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.
Its been a few weeks now, but a bit of elbow grease and a bunch of new parts have the C'Dale up and running again. The owner is going to be pretty happy when he gets his hands back on it. Its going to be a great reliable bike and easy to maintain.
Upgrades from stock include:
I managed to save the crankset with some love and also serviced the headset and hubs. Its all done now. All thats left is to take it out and get it dirty.
I got to work stripping the bike down. I found a few more small issues that need to be fixed up but nothing catastrophic. The frame is in excellent shape but needed the years of built up dirt and grime washed away. A little bit of surface degreaser and polish made it good as new. This bike is going to be so fresh when its done.....
Now that I've got a clean frame to build from its time to put together a parts spec and get the a-ok from the owner.
In my head its shaping up to be something like a Deore / SLX driveline with a OneUp 30t chainring, something big and meaty for tires, and some uber reliable Avid BB7 brakes with FR5 levers and Goodridge cables / housings. Should make for a dam fine machine...
This is part 1 of a multi-part Garage Files blog about rebuilding a friends Cannondale.
A few years ago I managed to convince a friend that mountain biking was a fun pass time. He set out with me in tow to look at new bikes and bought a 2013 Cannondale Trail 4 29er. Its a well spec'd bike for the price and he put 3 seasons of riding on it since, shredding singletrack at Turkey Point, towing his kids around in a trailer and a trail-a-bike, even a trip out to The Hydrocut where I might have gotten him in a little over his head and he cracked a rib. There has been lots of good times aboard this bike and it has an established story at this point, no doubt in my mind that the bike has taken on its own character in the owners mind.
After 3 seasons of use, its looking a little haggard and needs a facelift / overhaul. The front brake gave out this year and he has been getting by just using the rear (yikes!) and the shifting is getting sloppy, no doubt from the cheap Acera derailleur being completely worn out and the build up of dirt in the driveline.
He asked me to fix the brakes and driveline, I've convinced him to go to a 1x driveline for ease of maintenance and lighter overall package. A quick go over and it needs a bunch of small issues addressed, but could also use some upgrades to really "unleash the beast" that this bike can be.
The brakes need to go. The low end hydraulic offerings from C'Dale are complete crap, we will be most likely swapping over to Avid BB7's for ease of maintenance and ultra reliability.
Tires are shot. I'm going to set him up with something with more volume that he can really get aggressive with. Thinking something along the lines of the 2.4 Ardents.
The crankset is also hurting. The bb is nearly shot and the old Octalink Shimano isn't the stiffest option out there. Might upgrade him to a nice Deore crank. As far as driveline, most likely a 30t chainring with a 11-36 cassette, 10 speed of course. This bike is going to be awesome once its done.
Stay tuned for part 2, the bike will be stripped and everything inspected.
After a bit of research (ok, alot, maybe a week of reading about it) I bought a Salsa Cowbell 3 handlebar to install on my CCX. I like riding on the hoods alot and the gentle flare on these make it possible without compromising comfort, unlike the big flare of the Woodchippers. The slight flare is also suppose to make riding in the drops more comfortable, which is great because I don't ride the drops at all right now because of comfort. Time will tell how well the work out, I only have an around the block spin on the bar but so far it seems quite nice.
Install was easy as replacing a handlebar. Duh. I've read that the Cowbell works the best when the flats are level or close to it. I leveled them out and did a slight rotation down as per my personal preference.
Brifters go on. I run them high on the bar as I like the transition from the tops to the hoods to be as flat as possible. Seems the most comfortable for me.
Wrap the bars and enjoy. I'll be doing a review of these bars after I've got a bunch of miles on the bars.
I like Shimano hubs. The cup and cone bearing system is the best one out there. Smooth and serviceable, least amount of resistance compared to other cartridge bearing hubs. They do have one caveat though...... the freehub bodies are total fucking shit. I've destroyed quite a number of them over the years and am use to replacing about two a year on average. I even keep a personal stock of freehub bodies to keep me going, just in case the supplier is back ordered. To be fair though, I've also ruined the likes of DT Swiss and Ringle freehubs too.
A recent ride took out another one on me, I decided it was time for a garage file on replacing and tuning your shimano hub.
Above you can see that my freehub is totalled. Time to rip into it.
Remove the rear wheel from the bike and get the cassette off. On this particular model of hub I had to remove the brake rotor as well (centerlock).
Get your cone wrenches out and break the locknut loose on the non-drive side. Remove the cone from the non-drive side and pull the axle out the drive side. Working with the non-drive side is easier as you can get a firm hold on the nuts without interference.
Now place everything on a rag and keep it organized, clean and set aside. Be sure to note how many bearings are in the hub, this model (like most Shimano) has 9 bearings per side.
Use your big 10mm allen wrench and remove the freehub body.
Grab the new freehub body, make sure to reuse the washer behind the original freehub body (if equipped). Grease the threads of the freehub retaining bolt and install after cleaning the hub face.
Now pack the bearing cups with grease and install the bearings one side at a time. I do the drive side first then slide the axle though to hold the bearings in place when you flip the wheel and work on the non-drive.
