Okay. I appreciate you may not have been on the edge of your seats on anything, but it is time for me to come clean on the hardtail I finally chose.
It’s fair to say that my original brief was thrown out the window and I bought some parts on whim, some at a good deal and some that I sought out specifically. At the end of the day though, I'm pretty happy with where I’ve ended up. The bike is reasonably light, handles well and unless I’m straightlining rock gardens I tend to forget I’m even riding a hardtail. But one thing I have managed to achieve, almost unexpectedly, is contentment. Having just the one bike and identifying a date before I buy a new bike has stopped my wandering eye. I now think about the ride rather than the bike. For that reason alone the whole exercise has been worth it.
But before I start preaching about enlightenment and the zen of the ride, let's get back to the hardware.
Frame: Canfield Brothers Yelli Screamy Anyone who searches 'long travel 29er hardtail' would have come across this frame. It was almost the opposite of the brief, but everywhere I turned this frame kept coming up. Online reviews and public opinion was almost unanimous in this frame being to ride. When the NZ dealer was selling one cheap(er) on Trade Me, that was about all it took to push me over the edge. The frame has lived up to the hype. Stiff, but forgiving, the short chainstays gives it a flickability almost reminiscent of a 26er. The light weight of aluminium has been a real advantage too.
My brief and what I ended up with: Steel - Alloy. 27.5 - 29er Slack geometry - 68 degrees (not bad for a 29er) 142 thru axle rear end - 135mm QR ISG mounts - none Long reach - average reach
Forks: X-Fusion Trace RL2
To be honest - I really wanted a Pike. But they're not cheap. I wanted something stiffer than the Revolution I had been running on the BigWig. The Trace was being touted as a fair alternative (as a poor man's Pike). In reality has been nothing short of outstanding. The only thing I feel I have traded is small bump sensitivity, but it handles the big hits well, is stiffer than the Revolution, has 34 mm stanchions, two travel settings (110mm and 140mm) and a lockout. I can drop the front end, lock it out and climb like there's no tomorrow. I can’t believe more people aren’t running X-Fusion forks.
Drivetrain and Brakes: Shimano SLX.
I have to come clean. I bought this as a groupset on special from a UK based cycle store. The price was too good to ignore and I have blown away with its simplicity and performance. I swapped the rear shifter out for Saint (I love that I can change up two gears at a time) but everything else is SLX. It shifts well, brakes well and looks good. I will be very clear: at no point since riding this setup have I felt I’ve sacrificed performance. The only thing I’d change out in future is the rear cassette and that’s just for weight. I mated this to a Christchurch made Revolution Products Premium narrow-wide chainring (32T) and have never dropped a chain (I hate front derailleurs).
Wheels and Tyres: Hope, Light Bicycle and On-One
This is somewhere where I wanted to spend a little more. I believe the hype and went for some wider rims. I wanted the lighter weight and stiffness of carbon and a really good set of reliable hubs. Considering all of these requirements and keeping carbon at a reasonable cost I went for a Light Bicycle custom build. I went for a slightly heavier ‘DH’ lay up on the 35mm wide rims (30mm internal) and brass nipples with Pillar Aero Spokes on Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs- all in black. My plan is to have these wheels a long time so my focus was very much on longevity. For tyres I’ve had some dual compound On-one smorgasbord 2.35 tyres sitting around that I bought some time ago at a mere $25 each. I stuck these on initially, but have been so happy with them I haven’t found the need to change.
Contact points: Easton, RaceFace, SDG, ODI and X-Fusion
After riding a bike with some Havoc 35mm bars some time ago, I always knew it was going to be them. Stem length I was unsure about but after testing some different lengths settled on a 65mm Raceface Atlas 35 stem (which is a thing of beauty). And of course ODI grips are hard to beat. So it was a set of Ruffians. SDG Bel Air saddle is my saddle of choice these days. It has been perched atop an X-Fusion Strate seatpost that I’ve had on test (see an upcoming review Spoke). This is a stealth post so required a hole drilled in the frame.For some reason, I was much less concerned about doing this for a hardtail than I normally would for a full suss bike.
So there it is. If I’m honest this has a cost a little more than I’d care to admit and about the same as my my last full suss bike, but it is a robust build, relatively light at 28 pounds and hella fun to ride. There are moments on this bike that I haven’t experienced for some time. I’m not about to bullshit about it being better than full suss, because it’s not. But I have been having fun, and isn’t that why we're all here.
To get (or keep) you stoked on hardtail riding, here is a sweet little Steve Peat and Josh Bryceland edit (if you don't mind the product placement).
So... how did I do? What would you have done differently?