Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Project 1X1: Long Term Review

Many of you long time readers know the story of the Surly 1X1 that has been passed down from one mechanic to another at the shop where I work. Well, there was the big wheel build I did last Fall to get this thing running again. Velocity Cliffhanger rims, DT Swiss spokes and nipples, and Velo Orange hubs. Then I stuck on a pair of the Surly Extraterrestrial tires tubeless to top it all off.

The frame is from 1999, so no disc brakes here! Otherwise, I have a mish-mash of 1990's mtb parts, a few items that are more "late model", and some nice Planet Bike Cascadia fenders which have turned this bike into a urban shredder. The only period of time I did not ride this a lot was when there was a lot of snow and ice around. Otherwise, this is my go-to bike for commuting to work, errands, and sometimes just to get around the city when I can't get away further for a ride.

I am just going to throw out my current thoughts on this bike with no real particular thing being more important than the other. Think of this as an "off the top of my head" stream of consciousness type of review of Project 1X1. Keeping in mind that this bike was about the most evil thing I had in my stable back last Fall, I feel this bike has had the biggest transformation of anything I have tinkered with in years.

The wheels have been awesome.
The Wheels: Every time I ride this bike I think about the wheels on it. I find that the fact that they are 26 inch wheels makes the bike squirrely as all get out. That's one thing that just jumps out after I've been on 700c stuff, 29"ers, or any of my fat bikes. So, I've kind of come to think of this bike as my "adult sized BMX rig. It is easy to toss around, pop over stuff, and it changes directions in a manner that is alarming sometimes. I get why people bitched and moaned when 29"ers came along, because all that instability they were feeling was gone. Instead of pushing harder, which 29"ers allow you to do, they slagged them off as being "barges", or worse. But.....different strokes for different folks. 

The Tires & Rims: I think a lot about the tires and rims too. These Extraterrestrials are just downright awesome fun in an urban environment. I actually push these tires into areas that maybe they were not meant to go as well. Mud, sand, dirt, and snow to a degree are all conquered with ease. I think the tubeless nature of the set up is paramount to the tire working as well as it does. That thanks to the Cliffhanger rims, which are the only wide, tubeless ready, rim brake compatible 26" rims I know of anymore. Maybe there are other rims, I don't know, but when I was looking at stuff, these were the only rims that ticked all the boxes. Together these tires and rims have been bombproof. I had to slightly true the rear the other day, but I cased a curb hop, and I figured it would be a lot worse. Otherwise, these are great wheels and tires. The Surly tires might be heavy, but they roll so well and are so cushy, I really don't think anyone should care about the weight.

The tires are tough as well. No cuts or punctures that I am aware of. The only negative I can think of is that I wish that Velocity did this rim in a 35mm wide version, because I think the tires would work even better than they do now. Oh heck......I may as well ask for a 45mm wide rim while I am at it, because, why not? A 65mm wide tire on a 45mm wide rim sounds about right to me.

The Rest Of The Bike: 

The rest of the Project 1X1 is.....well, simple comes to mind. Basic stuff, sturdy, pretty durable, and low maintenance. Of the other things about the bike, the standouts for me are the way the frame rides, and the fenders. One is a subjective, feeling based thing, the other is pure practicality. The 1X1 frame and fork are either flexy due to 17 years of rusting from the inside out, or were just done right from the get go. Flex isn't a "bad word" in bicycles if it doesn't take away from the ride experience, and they are good words when one feels it adds to the experience. In this case, it adds to the experience, but I cannot say if it is due to age, wear, and tear, or if it really just has always been that way.

The fenders have been something that I still am not enamored of when it comes to simple, stripped down looking mountain bike frames, but they do add a certain air of class to the over all look. Of course, they do a great job at keeping the muck down. If they could only have been about 4mm wider over all though. Oh well.....

So, in the end, this has been an unqualified success. I was so ready to give up on this tube eating machine last Fall and I nearly did do that deed. Instead I have transformed this into one of the most practical bikes in my stable and it even rides pretty nicely. I may add a rack on the rear soon to increase the utility factor even more. Otherwise, this rig has gone from goat to great, and I think I'll hang on to it for a while longer after all.


phillip Cowan said...

That thing is looking pretty righteous. May I ask what gear ratio you're running and what handlebars are those. I think 26in wheels still have a place in the universe.

Guitar Ted said...

@phillip Cowan: Thank you! The front chain ring is a 34T and the rear is a 18T ACS freewheel or a 19T fixed cog. (Flip/Flop hub) The bars are older Salsa Moto Ace riser bars.

Scott said...

Hi Ted - I hope I'm not too late to post a comment here. I have a similar setup, Surly Long Haul Trucker fork, 26" Cliffhangers and Schwalbe Kojak 26x2.0 slicks (this is a road bike) and was also experiencing odd handling: the need for a LOT of countersteer to maintain a steady turn, exaggerated steering input during road camber changes like dropping off the main road surface onto a lower shoulder, and sensitivity to crosswinds.

After some research (especially Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly), I concluded it was a case of excessive pneumatic trail due to the fat, grippy rubber so I and had the fork re-raked from 43mm offset to 58mm to reduce the trail. I'm very pleased with the result: all the undesirable traits seem to be reduced and I'm not noticing any downsides. The steering is lighter and livelier, more like my 700C road bike. I think I could have gone even further to, say, 63mm.

Do you think something similar might be part of what's making your bike "squirrely as all get out"?

Guitar Ted said...

@Scott: Yes, it probably is the reason I feel the instability at times. I imagine the fork rake on the old 1X1 is what the standard was back then- 38mm- so a higher offset figure would likely do for this bike what it has for your bike.

Scott said...

Thanks for the reply Ted. In that case, I'm hoping that as fatter tires become more common on road bikes (e.g. road plus) we'll see fork offsets increase to keep up.