Now install the non-drive cone and lock nut. Tighten the cone with your fingers only then install the lock nut. Now put your 17mm cone wrench on the lock nut and use the 15mm cone wrench to TURN THE CONE BACKWARDS INTO THE LOCKNUT! Just snug it up. Don't go crazy here. Now grab the axle and you should have a little bit of play in the bearings. Use the 17mm cone wrench on one side and a regular 17mm wrench on the other and slowly tighten the nuts, this will rotate the entire locknut / cone assembly on the non-drive side. Turn it just enough to get the play out of it, the axle should spin freely.
All done, just put the cassette back on and the rotor, put the wheel in the bike, double check your brakes and shifting, adjust if needed. Easy as that. Shimano hubs kick ass, just wish they could build a freehub body that wasn't made from cheese.
Last year I gave up on hydros after years of banging my head against the wall with the likes of Hayes hydros, Avid Elixirs, and Shimano offerings all failing me repeatedly. I decided that I wanted to keep it simple and cheap but have good braking power and modulation with solid feeling engagement.
Enter the Avid BB7. Best mechanical disc brake on the market. It works great and is cheap. They work great out of the box but there are a few tweaks I've found that take it to the next level.
Here is The Bric's guide to hacking the BB7.
Cables matter! Get yourself a good set of compressionless cables. The quality of these make all the difference. I chose Goodridge cables and housings for this job, they work great, but get out your wallet, they are not cheap.
Lever madness. Levers make a big difference as well. If you are trying to keep it cheap as possible, use the Avid FR5 levers. They can be bought for $15 online and work great with the BB7. If you want a little more feel and adjustment out of your brakes, use the Avid SD7 Speed Dial levers. They have an unreal amount of adjustments at the lever and will give you nearly hydraulic feel at the levers.
Rotors. Use Avid rotors, I've found that the G2 work best with the BB7. The Heat Shedding rotors work second best.
Lets put it all together now.
The proper install. When you install the BB7 caliper be sure to have it centered perfectly. I turn the pad adjusters (red dials on each side) in evenly so the rotor sits dead center in the caliper. Tighten down the bolts and turn the dials out a few clicks each for now. Everything should look perfectly lined up.
Install your levers at your desired angle and adjust the lever reach to your preference. Install cables, be sure to use a file and flatten out the cable ends after cutting before you put on your housing cap (this DOES make a difference).
Use the barrel adjuster on your lever only to take up any slack in the cable. Do not adjust it enough that it pulls the BB7 lever arm as this will take away from the amount of modulation the BB7 has.
Adjust the engagement point of your brakes using the red dial adjusters on the caliper. Be sure that there is no rubbing when the wheel turns but you still have about an inch of space from the lever to the grip with a firm hold on the brakes. I find that having the inboard pad adjusted a little further away from the rotor than the outboard pad gives a bit more modulation at the beginning of the brake engagement.
There is a small set screw in the caliper body that tensions the caliper return spring. Take that bitch out and toss it. With good cables and housings, and a good setup, you don't need all that tension for the caliper to return. This will make your lever action very light and you will have more feel at the lever.
Now go ride, bed the brakes in by riding some extended downhills while dragging the brakes then periods of cooling. I've found that the brakes come alive after 3-4 rides, any subsequent pad replacement requires this bed in procedure again. Now go out and enjoy the most reliable brakes you could ever ask for.
When it comes to bicycles I always love shiney new parts. What better way to please your inner crow than to take that ugly old beat up aluminum frame and give it a new lease on life? With a bit of chemicals and alot of elbow grease you can get the poor old sad looking sap back to a stallion-esque sexiness with a mirror-like shine. I've done a few of these over the last decade and will attempt to walk you through it.
Please Note: Polished Aluminum and Ball Burnished are two different things. Polished aluminum is polished, obviously. Ball Burnished is a process that is basically a frame secured in a giant dryer drum with lots of brass ball bearings that impact and compact the outer part of the aluminum and give it shine.
What you need:
Ok. You have all your gear. Lets start.
First off, hang your frame in the garage, cover the floor under it with a sheet of cardboard. Put on your gloves and glasses, pour some paint stripper into a dish and start applying it liberally with a paint brush. After covering it the paint will blister. Let the stripper do its magic for about 20 minutes then brush it off with the steel brush. Repeat this step a few times if needed.
Now most of the paint is off and you have a hell of a mess. Use the steel wool to get into the crevices and clean out all the paint. It has to be 100% gone.
Once the paint is gone, grab your rag and wipe the frame down good. Grab more rags and clean the shop floor.
Now get your aluminum polish and go at it. Expect to do this for a couple of hours doing a bunch of coats of polish, wiping the frame clean between coats.
Now you're getting somewhere. Don't stop. More polish. Your fingers should be stained black by now.
See the surface scratches? Steel wool with coarse, then medium, then fine. Now polish it again, all over. Did I mention earlier that there would be alot of polishing?
Once you finish your last coat of polish, use some Neverdull wadding and treat the entire frame. Now take a fresh clean rag and wipe the entire frame down, it will brighten up when you do it. You may have to go through a few rags on this step.
