I rolled out of bed and wiped the sleep from my eyes, eager to stick my head between the bay window curtains and see what the overnight weather had brought us. To my surprise we didn't get as much rain as they were calling for last night, although it was a drizzle / fine mist at that point. I needed to ride and after a crummy week of being sick, it was time to push myself out the door and rack up some miles on the mountain bike. A quick series of text messages and I had myself a riding partner for the day. Now I was committed and couldn't chicken out due to weather. I packed my waterproof gear and headed out the door.
Jason and I arrived at Mole Road just before 10am. We suited up and headed off into Saudwinder to start our ride. This was only my third ride on the new RSD Sergeant, as the last couple of months have sucked for me riding-wise. Jason also had his new rig out, a nearly identical RSD Sergeant. It seemed that he liked mine so much he had to get one of his own. I can't blame him, its a great bike.
We carried on through the Burn, Dizzy Lizzy, Humpback, and Wedowmaker. I was feeling a bit sluggish as I'm still getting over being sick. Hopefully I bounce back from it pretty quick, otherwise the TillsonBurn (only two weeks away) is going to be a short ride followed by a long humiliation for me. Time will tell. We headed out to Big Mike / the Church property and back into the Provincial Park along the Ridge Trail / Lookout Bluff. I was done, legs shot. We got in just under 20km but it was all I had.
Although I'm tired and feel worn and sick, it was a good ride and the new bike really shined. Jason was also quite happy with his Sergeant and I think we will be riding them for a long time to come. We had the trails to ourselves all morning as the cold and damp likely kept everyone off the trails until tomorrow, which looks to be beautiful forecast-wise. Time to smash some miles in on the CX bike and get ready for TBurn4.
Its no secret by now that my fatbike frame is cracked and I sold my trusty Norco. I enjoyed my time on the Norco Torrent (review here) but needed less of a "go fast" bike and something more along the lines of a quiver killer. I set my sights on the RSD Sergeant from a relatively new company based right here in Ontario. These guys are big into the fat and plus bike scene and have incredible value for the dollar, not to mention well spec'd bikes with no corners cut. Customer service at Rubber Side Down is top notch. I placed my order late on a Sunday night and I had an email Monday morning from Alex, the head honcho at RSD, thanking me and providing my tracking number. Wow.
So, here it is, the RSD Sergeant.
The bike has what I'm calling a "super spec". I can only find one part I don't like, but more on that later. It comes with 27.5" x 3" tires, but do some nosing around the interwebs and you'll find that it can swallow 27.5" x 3.8" tires from Maxxis and Bontrager. A true two bikes in one, or a fatty with a narrow Q factor (73mm bb shell). I'll be rocking the 3" tires for everything but snow, whereas I'll toss on some 3.8" tires. I can't wait to put some miles on this bike and will do a full review after putting it through its paces.
The only part I don't like right off the hop is the cassette. Nothing wrong with the cassette but its a cheaper Sram model with no carrier body and mounted to an aluminum freehub. Tisk Tisk! This is a recipe for a completely fucked freehub body and I'm changing out the cassette before I even ride it. Would have been a non-issue with a steel freehub body.
The rest of the build is tough looking with a 34mm stanchion fork, 4 piston Avid brakes, and Race Face Turbine cranks. There are a few nice touches too, like Race Face grips, Avid matchmaker clamps, and genuine brand name handlebars / stem / post that you don't see alot of for OEM. My completely stock large weighs in at 31 lbs.
Many years ago I remember venturing into a bike shop and checking out an all new 29" wheeled mountain bike. It was still a niche bike at the time and many people (including bike shop owners) said it was trash and would never take off. Little did we all know at the time, but it would be the start of the "wheel wars" that still rage on today. Once some people decided that 29" was too big and 26" was too small, 650b was thrust into the mountain bike spotlight as 27.5", the "tweener" size. As all this was happening the old 26" wheeled bikes slowly began to disappear. By the 2014 model year most brands had little to no offerings in the 26" size and it was declared dead. Wander into a bike shop today and find me a well spec'd 26" wheeled bike..... I bet you can't.
In recent years, during the time when all the fat and plus offerings were flying off the bike shop racks, Surly quietly introduced a new bike..... the Instigator 2.0. It came with 26" x 2.75" tires, or "26plus". As with most friggin-cool things from Surly it took a while for the idea to catch on (just like the Pugs fatbike, and the Krampus plus bike) and now people have noticed.
