Hardtales #? - What am I up to?

Remember, no matter how much you love your bikes they couldn't give two shits about you.

Remember, no matter how much you love your bikes they couldn't give two shits about you.

Time flies when you’re having fun and I’ve been too busy enjoying my time on the Yelli Screamy to be bothered penning an update. With Spring not only having well and truly sprung and summer kind of here the trails have started to dry out, I’m no longer having to get undressed outside after every ride. While the mud was beginning to drive me crazy it really showed how practical a hardball can be in the wet winter conditions. No issues with creaks and deteriorating bearings. No fastidious care programme required with the bike put away wet after every ride.

The lack of rear suspension has also allowed me to sharpen some of my skills with no extra assistance on the wet roots and rocks. There are three places where you notice it most (which is pretty much everywhere).

  • On the climbs I almost got a ticket for sustained loss of traction. You don’t realise just how much that rear shock is constantly searching for grip. It has helped me with an extra core workout though as I’m constantly managing my weight over the bike to ensure my knees and handlebars maintain an appropriate distance between each.
  • In cornering there is no give in the rear. This give can mean the difference between you being vertical or horizontal. Although I’ve been both chided and admired (in equal measure) for my laidback nature I prefer to keep my 'lay downs’ on downhills to a minimum. It all comes back to the laying off the brakes, appropriately weighting the bike and holding the line. Less room for error, but greater feeling of achievement when it all comes together.
  • Although skids are generally frowned upon, I find they are a very common occurrence. The lacking of braking control in rear is the first item of control to go.  Where previously a well managed piece of rear braking could allow you delicate control over the trickiest trail obstacle, that is now a distant memory. Controlled skidding is now where you’ll spend your time and oversteering a common trait. All good though - this translates to commitment and quick decision making. Both essential skills in Mountain Biking.

Above all there is one feeling that I get on the hardtail that I love, and this is when you’re completely off the brakes and the bike is galloping beneath you and picking up speed. There is a sense of true freedom in that moment and although it exists on all bikes it somehow feels more pronounced on a hardtail.

All that said, I must confess that I've broken my pledge and spent some time recently on a full suspension bike—the really very good Kona Process 153. The time spent on a full suss again was welcome after almost nine months, but I did find there were times I was longing again for the simplicity of the hardtail. There is a connectedness to the trail on a hardtail that is somewhat reminiscent of a fixed gear bike on the road. Full suspension allows you to become your own web edit hero and the 153 borders a mini-DH bike, but I also felt a little insulated from what was around me. I love to ride off-road for the challenge and the variety. If it was easy - everyone would do it.

Crackerjack orange. Size Large. 33 pounds (with pedals) on my fishing scales.
Crackerjack orange. Size Large. 33 pounds (with pedals) on my fishing scales.

In terms of the hardware, I have the loved the Yelli Screamy. I don’t think I could have chosen a better bike for my year. It is fast, playful and surprisingly compliant - but it does have one small issue. The drive side chainstay sticks out a little more than it should, creating a bit of a chainline nightmare. Effectively a 32 tooth narrow/wide chainring hits the chainstay when set up as you’d expect. Online advice was to run an extra spacer and for the first six months that seemed to work fine - until on one ride the non-drive crank came off. Next step was to remove a spacer and run the chainring on the outside of the spider, but this created too much of an extreme chainline and I couldn’t run the 36 in the rear cassette as it would wind the chain off the chainring. This was okay for six weeks or so before I got sick of it and complained to Canfield. Canfield suggested a spindle spacer - which I didn’t easily locate, but I did find a narrower BB spacer that gave me just the amount of distance to clean the chainstay. I was back in action.

A hare's whisker.

A hare's whisker.

This was fine for a month or so until one ride recently I was putting the power down on a small rise on a downhill trail and bang. Crank off. My lower calf was introduced to the exposed axle.

It's almost smiling...
It's almost smiling...

It looks worse that what it was and only a few stitches, but I hate injuries due to mechanical failures.

Now I’d say the cranks were partially damaged when they first came off so that was likely to blame, so in my mind there was only one solution: new cranks and a faithful file.

Only took five minutes.

Only took five minutes.

Fits a little better...
Fits a little better...

Now I’m much happier with the setup and have more confidence it will hold together, but I do think it's something of a design/manufacturing issue, especially as there's more tyre space on the drive side to non-drive side. I’ll be taking this up again with the guys at Canfield.

Everything else about the bike is still performing great. The Light Bicycle Carbon wheels have had a hard time but they're still as true as the day they were installed.  The SLX groupset has been completely reliable and the brakes have been up to the task. The Gravity Dropper has continued to be the most reliable dropper post I've had to date - and the fact that it can be completely disassembled with basic tools at home certainly adds to its appeal (but 1.27mm Allen bolts - are you serious?). The X-Fusion Stance forks continue to be nothing short of awesome. The adjustable travel and lockout are the bomb and I haven't needed to even think about servicing them yet. The only changes have been a new rear tyre due to a hole in the previous one (Red Rocks will get you every time) and I'm currently trying a 50mm stem.

Anyway, holidays are here and that may mean new bikes for some but rides for all. So happy holidays, and run what you brung.

Here's a few edits to keep you motivated (...as if you need motivation).

And what must be the best hardtail edit of all time.

And some Hardtail vs Snow carnage to remind you how lucky you are it's summer (although this does look kinda fun).