I was thinking the other day about perception vs reality. I don’t know about you, but I do just as much riding off the bike as I do on it, constantly thinking and rethinking my setup. I think my stem is too long, my bars are too narrow, my wheels are too heavy, my shorts are too long, my gloves are too orange. You get the drift. The source of this dilemma can range from a stranger's passing comment through to the most intense and scientific interrogation of all the possible options and outcomes. At the end of the day, it's my perception that needs to be satisfied. I do very few timed runs and even less back to back testing in a controlled environment. In my time I've had the chance to ride a lot of bikes, but there has been very little opportunity for a ‘control’ in any of these comparisons. Even things like tyre pressure can be very telling. Therefore – if I FEEL faster, then pure and simple, I must be.
So what’s all this mindless rambling got to do with frames sans rear suspension? Riding my hardtail can make me feel slower. When I catch that trail feature just wrong, my bike no longer politely smirks and looks away. It sure as shit tells me—with prejudice! And when these moments occur they can knock my perception. And over time my perception tells me that I’m riding like shite and should buy some chocolate on my way home.
But then a kind of control is introduced to the mix. I go riding with a friend. Someone I’ve ridden with often. I discover that my perception is not at all ground in reality. I’m not the pig in high heels that I thought I was. In some areas I could even... maybe… possibly… be faster.
And so I realise. A hardtail doesn’t have to be a handicap. It’s just a different tool for the job. Although it may be not as good for some things, it's going to dominate in others. My challenge is to find and exploit those advantages and develop strategies to minimise the weaknesses.
But truth be told, I may be overthinking things and should just shut the fuck up and enjoy the ride.
In the last update I provided a list of possible new frames. In the comments section people said said I'd missed a couple and I had. These deserve the appropriate airing. They are:
Cotic Soul 27.5
Cotic have earned themselves a loyal following and rightfully so. The new Soul is a bigger wheeled version of a firm British favourite. Looks great in crackerjack orange too.
This oversight was a little embarrassing as Chromag should be on everyone’s hardtail shortlist. Someone also mentioned Dekerf which if you didn’t know make Chromag’s locally made frames. There are Taiwanese alternatives on some models.
Nicolai Argon AM
I had these guys on the shortlist at the beginning, but had discounted them on the fact that they’re a little pricey and they’re made to order (meaning delay). But they are oh so beautiful! It would have been without the pinion gearbox.
Anyway, after some more rides on my Ragley and some intense meditation over the contents of my navel, I came to my personal conclusion that 29er wheels are better for hardtails. They roll over obstacles easier and take a bit of harshess out of the ride. The trick though is find one with the shortest chainstays possible to keep the ride nimble and ‘flickable‘ (I always thought the Ragley could have been an inch shorter).
So, this resulted in even more gormless screaming into the void. Look now what else has made it on to my shortlist.
The Taiwanese made version of the Surface still has a very strong following and rightfully so.
Canfield Brothers Nimble 9
This one has a great following and certainly looks the money with a few colour options. Strangely enough, for 2014 they've gone to a 142x12mm rear axle but back to a 27.2 seatpost. Not quite sure the thinking there.
A nice smooth ride. Just what I’m after.
This could be the one that started it all for me. I'd seen one that a mechanic had in Bike Barn. He spec’d it right and I wanted it more than any other bike in the store. Kona got this bike right and were blown away by the demand.
I never really understood mountain biking in jeans…
Brand new bike company out of the UK. They had an interesting way of solving the short chainstay issue with a split seat tube. I so very nearly bought one of these. The first run was sold out and the second wasn’t due until late June. Lovely guy Andy Gowan owns and runs the company.
Canfield Brothers Yelli Screamy
This one ticks none of the boxes, but you can’t Google Long Travel 29er Hardtail without reading comments from owners going on and on (and on) about how awesome they are. Throw some Kool-Aid in there and you’d have a cult.
A fairly cringeworthy ‘extreme’ video that does nothing for selling the bike. (For the record, bobby socks and full face helmets don’t mix – it’s the rules.)
Titus Fireline Ti
Titanium. Titanium. Titanium. And not crazy pricing although it’s titanium. I always wanted a titanium hardtail. Is this the opportunity?
In honour of the BigWig, here is a nice Ragley edit of a couple of guys enjoying the woods on their hardtails.
So what did I get? I’ll tell you soon. What would you get?