Over the last year there have been a handful of 26x2.8" tires come to market and wider 26" rims, all slipping in under the radar with me quietly watching things unfold. There were threads popping up on mountain bike forums with people stuffing these 26+ wheels into 27.5" bikes with enough clearance. It made sense after all, if you were on the short side for a 29er and liked 27.5 but wanted the traction and cushion of a plus bike you could build a 26+ (with about the same wheel diameter as a normal 27.5" bike) or if you just happened to prefer the smaller wheels it made sense too. Here is a nice graphic from Jamis breaking down the sizes.
Manufacturers have taken notice and now for 2017 you can buy a 26+ bike off the showroom floor. Norco has built a new line of Fluid hardtails with 26+ wheel options over three component levels. Haro is building entry level 26+ bikes. Jamis is building 26+ bikes in both steel (with the Dragon series) and aluminum (Komodo series). Just to name a few.
Its an exciting and confusing time to be buying a new bike, and it likely a nightmare for bike shops trying to stock all wheel platforms over a variety of component builds, let alone a decent tire selection. Some might not agree but I like the idea of a 26+ bike, it would be perfect for vertically challenged people (like my 5' tall wife) who want gobs of traction and cushion from a plus bike. I'm a holdout for my 27.5+ bike for trail riding and can see the advantages of 29+ for bikepacking / gravel grinding, but would love to try out a 26+ rig on some "Shred the Gnar" type trails. Horses for courses I guess, and with all the options... the choice is really yours.
Back in December of 2015 I bought my new 2016 Norco Torrent 7.2 from the good guys at Totally Spoke'D in Stratford. I bought the bike for $2258 with taxes. I wrote about my initial thoughts on the bike after riding it for a few weeks here: My Norco Torrent 7.2.
I've put 10 months of riding on the bike now and love it. The slack geometry and high traction make for a very aggressive ride that likes to be pushed to the limits. Speaking of traction, this bikes had gobs of it. The Nobby Nic tires hooked up on everything and I actually swapped out the rear tire to a Rocket Ron 3.0 as I didn't need all that grip, even in the sandy trails of Turkey Point. I always liked the Nobby Nic / Rocket Ron combo on my 29ers and it didn't disappoint here.
The fork is a little hit and miss. The SR Suntour Raidon works well and the air spring is reliable, but I've had to remove the lowers a few times and clean the seals and bushings then reapply a thin spray-on grease to the insides of the lowers as there is no oil bath to lubricate the bushings and the fork gets a little sticky after a couple of months. I've heard of lots of failures and warranty replacements of this fork but mine has been doing good up until a few weeks ago when the compression damper began to leak. It is fine other than a slight leak if I hang the bike in the garage by the front wheel. Looks like I'll be contacting Totally Spoke'D soon for a warranty claim.
The wheels have been good. The hubs are reliable and the rims keep true. I did have to rebuild the rear wheel with Sapim Force (triple butted) spokes, but that has more to do with my weight than anything else. I popped a number of spokes and the wheel came apart, a quick rebuild and I was good as gold again. The rim and bead interface on these wheels are tight, I imagine tubeless would be an easy conversion.
The Shimano SLX driveline is great. Typical Shimano quality and never misses a shift. I was a bit apprehensive at first going to a 1x system but the 1x10 has proven to be all the gears I need. The 28 tooth chainring makes for some low gearing to grunt up steep hills and surprisingly holds it own everywhere else. I've only ever spun out my top gear on a long road section moving faster than I normally would (about 35 km/h).
The Norco brand bar / stem / post combo is of typical OEM quality and works great. The handlebar and stem have a 35.0mm interface and makes it much stiffer than the old oversize of 31.8mm. Can't fault anything here.
I did have to ditch the OEM Norco saddle. It was a lesson in pain riding that thing. I swapped it for a Specialized Phenom (review coming soon) and couldn't be happier. The Norco saddle was tossed into the bin of saddles I've somehow collected that are all torture devices.
The Shimano brakes work. They are not as powerful as I'd like but as a lower end Shimano brake they use resin pads that wear quickly and lack grabbing power. They fade quickly. I'm going to upgrade the pads to sintered metal and the rotors to something that can handle the abuse of the upgraded pads. If that does not work, I'll just throw on a set of XT brakes (when cash allows) and put these M396 (Acera level FYI) brakes on the fatbike.
Those are all the points I felt I needed to go into depth with. Here is a summary of what a like and dislike about the bike.
I love this bike. It feels like its almost the perfect bike for a guy my size, with traction and toughness built for a big guy. The thru axles do a great job of keeping the bike stiff and handling fast. The drivetrain is simple and reliable. The frame is setup for hidden dropper post cable routing if your rides get super gnarly. Norco did a great job spec'ing this bike out and the 2017 model has upgraded to a Rock Shox fork instead of the hit/miss Suntour.
