Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hey There Blackbuck!

Old School 29"er design, but I like it that way.
The ol' Blackbuck had been sitting in the back of the Lab for quite a while. I set it all up last year to ride but the dang Vredestien tire on the rear wouldn't hold air for the world and I would skip over it to ride something else since I didn't want to "do battle" with another tubeless tire. I have enough to maintain already.

So, the ol' rig fell into a state of neglect. I kept seeing it and thinking how much I love to ride that bike, so finally I purposed to get the tires fixed and get it back going again. Even if I just commute on it now and again, I should be using this rig. Hopefully, it will be more than just that. It is an odd, low production number bike, so it is pretty cool and fairly rare to see one of these. Here's the background on it, as far as I can recall.

The OS Bikes brand (The "OS" stands for "Of Spirit") is/was the brainchild of WTB's Mark Slate, who was one of the founders of Wilderness Trails Bikes. Mark is a true mtb pioneer. He was there in the early days of the Marin founders and he also had a hand in guiding how and why we ride bikes the way we do. He is responsible for many of the tread patterns for tires we knew and loved. Even today, "SLATE" does the tire designs at WTB and guides the company forward into the 21st Century.

He decided to do a frame and fork, and why he chose the things he did is not 100% known to me, but he chose some very unique things to put into the Blackbuck. There really is nothing else quite like this bike. On one hand, it has a striking profile and looks sleek, but on the other, it is a design informed by the "26"er experience". In that sense, in my opinion, the Blackbuck is the pinnacle of early 29"er design, which strove to recreate the 26 inch hardtail experience with "wagon wheels". Most of the 29"er bikes of the 00's were striving for this goal, but most were flawed and some were outright disasters. The Blackbuck has it right and fires on all cylinders.

I think the modern interpretation of this bike would keep the brilliant rear triangle but would extend the front triangle out and slacken the head angle by several degrees, have a 44mm head tube, and accept a 120mm travel fork. Then you'd run a "stubby stem", wide bars, and be choppering all over the place. However; the Blackbuck hearkens back to 26"er design. It requires a longer stem, it rides best when your ass is up and your nose is down. It doesn't "pop", jump, or "flick" like modern "trail" (play) bikes, but it carves out a mean turn and flies up hills if you have the legs for it. Twisty single track? Bring it! The Blackbuck eats that stuff for breakfast. It's go fast up and down, if you have the nerve to pilot it.

Want to know how crazy this design is? The rigid fork option has a 51mm offset and brings the head angle to 73°!! (Work that trail figure out and you will get a "Rando Approved", low trail bike number) It has been told to me that Mark Slate rides this bike with a rigid fork with that steep, low trail geo down stuff that enduro guys have a hard time following him down. I've got that rigid fork, and when I've used it on the Blackbuck, it requires all your concentration to ride off road. Doable? Yes. Sketchy? Waaaaay! Props to Mr. Slate. I cannot imagine riding that bike with that fork down steep terrain!

Anyway, I could go on all day. Hopefully I'll have more opportunities this year to talk about that ol' Blackbuck!

3 comments:

phillip Cowan said...

My trig might be faulty but I make it to be about 61 mm with a 2.2" tire. That's not low trail in the Jan Heine sense of the word but I guess it's pretty low for a modern 29'er. I lost interest in mountain bikes about the same time full suspension became a thing, so I guess my knowledge is pretty dated.

Team Sly MPLS said...

GT - If you were at SSUSA in Copper Harbor or at Levis you would have seen at least 5 Blackbucks. My wife was the first in my house to own a Blackbuck. She was offered a 'keep it in the family' deal that I wouldn't let her pass up. It was her first 29er and still her favorite. I have a 1st Gen that has been set up about every way, but geared. Currently it's set up 27plus and it's made it pretty brappy. I don't see it ever leaving the quiver.

Guitar Ted said...

@Team Sly MLPS - I am aware that 500 1st gen models were produced at the Maxway factory. (Same factory QBP used and several others for steel frames/forks) The second run was made at a factory named Mercury, I believe, and were not quite the same. Not bad, but not the same details and some dimensions were different. (Namely tire clearances)