Keep at it and you will end up with something GORGEOUS! Much better than any paint job.
Congrats, its as easy as that. You will need to keep it polished once a month so its does not oxidate (dull out). Don't use clear coat, it won't stick to the polish and it will show ALL the scratches, leave the frame bare. In my opinion, a polished aluminum frame is the best looking aluminum frame you can get.
Check out the gallery below for some of my polished aluminum projects.
Got my first ride in on the Winter Project 29er I built this year. As you know, the frame is an old KHS Tucson, mated with a Lefty and some Shimano / WTB goodies. I did swap the Schwalbe tires in favour of some sweet ass retro looking Maxxis treads. I went with skinwall Ardent tires, 2.25 rear, 2.4 front. These tires are of the "rip and grip" variety and work great in the sandy trails of Turkey Point.
I got a few compliments from other riders I met on my maiden voyage with it, one person mentioned that it had a classic look to it, to which I say thanks. Thats what I was kinda going for. I'm glad it turned out that way.
The bike rides awesome, steering is quick, likely because of the 72 degree head angle mated with the 45mm offset of the lefty. Though quick, its controllable and stable at speed. The bike wants to be ridden fast, it feels a wee bit sluggish if I'm sight seeing, but open up the throttle and it loves to be laid over into the corners. I had to do a few quick adjustments of the seatpost height, the rear brake, and the stem spacer height, but after that the ride was uneventful. I'm glad I built up a 29er over the winter, I forgot just how fast they can be after riding the fat bike all last summer. Looking forward to putting alot of miles on this old girl.
The trend is being set lately and an increasing number of riders are going to a 1x driveline system from the 3x and 2x of the past. With 10 speed cassettes being the norm in mountain biking these days, its easy to have a relatively wide range of gears with only one chainring. Is a 1x driveline right for you and your riding? Only you can answer that question.
The 3x driveline
The 3x 10/9/8 drivetrain has been the standard of mountain biking since the '80s. Offering a wide range of gear choices it is a truly versatile setup. Modern 3x drivelines usually consist of 24/32/42 chainrings paired with a 11-36 10 speed cassette.
-Widest range of gear choices possible
-Least chain and gear wear
-Best chain retention
-Heaviest setup of all the drivelines
-Most overlap (redundant) gears
The 2x Driveline
The 2x came to popularity when 10 speed cassettes became the norm. Offering almost all the gearing of the 3x and only losing the highest and lowest useable gears.
-All of the most used gears in an easier to use package
-Less redundant gears compared to 3x
-Less cross-chaining compared to 3x
-Still the same weight as a 3x system (save for one ring)
-Loss of your lowest stump pulling gears
-Loss of your top gears
The 1x Driveline
The simplest and lightest setup of the bunch, losing two rings, the front derailleur, and a shifter. It also comes with the most compromise in gear choices. Wider range gearing can be kept intact with cassette adaptors and chainrings for 104bcd now available with 30 teeth.
-Simplest of the bunch
-Best obstacle clearance
-Loses the most gears compared to 2x/3x drives
-Cassette adaptors can be expensive if you want a wider range
In my opinion, the 2x system has the most compromise without much in the way of gains. I do like the 22/32/bashring 2x combo on my fatbike though, but this setup keeps the low gears and loses the high ones compared to the more common 28/36 2x setups. For this reason I'm disregarding the 2x systems from here on out.
Lets take a look at some gear range setups between 3x and 1x
Above is a typical 3x10 driveline gear inch chart on the left with a 1x chart on the right comparing 30 / 32 / 34 tooth chainrings. As you can see, with the 30t chainring you basically don't lose any low gears but you take away your 3 highest gears compared to the 3x drive. I don't know any mountain bikers who use their top three all that often honestly. With the 32t you lose one gear off the bottom and two off the top compared to 3x. With 34t you almost lose two off the bottom and pretty much keep all but your highest gear. Now the advantage of the 1x system gets a little clearer, you are keeping nearly all of your gear range from your 3x system and can lose up to one pound off your bike by ditching the 3x components. Factor in having a few different size chainrings in your parts bin and you can change your gearing to suit each trail if needed. That said, the 3x system still has the advantage as far as tuning your cadence as there are more options to choose if you really work the gears, and not as large jumps between gears as the 1x. 3x also has an advantage over 1x for driveline wear. Larger gears wear out slower than smaller ones, so when you have a road section or some really fast trail you can pop into the 42t ring and 21 out back to keep from wearing a similar ratio of 32x15. Larger gears also have more chain retention and are less likely to skip of bounce off in hard terrain, although the current crop of "clutch" type rear derailleurs will keep your chain planted no matter what you run into.
Is 1x right for you? I'm sure most riders make do with less than 10 gears anyways but its what you are comfortable with. I'm running a 22/32/bash on my fat bike and really enjoy the 22-36 gear for spinning fast and going slow in deep snow. I'm also currently running a 24/32/42 3x on my 29er, but when that setup wears out I might opt for a 1x with a cassette adaptor as I don't really use my lowest gears on the 29er, or the highest for that matter.
Clear as mud?
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.