Where do I start…
...if you want a review skip to highlighted Sunday
I had my first 29”er built at the beginning of 2004, a single speed custom built by the now long gone “Paul Donohue” it was shortly after this that On-one started to do the 29”er Inbreds, mine was different, I ran a very short fork on the front and designed the chain stays as short as possible.
I remember turning up to the UK single speed event in Thetford that year and feeling like a God, the bike flew, you got it rolling and could walk away from anyone on a 26” single speed, if it hadn’t been for the 4am drinking session the night before with a certain “Charlie” I am sure I would have been UK Champion that year ;~)
Things moved on, Surly dropped the Karate Monkey, On-one pushed the Inbred a little more and Niner started to become a recognised name, the whole 29” thing was starting to gain favour, people rode them and become converted. Components improved, no longer was I building wheels with 19mm wide Mavic Open Pro rims, it took a while but slowly rims got wider and tyres became more available. I now had more than 1 tyre to choose from, a red walled IRC of all things
Move forward a number of years and how things have changed, all the Pro racers run 29”ers and they are becoming more common place through the range of any of the main manufactures
I found shortcomings with most of the later frames I chose, always opting for a shorter fork than the bike came with always feeling the steering a little slow
First it was a Karate Monkey a little heavy so I moved on, next came a Niner SIR, loved that but again ran a short fork, I thought my dreams had been answered when Ragley built the TD:1 great ride and designed around a short rigid fork, I ran it for a while and threw in a Fisher and a FS Niner but always loved the direct feel of a rigid bike so ended up falling into the Jones trap…
Much as I love my Spaceframe and feel the Truss fork is one of the nicest rigid forks available I still have a passion for the madness of a big fat tyre. They are so forgiving, the direct steer of a rigid for without the weight penalty and wear issues of suspension
I took my Pugsley to the lakes and had my eyes opened on the abilities of a “Fat Bike” on loose rocky trails, it was amazing, the term “hooligan” hasn’t been used for my riding style for a lot of years but that certainly brought it out on me. The sure footed ability of those big tyres and the indestructibility it gave you, it was so much fun, but where to go next…
Surly in there “haphazard” manner announce the Krampus
This has got to be the answer, I try to ignore the early tyre clearance issues and sign up, my racing days are long gone but I love the rattle through a trail as much as the rest, the bigger the smile at the end the more I love the bike
…the wait goes on, talk of Christmas delivery are ignored, I hope maybe a end of January birthday present might be on the cards, this passes, Ok end of Feb, I finally hear from the afore mentioned “Charlie” now a well thought of purveyor of bikes…
They are in the country, you should see it around the 20th!
The parts are collected, the spoke lengths calculated and bought, I spec the bike in my head, I love the almost “custom car builder” style of buying a “rolling chassis”, every bike is personal in colour and components, every one is different
Friday night the Leffe is out and it’s time to build wheels, spoke lengths are good, a little long on the back but it will work, an hour or so later the wheels are up and true. The Frame is rushed together, headset pressed in, seat post found, seated fitted to the amazingly complicated Moots clamp, it’s starting to take shape
Saturday comes and work gets in the way, sometimes being “self employed” has advantages sometime not. I get home late and put the finishing touches to the Krampus, cut the steerer, hope the Friction 9sp set up will work and pray the pads will bed in quickSunday
arrives, out of the blue I get an email from a friend asking if I’m riding, 30 mins later and he’s round, we both admire the sparkly green paintwork in the short lived morning sun, I sit over the bike and press down, it jumps into life
I spin round the yard making sure things are together, brakes work, gears are somewhere in there, the usual, immediately the feeling of speed can be felt, those big tyres rolling so quick without the drag of the Pugsley, this is going to be fun
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Mark grabs the bike while I find a jacket and gloves, his short spin is condensed into “God that’s quick” did Surly build a race bike?
The first tester, a tricky singletrack trail full of roots logs and off camber leaves, I take the lead, the bike rails through the flatter section, with the indestructible feeling of the Pugsley, rolling over everything without even a blink, into the root infested bank side, weaving between narrow trees and the bike feels so confident, it spins straight up the narrow ledge climb, timing the pedal strokes I avoid the stump with nothing more than a big smile on my face.
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We get to a fallen tree, too big to hop and I look back, Mark catches me up only to say “where did you go, I looked up and you had just gone. That thing is so quick” I laugh and press on
Next section weaves between narrow trees with a leaf covered clay base, every bike I ride across this slides down the camber, regardless of tyre, pressure or wheel size, it’s a given. I roll in and realise I am picking a line, not only across the camber but up it, aiming for the high line and between the narrow gap, not even the slightest sign of sliding down the camber, I weave between the trees and lean that section for the first time ever. Once again the smile appears across my face, this bike is amazing, so much grip and so much momentum
We roll out onto the footpath exit and Mark catches only to see me standing there with a huge smile on my face gushing about how good the bike is
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I could go on, I did and at the end of each familiar section I stopped took a step back and smiled, this just worked, it didn’t have 4” of travel or even a 6” fork, it was rigid, fast and worked so well, everything I had hoped for and so worth the 6 month wait
Mark couldn’t take any more of my gushing about my “new bike” he left me to it I rode two sections I normally avoid, just to test the bike a bit more, it cleaned them oozing confidence, I flew back across the open Moor making the most of the tail wind and straight into the warming pub
I sat outside admiring the new Wheel platform, 29+ if you want some fun and to ride the best you ever have, make sure your next purchase is 3” wide and a 29”er
Roll on the future…even if it still needs thumbshifters
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