This bike decends and handles technical trail sections like a dream. Norco's north shore heritage proves that they can tune a bike for the gnarliest of conditions. It laughs in the face of rock gardens and root sections. It climbs great and never spins out, the perfect balance of rear/forward weight. Bike fit and feel are great, you feel like you are in the bike and not on top of it. Alot of other bike brands I've bought in the past needed the stem length changed or a handlebar with a change of sweep, but the Norco fits me great as it is. The bars fell at just the right spot from day one.
Going forward I believe that the 650b+ / 27.5+ wheel platform will be the "go-to" size for people who just want a trail bike or live in areas where conditions are loose (aka Turkey Point). It also seems like the perfect Clydesdale wheel size in the fact that the wheels are smaller and stiffer than a 29er but still have the 29er diameter.... with a ton more traction.
I couldn't ask for much more from this bike. Its an easy 5/5 for me.
It was a super beautiful day yesterday. I got out just before noon after the temps had warmed up (and I finished painting my kitchen) for a great ride at Turkey Point. I think its safe to say that the cat is out of the bag now regarding the fantastic early season conditions that are typical of Turkey Point. The parking areas at each end of Mole Rd were stuffed full and the core trails quite busy. Back when I first started riding here, about 15 years ago, if you saw another tire track in the dirt it was a busy day. Now you can't swing a 26er without hitting another rider. Its nice to see everyone getting out here.
I got to take the Torrent out for its first ride since December. I'm still amazed at how awesome the b+ wheel platform is. This bike rips. My good old fatbike has had alot of miles put on and the drivetrain is shot, might be a spring project to freshen her up a bit.
The new trails at the Dump are in good shape, I took advantage of the weather on Wednesday as well and rode all the new lines out there. Lots of good work being done and the "Ladies On SingleTrack" (LOST) Girls did a fantastic job on the trail "Hot Flash". Anyways, here are the obligatory ride photos.
Well, I've put a few rides on the Norco now. I'm running 25% sag in the fork and 14psi rear, 11 psi front in the tires (I'm 260lbs). The bike is 100% stock at this point. It weighs 29 lbs.
When I got the bike home I had to do a few little fixes right from the factory. The left crank arm would rub the frame under load, I had to remove the cranks and bb and place the spacer from the right side to the left, no rubbing issue and better chain line now. The levers needed to be repositioned, and the lever reach shortened, but this is all personal preference.
I had my sights set on a few other 650b+ bikes (Spec and Cannondale) and even a couple of trail 29ers but the Norco beat them out because of a few key features. The Spec has only 28/24 spoke count wheels, for a guy my size I don't trust them, the Norco is reliable 32 spoke wheels. Both the Specialized and the C'Dale have pressfit bottom brackets, whereas the Norco is good old BSA threaded.... its no secret that I fucking hate pressfit bb's. The Norco has more aggressive geometry compared to the Spec and Dale, which is what I was looking for in a bike like this. The Norco has a kick ass Race Face Affect crankset.
I decided to move away from riding fat bikes exclusively. While they are more than capable of handling any terrain / situation that I could throw them at, I have to admit that they did have their drawbacks as well. The biggest drawback for me was the Q factor put my hips in an odd spot and caused me lower back / hip pain over long rides (as in 6+ hours). I'm not leaving fat bikes all together though as I still own the Nashbar and plan to use it for many miles on both dirt and snow, and the 'plus' size tires don't offer near the float that the fat bikes do, the big advantage to 'plus' bikes is traction. That and variety is the spice of life. Whats better than having a nice variety of bikes?
My thoughts in no particular order:
-Fork works surprisingly well, have not even been close to the limit of its travel
-The Nobby Nic tires grip it and rip it. A very aggressive tread that hooks up everywhere. I might run a 3.0 Rocket Ron in the rear for summer conditions, that combo (in a 2.25) works good on my 29er.
-You can't ride this bike lazy, you need to be on the gas to get the most out of the massive amount of grip and aggressive geo.
-The grey/black paintjob with safety orange/ yellow decals looks awesome in person, the photos don't do it justice.
-The 1x gearing is spot on, a 36-11 cassette with a 28t chainring works great, no cassette adaptors or diner plates needed out back and improved ground clearance at the chainring.
The Shimano shifter and derailleur work superbly, Shimano quality as per usual.
-The chainstay yoke is a work of art
-The fake lock on grips are cheesy as shit, Norco should have spec'd a real lock on grip.
-The brake hoses and shifter cable housing need to be trimmed up alot, this should have been taken care of at the factory.
I can't wait to rack up a bunch of miles on this sweet rig, it seems like the near perfect trail bike for the loose / sandy trails in TP.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.