a bit of weight now we’re not trudging uphill through deep mud, I’ll probably drop the steel inner ring (50g) in favour of a slightly smaller ‘middle’ ring (30 tooth?).
So everything is pretty hunky dory on the go side of things, but I was really missing the power and control of discs to bring things to a halt.
With no disc bosses on the rear (it’s a glue melting point issue) I thought we’d try a different set of conventional V brakes. Although the XTR calipers mean another Shimano ‘sell out’ from our original concept, the difference in modulation and power compared to the Avid Ti’s we fitted at first is impressive. Combined with ceramic rims, they’ve restored my faith in rim braking, and increased my confidence in technical sections significantly, with no more delayed bite or snatch or slide to get me into trouble.
I’m still very tempted to fit a disc up front for rapid anchorage from the frighteningly high speeds the Trek encourages on the open trail.
It’s not all bad news for Avid though as I’ve kept the brake levers themselves, and the red-sheathed Flack Jacket cables haven’t asked for attention once despite some truly evil weather. I’ll probably strip and re-lube them shortly but it’s definitely more from curiosity than necessity.
Anyone concerned that I might be treating such a lightweight race bred bike with the respect and care it deserves should also note one of many paint chips struck off the frame during various crashes. Not the fault of the bike I hasten to add, more that the soft tail handling has tempted me well past my actual skill limits before I’ve realised. The Fox forks mean I’ve got away with it more often than not though.
Yes I did say Fox Forks, in particular their top of the range Float 100 RLC’s knocked down to 80 rather than 100mm travel to keep the front end down.
So why add a very accurate and tough 3.7lb suspension set up to a flexy race frame that weighs less than the fork. I’ve had the fork on test a for a while now and after having to send the Pace Pro Class back it seemed the obvious choice to stick in the front end for our big Dales adventure back in winter. It’s astonishingly smooth performance and unshakeable steering over tiny ripples or buckaroo sized boulders alike more than makes up the extra weight, especially when hammering rock descents at twilight after long days in the hills.
Anyone concerned about reliability should note that I’ve had it apart a couple of times to play with travel and, despite a reputation for nothing ever working the same again after I’ve had it apart, the Floats have been fine. Maybe it’s that the metal internals are simply a joy to play with, with no need to bodge, force or curse, and the main seals pop out for cleaning without any need to dismantle the fork at all. Even when a botched late night re-assembly left the fork leaking damping oil overnight, the only thing I temporarily lost was the lockout and that was easily cured with an oil top up. In fact, the only related grief it gave me was a string of pinch flat punctures as the rear tyre failed to cope with rockeries that the fork barely noticed.
I’ve now swapped it for a Marzocchi Marathon to see how that holds up, while the Fox’s move on to our Planet-X Compo to add even more technical performance and appetite for lunacy.
To solve the problem I had with pinch punctures, I switched the Rolfs for a pair of tubeless Mavic CrossMax wheels from another test bike. With big flat blade aluminium spokes radial-laced into the unique hubs, there’s no denying the impact of the cartoon book looks: Performance is equally impressive. Stiffness is good despite the very low weight and the sealed rim UST design seems to hold air better than other tubeless systems I’ve tried.
The lack of innertubes certainly creates a remarkably smooth and silky ride even at high pressures, but the real beauty is dropping to 30 psi and still hitting rock blocks bang on. Even brand new tyres (look for separate tests on rubber from Kenda and Panaracer here soon) still need topping up before every ride though.
The Crossmax’s are now back on their rightul bike, as we’ve just received a pair of the latest Bontrager Race Lite tubeless tyres. These weigh in at an almost identical weight, but with the advantage of conventional, easily replaced componentry.
I’ve been buggering about with my riding position again, and the set up you see in the pictures was a mix of need to try new test gear, and a move to maximum stretch for some recent long days out.
Back on goes the laidback Thomson seatpost, but with the Flite saddle nudged forwards slightly for an ‘almost inline but not quite’ position.
Back on goes the standard straight leather Flite, as we never really noticed the benefit of the gel centre on the other, and it weighed an extra 100g. Enjoying the soft centre on the road bike though.
Finally we’ve also reverted to back to flat bars, in the shape of Answer’s new carbon Hyperlites. Wide risers were giving enough leverage to really twist the frame about and frankly it was making me feel queasy. The Hyperlites save weight, they look great and create a much more direct steering feel. With a tall fork and large sized frame I don’t need the height of risers anyway. I’ve slammed it hard off drops and accidentally bounced it off the ground several times and it’s held up fine, so I’ll notch that up as an impressed so far.
Well that’s all for the current bulletin, as I’ve got to go see a man about a trail we’re hoping to build, but feel free to ask any questions about our project scooter on the forum, or just wait around for our next update which should include new forks, new wheels and a new transmission!