Mesquite Trail, AZ

31 03 2010

1998 Santa Cruz Heckler Redux

30 03 2010

Heckler Redux

My friend Sean wanted a new mountain bike, but the sticker shock of a new full suspension ride was putting him off.  He had access to a 1998 Santa Cruz Heckler frame so we decided to upgrade it a bit so he’d have a sweet rig at a reasonable cost.

New LX dearailleur...

I put a new LX derailleur on back as well as a Schwalbe Fat Albert 26 x 2.4″ tire. I kept the existing 8 speed cassette since it was in decent shape.

New V-brakes and existing rear rim...

I replaced the beat up v-brakes for a set new of Deore stoppers.  I kept the old rear wheel after tensioning and truing it.

Robust single pivot suspension...

The robust single pivot suspension design of the Heckler was in good shape with no play.  The rear shock was working fine.

Race Face Turbine LP cranks...

The cranks, BB and front derailleur were all serviceable so I just cleaned off the crud and adjusted them.  I put a new SRAM 8 speed chain on.

Nice paint job...

The paint was in good shape so I cleaned off the bike and polished it with some Pedros Bike Lust.  I pulled the cables and housing at first, but ended up reusing everything, but the brake cables.

Fox Float RLC 100

The old Marzocchi Bomber came off and a new Fox Float RLC 100 fork went on…mmmm…buttery smooth suspension travel.

Avid BB7

The Fox fork won’t accept v-brakes so I binned the old ones as well as the old front wheel.  A new Sun Ryhno Lite/Deore disc wheel shod with a Schwalbe Fat Albert took its place.  An Avid BB7 and 160mm rotor will handle the braking duties now.

Ergon Grips and a Salsa Moto Ace riser bar...

The cockpit got a complete upgrade with a Salsa stem and bars.  Ergon grips and Avid brake levers.  I kept the old 8 speed XT shifters.

One nice ride!

I was amazed how well the bike rides now.  I used to own a Heckler of the same vintage and it did not ride this nicely.  I’m giving most of the credit to the Fox 100mm fork which jacks up the front end an inch slowing down the steering and providing some excelent suspension action which seems to be a good match for the ~3″ of travel in the rear.  The Schwalbe Fat Alberts are light for a big tire and roll nicely adding a welcome dose of traction and even more plushness.  The wide riser bar and Ergon grips are really nice on the hands and give you lots of leverage for precision steering.

This bike rides so sweetly I’m sad to give it back to Sean….=-)

This is why you buy quality – not many FS frames from 10 years ago would be worth upgrading and even fewer would give you such an amazing ride compared to modern FS bikes.  Nicely done Santa Cruz.

Carbon Fiber Mountain Bikes?

29 03 2010

Ibis Mojo HD

You can’t help, but notice a lot of the new mountain bike designs are featuring carbon frames.  The Luddite in me says carbon is too fragile and too expensive to be a good choice.  However, when you look at companies like Santa Cruz and Ibis that have gone heavily carbon you don’t see huge amounts of failures being reported in the online forums.  Additionally these are both smaller boutique brands that rely on their reputations to justify higher sticker prices compared to the major players like Specialized.  If Ibis suddenly had a reputation for frames breaking they’d go under in a heartbeat.

I found this interesting discussion of different frame materials linked on the Ibis site.  It was written a few years back before the current generation of Ibis frames were designed and it is worth a read if your keen on understanding the differences in frame materials.

Talking to a couple Santa Cruz dealers they were both super stoked about the carbon frames and felt they were superior to the aluminum in almost every way.  They even went so far as to say the carbon frames were as tough or tougher than the metal frames.  You could just chalk this up to salesmanship, but these are some longstanding well respected bike shops that rely heavily on customer loyalty and reputation to sell high end bikes.

Santa Cruz Blur LT Carbon

Going carbon for a Santa Cruz Blur LT costs$564USD and saves you a pound for a similar build in aluminum.  The frame will also be stiffer and can be made in shapes not possible for a metal bike.  In the world of high end mountain bikes $600 to save a pound and get better ride quality is well within the spectrum of what’s considered acceptable.

Santa Cruz Blur LT - aluminum

So after a bit of poking around the choice of carbon fiber for a mountain bike frame material doesn’t seem as crazy as it did when I started thinking about it. Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding.  With so many carbon frames out in the dirt it won’t be hard to get a feel for how they are holding up by seeing what riders are posting online.

Cannondale Raven

As a side note my buddy Kurt had a Cannondale Raven which was one of the first carbon fiber mountain bike frames made.  He abused it pretty well until the frame failed.  Interestingly the part that failed was the aluminum insert at the headset not the carbon fiber.  He rec’d a Scalpel as a replacement since Ravens were out of production at that point.  The Scalpel uses carbon fiber chainstays without a pivot so they flex as the rear suspension compresses.  He’s been riding that frame hard for years and it’s still going strong.

