Friday, March 28, 2008

It's a 69'er!

OK. So, it's not been the best kept secret. Not really a secret at all. But it was worth keeping quiet while the 'What Bike Should I Use?' poll was running.

Not surprisingly, the poll favoured 29'ers. That makes sense since 29'ers have been at the front of the field at the Great Divide Race every year. The bigger wheels roll easier over the rough stuff. So, 'Why a 69'er?' you ask.

First up, I have a great relationship with Cycletech, the company that imports Giant Bicycles into New Zealand. They have a very nice 700c commuting machine (with flat bars, V-brakes, rack mounts, etc) but the tyre clearance is too tight for something big and soft (a must if you want to avoid nerve damage in your hands at the GDR).
They also make a lovely XC fully in the Anthem - that would be the ultimate in comfort, but rear shocks & pivots usually need servicing after a couple of thousand kilometres. To the best of my knowledge, no full suspension bike has made it to the GDR finish line yet. In fact, if the weather is nasty, front suspension malfunctions seem fairly likely too.

The next logical bike to consider was the XTC hardtail - reliable, light, affordable. Cycletech had a 2007 carbon model in my size at a price I couldn't say no too. It's a 26 inch wheeled bike.

29 inch wheels make sense for gravel road racing (the jury is out as far as single track is concerned). They roll better over bumps, hold better in turns, and may be a bit better at dampening road shock. But they are heavier, harder to get tyres for, and require a slightly heavier frame and fork. Seems to me like you can get most of the benefits (up front, where they count most) and few of the disadvantages by going to a 69er format (26" rear/29" front). I could do this, and maintain the XTC's frame geometry by replacing the suspension fork with a Ritchey rigid MTB fork (designed for a 26" wheel).

The result is a very light and reliable bike that should blaze the road sections of the GDR route. No doubt I'll suffer a bit more on the really rough stuff, but that's part of the game one way or the other. Fortunately I'm old and crusty enough to have learned to ride off road in the pre-suspension era, so it's no big deal.

Time to take it for a test ride. I'm suspecting it's going to ride beautifully. If I pedal hard enough, it's bound to go fast, too.

Thanks heaps to the businesses who came to the party with the sweetest gear I could hope for - Cycletech (Giant), Worralls (Sram, Ritchey, Cane Creek, Truvative, Ergon, Easton, Avid), Stans NoTubes wheels - and Oli at Roadworks for burning the midnight oil building her up (with last-minute support from Revolution Bicycles). You guys rock!


Bill B said...

Saw your bike last Thursday at Oli's workshop. Looks to be the biz to me.

I have a brand new Selle SMP Strike seat which my lovely sister sent me from New York that you're welcome to try. It's too wide for my usual riding and a too heavy, too, but it might be worth the comfort for your undertaking. Email me, if interested -

Keep up the focus. I'm looking forward to following your efforts on race "day".


Patrick said...

I can't believe you've built the bike up but haven't ridden it yet. So how does it ride?

Simon Kennett said...

Hi Bill
Thanks for the generous offer. That's a freaky looking (and expensive) saddle. Reckon I'll stick with the 1997 Ritchey saddle - have had good luck with them for long enough now that my butt has grown to fit.
Will try to stay focused all the way to Mexico, amigo.

Hey Pat, I took it for a spin yesterday...nice...very nice. The aero bars were excellent. No toe overlap with the big wheel. Very comfy. Just a few tweaks and it'll be ready for an epic.


El jefe said...

Dang, looks horn Simon! How much clearence does the front tire have? Do you take a spare tire in case of rips, or is there some amazing tire boot material out there? jeff

Simon Kennett said...

Hey Jefe
The front tyre has about 11mm clearance 11mm (and less to the sides!). That's a good incentive for me to stop and just rest as soon as the mud gets sticky (rather than soldiering on until I can't even lift the bike).
I'll have a couple of big tire boots (made from sticky tyre sidewall). If that doesn't fix it, I'll be plugging the tyre with grass (or riding on the rim...or walking...or crawling on my hands and knees.......