Last night we had a good little shop ride after work. This was the first test of the new fork in actual off road conditions. It has performed admirably well. I continue to be impressed by it. The area that we usually ride is called River Bend Nature Center. It is a nice little 8-9 miles of trail we usually ride, (there are more, that's the normal loop though.) It consists of mixed river bottom flat sections, and short, steep uphill mini bluff type stuff. The hills are hard, and were a nice testing ground for everything involved.
The true test was when I switched bikes with a guy named Tuey. Tuey is a professional juggler, and has the best balance of anyone I know. He rides a 26" geared hardtail, and has never owned a 29er, (though he has ridden some of mine.) As far as an impartial jury, he's pretty close. After riding the bike up on of the harder hills, traversing some of the bumpier grass and hardpack sections, he didn't want to give the bike back. His most striking comments were twofold. One, that the bike did not feel that different while riding, only when he started riding his bike again. Two, that he would trade his 26" geared bike for a 36er SS for where we ride in a second!
The ride was great, the weather cooperated, the trails were just wet enough to be tacky, and the bike performed well. I have realized two issued with this bike that need to be addressed. The easy one is the chain. Against my better judgment I put SRAM PC 1 chains on the bike. Well, I stretched them far enough in one ride that I could not keep it on without lightly spinning. Those will be going today. Secondly, this version of the bike has quite a bit more rear end flex under pedaling torque. I think that this largely has to do with the lower bottom bracket, which increases the mechanical advantage against the rear dropout. I feel that this could be solved by the addition of an asymmetrical chain stay or structural chain guard running from just above the dropout, (the only logical place considering the dropout set screw placement.) I can live with the flex now, and I do not think it will lead to a crack, though it is something to consider. It may also be partly to blame for the excessive chain stretch. I will look at changing gear sizes on the bike as well. This may be a third issue with the chain problems.
The fork on the bike performed flawlessly. I was no nicer to it that any of my "normal" bikes, and it took it all in spades. The stiffness is incredibly confidence inspiring, and the steering precision shows marked improvement over the lone unicrown. I will be playing around with the handle bar choice a bit, I think something with a bit more sweep will suit the bike a little better.
So things are developing rapidly along those fronts. We are receiving some bad reports on the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo front. With Iowa being hit with continual downpours, the likely hood that the event will be canceled is rising daily. I feel for Guitar Ted, who has put so much work into this event thus far. I for one would love to see a rescheduled one in the fall if the event is canceled. Apparently the area that was camped on last year is under some 12 feet of water, so it's not looking good. Thank you Mark for the hard work, and we'll be there to support you whatever you decide.