Written by Dave Barr Wednesday, 31 August 2011 14:22
For the last two seasons I have been riding a Carver Ti 99er (a really nice hard tail 29er). I absolutely love this bike. So much so, that even with cyclocross season upon us, I am not ready to stop riding it. So hence my experiment: Can a lightweight 29er make a fast cross rig? Might I actually ride cross courses with better agility and speed on my trusty 29er steed? One thing I have always noticed about cross is that unlike road racing or MTB racing where your normal rides with friends and such are actually preparing you for the races, cross is really hard to simulate without actually doing a race course. I never feel like I get that confident with my bike handling skills.
By the time I get my mojo goin’ on the cross bike, the season is over. Let me just say I’ve raced on a real cross bike for several seasons…so this is not a “can you do cross on a 29er mountain bike review” (of course you can). I am exploring the possibility that I might actually be faster on a 29er. (I’m not that fast, so any improvement will be appreciated). First thing to do is lighten up the wheels. I did this using a Stan’s NoTubes Race 29er Gold wheel set. These combine the NoTubes patented BST rim (bead socket technology) with the Stan’s 3.30 ti hubs and DT Swiss Revolution spokes for a 1345 gram set that provides reliable tubeless pressures between 16 and 35 psi. Although they have a rider weight limit of 170 lb, I figure for cyclocross they should hold up fine. (we’ll have to see…) I paired these with some Panaracer CinderX tires, then mounted a Carver carbon rigid MTB fork. All said-and-done what you see below is a ~19 lb 29er (post-race mud included). Some comments on what I expect…then I’ll give my first impression from racing it.
1. Bike Weight – not a big deal. This bike is light enough and is probably only a pound or so heavier than my Salsa Chili con Crosso.
2. Wheels/Tires – The NoTubes Race 29er Golds roll superfast, accelerate quickly and feel stiff enough to me. I’ve had no burping issues running the 35c Panaracer CinderX tires at ~31 psi (I weigh ~180 lbs). The Stan’s Bead Socket Technology seems to work as advertised. I think these light wheels really are the key to the rig.
3. Riding position – (Mtb bars vs Drop bars) – I feel much more comfortable handling technical terrain in a mountain bike position. One might expect that the less aero position will be a detriment in the faster rolling parts of a course. However, I expect what I gain in the technical portions may outweigh what I lose in the faster pavement sections.
4. Disc brakes vs Cantilever – Disc brakes should be an advantage from both the mud perspective and modulation. Most people probably forget how much better their XC riding got when switching from v-brakes to disc (and cantis suck even worse than v-brakes!) In my opinion, cyclocross racing really requires finesse in the braking. I think (for me) it may be easier to achieve with discs.
5. Shouldering the bike for run-ups – This could be a bit awkward, but I tend to suitcase my bike on run-ups most of the time anyway.
So how does it all work? The first test was in the 45+ race at the Cyclonauts Racer’s cross event in Monson, MA. The course featured a short lap with some nice side hill off camber stretches, one steep run-up, a slippery three turn chicane section, a quad barrier and a ~ 20-30 second fast section of pavement . I will have to say I really liked racing the 29er. I definitely felt much more stable and I think I rode the course better than I would have on a cross bike. Certainly the technical sections seemed easier and I had an extra feeling of confidence blasting from the fast pavement into the first dirt section. I’m not even sure I lost any ground on the fast pavement section. For the one run-up, I “suitcased” (seemed to work OK). As for the race, I got a pretty good start and made it to the dirt in about 7th position. I then battled to stay in 9th for most of the race. I was kind of in no man’s land with a consistent gap I couldn’t close. I managed to hold off a group of three riders working together until the seventh lap. One of the guys got away, but the other two seemed to be “cooked” from the effort in chasing me down. I passed one of them back on the second to last lap. Then on the last lap the third guy crashed right in front of me in the chicane section. I had to wait for him as he ran his bike through but knew he must be a bit frazzled. With a half lap left I turned on the gas to get by him and ended up finishing 10th. Whew! …losing one place late in the race is better than losing three.
My overall impression of the Carver Ti 29er for cyclocross is very positive. I think for my style of riding and the number of races that will fit my schedule, the 29er mtb will work well. Plus it is just simple! (way less fiddling with the bike repairs and gluing tubulars and all that mess.) I barely have the time to train and race…much less be a bike mechanic between each race. In the worst case, it will make a fine pit bike.
|< Prev||Next >|