Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday News And Views

What short chain stays are for...
Short Chain Stays: 

Maybe this doesn't, does matter. Why? Because lots of folks say it does. So, what is going on here?

Chain stay length, the measurement from the rear axle to the center line of the bottom bracket, is a subject of sometimes heated debate by bike nerds all across the digital reality. What does it do? Well, let's take a "gross" example to help us understand a little bit about this....

Imagine if the bike you are riding is a cargo bike. The long tail type, like a Big Dummy from Surly. Okay, your rear wheel is waaay back behind you.  Try popping a wheelie. Hard, huh? Yeah, that's the long effective chain stay length at work there.

Now imagine that you switch back to your current steed. Ahh!  That front wheel is a cinch to get up and over stuff, or to pop a wheelie, should the fit take hold of you. Of course, this is an obvious illustration, but now imagine the passion, the heated arguments that erupt over mere millimeters of chain stay length differences. It's just bizarre.

Salsa Cycles Horsethief

Example: The Salsa Cycles Horsethief. Barely over 18 inches in length for the chain stay. You'd have thunk someone had insulted someone's mother when they find this out.

Had the bike been introduced with 17.8" chain stays, which is what the Trek/Fisher Rumblefish comes with, no one would have batted an eyelash. The difference? 7.3mm Less than 1/3rd of an inch.

Now, I'm not saying that doesn't make any difference, but how much of a difference is that really? I would submit that there are other things going on here that might make a bigger difference in handling than 7.3mm. 

How about wheel base? How about how your weight is distributed across that wheel base? Is the bottom bracket lower, or higher? How long is your stem? If it is a full suspension bike, you add in the metric of monkey motion to the equation, which really complicates things.

So, to merely focus on such a miniscule difference in chain stay length seems rather silly to me. Heck, you move your butt on the saddle more than 7.3mm on a mountain bike. No, it isn't just about chain stay length.  Sure, it plays a part, but it's just one soldier in the troop, and it takes all of 'em to fight the war. Look at the entire package when comparing the bikes. It might show up a few things beyond that "magic bullet" number a lot of folks like to focus on.


Soft Tails seem like the elusive unicorn of the 29"er world. Next to single speeding, the idea of a soft tail, (at least for me), is so wrapped up in how 29"er wheels work, I can't believe that only one company produces a stock model, and only a handful of  custom builders even make them.

Of course, I had a Salsa Cycles Dos Niner. The idea of the soft tail is awesome. I know it works, but there was the rest of the frame,  which was, (let's see if I can put this nicely), was flexy as all get out.

Given a stiff chassis, a soft tail would be a great, simple, nearly fool-proof rear "enhancement". (I hesitate to call it "suspension") Traction? Better. Comfort? Increased. All from about an inch to two inches of "give" in the rear of the bike.

Of course, I could always save my pennies for a Moots. They seem to be the only company really committed to the idea of a simple, little bit of something that makes nice with the rough stuff. Consider this my paean to the soft tail. I wish somebody would make a reasonably priced, better mousetrap here. 

Maybe that'll happen. I imagine a single speed soft tail with bottle mounts a-plenty, a 100mm front suspension device, and room for 2.4's. Grinding away in some mountain climb, or plying some burly single track on a soft tail. Sounds good to me!

Have a great weekend, ya'all! Take some pictures, Ride yer bike!


Dave said...


I couldn't agree more on the CS. When i first read your example I thought, "he's going to rail on chainstays longer than XX." But thankfully, reason prevailed. :-) I run a SS HT with sliders. Well, as you know, the length of those stays can change from day to day. My reaction to that change? I just ride my bike.

As for the soft tail... why a 100mm fork and not an 80?

mw said...

my new bike has longer chainstays then the bike it was patterned after so i'd have room for a rear rack and panniers without my heal hitting them.

the wheelbase on my 29ers is shorter than most of the full susser 26ers i was riding in the 90's. which i thought was odd.

Steve said...


Proverbial "hitting the nail on the head". The sum of all factors, effects the end result - the ride.

I'm with you too on the soft-tail 29. I've been shopping for one since selling the Dos Niner.


Don said...

I'm loving my Lens Milk Money. After riding HT's for the last 2years fs is nice!