Saturday, October 02, 2021

When The Numbers Seem To Come Together

The Fezzari Shafer (Image courtesy of Fezzari Bikes)
 One thing about bicycles is that things don't stay the same for very long. Changes come and go, but you can count on fashion and design to mold our bicycles into different directions all the time. 

It used to be that things were settled. The geometry was what it was. You bought a frame and fork because it had a certain frame tubing, or because a certain guy brazed it together. Not because it had a 'long, low, slack' geo, or because it had 'progressive geometry', or because it had a certain head angle. 

But all those things and more are constantly in flux now as designers try new things and connect buzz-words to their recipe for geometry. Marketers get a hold of this and run with it, then the media reinforces this with reviews and opinions saying that you simply cannot ride anymore unless you have such-and-such geometry. 

Well, as we know, sometimes this goes a little too far. 

I'm not saying what I like is 'the right geometry' for gravel riding, but historically speaking, there have been certain things done which were proven concepts that weren't driven by marketing so much as they were by what actually works for most folks. I have done research and delved into the history enough to have a basic understanding of some of these concepts and I have had enough experience riding lots of different bicycles to have formed my own opinion. Which, if you didn't catch that, is my opinion. You will have to figure things out for yourself, because I may not be right for you. Close? Maybe, but not 'right', whatever that may mean to you. 

So, when I see something put out there that dances around the same circle as my mind does with geometry numbers, I get excited. Again- not for anyone else, necessarily, but for myself. So, when I saw the press release for the Fezzari Shafer, I was pleased to find out that Fezzari hits on several things I have had in mind for a gravel bike for years. Things I've wanted to see done since the late 00's, and you folks that have read this blog for a long time know that this is true. 

The Shafer's geometry table courtesy of Fezzari Bikes.
So, what the heck did Fezzari do? Well, they dumped the bottom bracket drop to 77mm. Yes! I've always thought that somewhere around 75mm was pretty good, and I've wanted to try something a bit deeper, and there ya go. 77mm. Nice! 

Then Fezzari slackened out the head tube angle to a 68.5° figure and matched that up with a 50mm fork offset. Bold! Pretty 'out there' for a gravel bike. Only the Evil Bikes Chamois Hangar goes beyond the bottom bracket drop and head angles here, and honestly, I think they crossed a line with that bike. 

Then Fezzari went and did that three in the triangle bottle mount thing with fork mounts as well, which I absolutely love. Internally routed cables for everything? Meh! It is what it is, and yes- easily cleaned. I get it. But I am a mechanic too, so..... On that note, a threaded bottom bracket! Rejoicing here! Plus, all of that and a reasonable price for a frame and fork at about a grand less than that Evil Bikes model. 

So, what did they get wrong? I would point to that fork offset at 50mm. I would have liked to have seen that increased a bit. Maybe 53mm? maybe even 55mm. But at 50mm I would still give that a try. My thoughts being that on a long, slow grind of a climb with looser gravel, that makes the mechanical trail figure a bit much to hold steady. But yeah, everything else there looks pretty spot on, so a slightly less than inspiring trail figure may not be all that bad a deal. 

So, here's a great example of where fork trail in particular was a big surprise for me. It was at Bootleg Canyon for an Interbike Outdoor Demo. Mike Curiak had been working over Devin Lenz of Lenz Sport Bikes to make a long travel 29"er with certain aspects of geometry that were- at that time- considered to be the death of handling for 29"ers. Mike had dialed me up to the existence of the bike, and asked me to demo it at Bootleg Canyon, but would not tell me anything about the geometry until after my ride. 

Well, needless to say the bike handled really well and the geometry was whack for the day in regards to what we all thought was 'right' for a 29"er. The trail figure, in particular, was off the charts for a 29"er, as in the three digit range! Far higher than anything I would have thought would have worked on a climb, but it did. 

And so I say that to point out that Fezzari may have it right and what the heck do I know? Maybe someday I can swing a leg over this new fangled rig and find out.

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