Cannondale Scalpel - note carbon chainstays...

BTW – if you want a deal on some aluminum Santa Cruz bikes aluminum Blur LTs are being sold off online by riders upgrading to the carbon Blur LT…same thing is bound to happen when the carbon Nomad hits the trails this spring…you’ll be able to snap up some used aluminum bikes at great prices.

Sunday Skool

28 03 2010

Urban Assault - Calgary Alberta

Carbon Santa Cruz Nomad

27 03 2010

Carbon Nomad Flyer

I’m still not sold on carbon mountain bikes, but I gotta admit this looks pretty sweet….=-)  By the time I wear out the fork/shock/drivetrain on my aluminum Nomad MK2 the jury should be in on how durable these frames are in the real world.  Santa Cruz is going heavily carbon with almost all their bikes now offered in this material other than their uber long travel DH rigs and the [relatively] economical Heckler.  Given their small volume sales and high cost Santa Cruz can’t afford to get a bad rap about frame quality so you have to assume they’ve beat the hell out of these new carbon frames and they stood up just fine.

Time will tell!

PS – who do I have to sleep with to get one of these carbon Nomads to test???…=-)

Rain Forest Riding

26 03 2010

Photo: Dan Barham

I found this sweet photo of riding at Sooke BC – Vancouver Island.  Makes me want to load up my Santa Cruz Nomad and head for the island!

eTikit Impressions

26 03 2010

eTikit's electric hub motor...

I’ll be posting all the gory technical details about the two electric motor kits Kurt and I are testing on two Bike Friday Tikits next week.  I’ve been a bit strapped for time so I haven’t managed to fit in all the testing I would like and I need to pull together all the numbers from Ken at Power in Motion to provide accurate specs on each system.

I have been riding the high power version of the eTikit kit on a loaner Tikit from Ken for a week now.  My rides have mostly been my short commute to work 2kms and some running around downtown.  While I haven’t tested the capabilities of this system to the fullest I do have enough experience to comment on how I feel about an electric Tikit and how I see it fitting in to my bike/transportation options.

I’ll admit I didn’t really “get” the idea of an electric bike.  Pedaling and exercise are the two things I really like about cycling so I couldn’t understand how I’d like a bike where you didn’t have to pedal??  I now realize that this isn’t a bike.  Ya that’s right this isn’t a bike.  It’s a folding electric scooter.

That may sound crazy, but when you look at it as a transportation device [not a bike] it’s fun to ride, it’s convenient, low cost and pretty darn cool.  It can replace a car/motorcycle and either be used with or instead of public transit.

I haven’t sorted out the range I’m getting from the motor/battery I have, but let’s assume I can get 15kms from it @ 30kph with no pedaling.  That gives me a pretty useful range from home to work with zero sweat.  I can add a transit leg in the middle to extend my distance.  If I ride the whole way to work I’m looking at 30mins to 40mins with a few lights.  I can fold the bike and take it in to my office and charge the battery while I work and ride home. I charge the battery overnight and I’m ready to rock in the AM.  No car, no parking no waiting for a bus. Less emissions. Less traffic. No noise. No license. No pain.  It’s a really great commuting tool.

I’ve used the eTikit to bomb home after work.  It has allowed me to cut my commute time by about 33% and arrive fresh.  I must admit I do pedal when in public just ’cause I feel funny using only the motor.  Perhaps that will pass???

Just to provide some basic stats I can cruise on flat ground at 30kph+ [35kph is my fastest electric only speed].  I can cruise up a moderately steep sustained hill in town at 19kph without pedaling as long as I pedal to get to that speed. I tend to leave my Tikit in 7th or 8th gear [out of 8] and pedal away from a stop slowly while giving full throttle.  The motor helps, but it’s not uber torquey so a little bit of effort on my part gets me to cruising speed faster at which point I can coast.

To be honest I can pedal the eTikit without using electric power, but it’s not fun.  You can feel the drag of the motor at each pedal stroke.  If I had to pedal the last 5km home once or twice a year it’s not a big deal. So running out of battery power isn’t tragic, but I wouldn’t be happy if that happen a lot so I’d make sure I had a big enough battery to get the mission accomplished 95% of the time.

Of course the beauty of a hub motor is that in less than 5mins you can swap in a regular Tikit wheel and ditch the battery to have a normal Tikit which is fun to pedal.  I think that’s very cool and it makes an eTikit a useful product for even a one bike cyclist who wants transportation Monday to Friday and exercise on the weekends.

Ken was smart to match an electric kit with a Bike Friday Tikit.  You don’t ever have to leave your e-bike outside at the mercy of thieves and vandals.  The Tikit design is clever and adding an e-bike kit to it that doesn’t impede the fold just makes it even more versatile.

Bottom line I “get” an electric bike now.  It’s not a bike replacement.  It’s a car/transit replacement.