Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday News And Views

Transition Bikes Bandit 29
Take Another Name Off The List: For several years now, it has been easier to name who wasn't making a 29"er than who is. Take Transition Bikes off the "Who Isn't" list. They just announced a full suspension 29"er they are naming the Bandit 29.

It is a 130mm rear/140mm front bike that should be interesting, given the way their 26"ers have gained a lot of notoriety for being great handling trail/AM/DH rigs.

But it is interesting from another standpoint. Transition Bikes has a rather vocal, passionate fan base that always thought, (much like I did), that 29 inch wheeled bikes would never be great at 5 plus inches of travel, and certainly would not work as Down Hill/All Mountain rigs. Brands like Transition were places riders were enjoying not having to hear about, much less think about, 29"ers.

Now that they do have to consider the possibility, some of the riders on their Facebook page are saying they "sold out".

Wow! I never thought I would see the day that 29"ers were considered a "sell out". That says something about big wheelers when riders are saying and writing those types of comments. It's as if 26"ers were.....well.....I don't know. I just think that comment makes it seem the folks thinking this feel threatened by something. Hey. It's a bicycle. Ya know?

All Mountain hard tail: Kona's Honzo
29"er Geometry 3.0: Then there is this beast. Kona's Honzo steel hard tail 29"er. Kona takes a page from 26"ers and recent small company 29"ers and mixes it up with what comes out as a steel frame with a slack 68* head angle with a 120mm fork. Short, 16.3" chain stays are tied to the seat stays with sliding drop outs, which make for an easy single speed set up. Oh yeah, big tire clearances meant no front derailleur can be mounted here."1X" set ups only if going geared.

My take on these bikes and the full suspension, 130mm travel rigs coming out is that they represent a new change in 29"er geometry. Gone are the days when head tube angles that were 71 degrees were considered "slack" for 29"ers. Now we're taliking about XC racing bikes with 70-71 degree head angles and full suspension bikes are considered too steep if they wander above 69 degrees head angle.

Anybody remember the first generation Mamasita with the 73 degree head angle? Whoo boy! Them's old times now! (And that was just 5 years ago!) That was 1.0 geometry. Then we got the longer fork offsets, and head angles pulled back a degree or two. That was 2.0 geometry. Now we're entering the era of 3.0 geometry, and anyone holding on to steep-ish head angles and long-ish chain stays will be "off the back", as they used to say in roadie parlance.

Kona's Satori 130mm travel rig

We're Gettin' There Now: I have to say that I think this 29"er full suspension geometry is headed in the right direction. I felt it with Fisher's Rumblefish, and now that would be considered a "steep" full suspension trail bike. I felt it on LenzSport's Lunchbox, which really opened up my eyes to what a "slack" bike could ride like.  I felt the old geometry was wrong with my Big Mama. Too XC-ish, which was made plain to me on my wreck-shortened Texas ride.

That's why I find bikes like these to be very interesting. I think we're headed in a very good direction, and I am thinking the bikes are getting refined to become very capable rigs for the rough stuff.

Well, I'm off to Northfield Minnesota for the weekend. I hope ya'all have a great Holiday weekend, and that you are safe, and that you all ride a bicycle.....a lot!


Matt said...

What do these slack angles mean for climbing ability? I have a (very) early all mountain-ish hardtail (26er) and it is a real handful uphill. I am a menace in a group ride since I can't keep it pointed straight.

Guitar Ted said...

@Matt: Interestingly, I had a ride on an early LenzSport LunchBox with slack geometry. It was not what I would call agile, but it held a line just fine. Slower, casually paced uphills were calm.

I imagine that a spirited group ride climb would put the LunchBox into the "floppy", wandering class, but these bikes are about the ride, not the racing.

They specialize in keeping you riding over terrain to squirrelly to climb on some bikes and too steep to descend on others. I think they will be quite popular in bigger, techier terrain.

Matt said...

I know geometry is a tricky subject, but perhaps you can help me out. I did most of my riding (just getting back into it) in the days of standard NORBA geometry being everywhere. I was permanently worried about going over the bars. So when Norco brought a "north-shore" (or whatever they called them back then) hardtail with XC overtones to Australia, I snapped one up. I never found out the head angle, but I can tell you this - that thing is a handful up hills. This was 1999, so I think the head angle is around 69. So if 2 degrees on the head angle makes the front end wander all over the place on steep climbs, what magic incantation have the frame builders created to make modern bikes ( get up hill with even slacker angles? I suppose there must be different answers for 26 and 29 inch bikes.

Guitar Ted said...

@Matt: It's a bit more involved than simple head angle adjustments. Back when you got the Norba Geo bikes, everything was set, for the most part. Offset of the fork- locked in, head angle- locked in. Really, the only thing designers had to play with was top tube length, and details.

Now with 29"er has come a situation that is much like "Pandora's Box" as far as geometry is concerned. Now you can mess with suspension fork offset a bit, you have different length forks, and different head angles to throw into the mix. Now add in top tube length, which helps riders weight the front end differently, bottom bracket height, and chain stay length.

Whew! It's no wonder bikes are sometimes so similar, yet rid so differently.

So, that is what is going on here. Just different ways of doing things, even slightly different- can really make or break a bike in certain situations.