Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shop Rat Ride- A Reminder Of The Past

Sharp eyed readers will recognize this bike as the one I got a while back as a hand-me-down since it has always been associated with the shop I work at. If you don't remember or want to check out the back story, see this post.

Well, I hadn't gotten this out to ride since way back in December when I first threw it together. I decided on Tuesday evening to drag it out, de-fenderize it, and take it on a short errand for beer. That whetted my appetite for more and I commuted on it Wednesday to work. Several things struck me as significant about the ride of this bike as I rode it. In no particular order, I'll share those, but first, here is my overview of the 1X1 Surly I have before I list off my impressions.....

The 1X1 as I have it is a sort of "time capsule" bike in that the geometry was informed by the trends of the 90's in terms of 26 inch wheeled bikes. Remember- 29"ers had barely been around in '99 when this frameset was minted and otherwise, it was an all 26"er-all the time world. Everything about this single speed bike reeks of pre-29"er days. Even my build is "vintage" with 90's era wheels, tires, crank set, and 80's era brakes. The newest parts are the bars/stem, grips, seat post, and saddle. So, it is interesting to hop aboard a bike thought to be fine tuned for off road riding circa the late 90's.

  • Handling: Oh my gosh! This thing is twitchy! It feels super squirrelly in my view. The bike even exhibits a tendency to flop the front wheel even when pushing it from the saddle when you are off it. Directional changes are initiated when you barely twitch an arm or leg. Bumps upset its forward motion. Wheelies were never so easy. Was this what they were talking about when they said they wanted their 29"ers to handle like 26"ers? I am super stoked they never figured that out then! Well, except for the wheelie part. They have that figured out now for 29"ers and that is very good.
  • Momentum: gotta keep on the gas more when you ride a 26"er. That is very apparent. Conversely, it is really easy to go from a stop to spinning out your gear compared to my 29"er single speed rigs. 
  • Seated Position: I set this up like we would have back then. Some call it the "ass up and elbows out" positioning. Whatever...... We were mimicking the "NORBA" XC racing positioning we all saw in the monthly rags at the time because that's all we had to go on back then. I'll tell ya what- I totally understand why shorter top tubes, steeper head angles, and short wheel bases caused me so many endos back in the day. Well........that and the twitchiness. (See above)
  • Wheels And Tires: Leaving aside the diameter issues for the time being, the narrow rim/2.1" tire combos we used back then were, in a word, dumb. I tried running 40psi in the rear tire, (toobz- of course! ), and I thought something had come unhinged on this bike in the rear end. It was the softer tire wallowing on the narrow, unsupportive rim. I bumped up the pressure to 50psi, and the sensation went away. But........50psi!! Yeah.....those were the daze! I can easily run low 20's psi on wider rims with bigger tires, and on a B+ set up? Never higher than 20psi, and that's only for gravel roads. My tires now never felt so stable and secure since I've compared them to these old wheels on the 1X1.
Is the 1X1 an antiquity never to be considered a serious off road vehicle then? Heavens no! I would probably change the wheels, first off, to wider rims and tubeless tires. Then I'd get some proper linear pull brakes, because the bike is cantilever only and the old 80's brakes are pretty weak. Maybe a more upright stem? Yeah. If this bike wasn't attached to the legacy it has, I would size up to a 20"er and get a modernized 1X1 with disc brakes, but this old skool ride is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.


youcancallmeAl said...

whats so steep about 71 deg head angle?

Peter Rhodes said...

I've been commuting the past few weeks on a re-purposed 26" wheeled Soma Groove with what Soma describes as old school NORBA geometry. I actually love how twitchy it is and this type of bike was awesome on New England singletrack back in the 90's.