Saturday, November 7, 2015

Back in Business

I know that this blog hasn't been updated for more than 2 years now and I apologize!

It isn't because I have lost interest in mountain biking. Things have just been busy. We have added 2 sons to our family. We have been through a major earthquake here in Nepal and been working hard on the rebuilding process.

But I am back.

I have been doing a lot of research lately on various mountain biking related equipment and I want to share some of the fruit of that research.

I'll be discussing the thought process behind a new bike build that I am doing and a whole lot more.

Stay tuned!

Fun section on the Helipad trail on the north side of the Kathmandu Valley
Helipad Trail on Strava

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Novatech Hubs XX1 Compatibility

According to this video and this facebook status, Novatech will be releasing a freehub that will be compatible with the SRAM XX1 drivetrain.

Unfortunately, January 2013 has come and gone with no freehub in sight. I have reached out to Novatech to ask them about the availability, but have not received a reply yet. This post will be updated as soon as I have more information.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Riding Style and it's Role in Mountain Bike Selection

Most people understand that certain bikes are designed for a particular type or subset of terrain. The engineers and designers started with a a particular type of trail or race track in mind.

We have seen all the current popular labels like: Enduro, Trail, All-Mountain, Downhill, Cross Country, Freeride, Dirtjump, and the list goes on. These labels can be helpful in ruling out certain bikes on the opposite end of the spectrum that might not work, but when it comes down to it, what exactly separates a "Trail" bike from an "All-Mountain" bike or "Cross-Country" from "Trail"?

The answer in most cases: 20-30mm of suspension

Does that mean that you can't ride an all-mountain bike on an cross-country trail? Or vice-versa? Of course not! In fact, you may prefer having more suspension for a given type of trail.

I'm not trying to confuse you. I just want you to understand that you shouldn't rule out or get stuck on a particular bike because of the label given to it.

In my opinion, finding a bike that matches your riding style is far more important than finding a bike that supposedly matches the terrain you typically ride.

Many riders prefer the added challenge, control, and efficiency that often comes with riding shorter travel suspension. Still others prefer the comfort of plush suspension, even while riding relatively smooth trails.

  • Do you do a lot of hopping over small obstacles or do you just plow on through?
  • Do you sit down or stand up while climbing?
  • Do you ride socially and stop often to adjust suspension and seat height or are you always racing against yourself and others?
  • Where do you want the most help from a bike? On the uphill climb or downhill ride?
Answering these questions and many others can give you some extra insight that can help you get past the general labels that may or may not be helpful.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spiders for SRAM XX1 76mm BCD Chainrings

In my mind, these sorts of products are only a stopgap. Their usefulness will be relatively short lived. After other major manufacturers see the need and start to produce XX1 style chainrings, these products will be expensive paperweights. Why purchase a conversion spider and a separate OEM XX1 chainring when you can just buy an XX1 style chainring that fits your current crankset without an adapter?

Anyways, for now, North Shore Billet has a 76mm BCD spider for $70 that you can use to mount an OEM XX1 chainring.

According to their website:
The NSB 1×11 Spider replaces the removable chain ring spider so that you can run a SRAM XX1 chain ring on Truvativ X0, X9, S2210, and S1400 cranks. There are no mounting holes for the granny ring and the single ring’s position is designed to give a better chain line throughout the entire gear range. The chain ring tabs accept an optional NSB rock ring for All Mountain or Enduro riding.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Do We Need or Want Aftermarket XX1 Chain Rings?

After publishing this article about the current and coming aftermarket XX1 chain rings, I was asked: "Why!?!"

OK, so maybe it didn't have all the exclamation points, but it's still an important question. Why do we need aftermarket XX1 chain rings?

The simple answer for the manufacturers is that people will buy it, but let's dig a little deeper. Why will people buy them? What problems do they solve that other solutions don't?

One comment put it this way:
SRAM sells the chain rings by itself why not just get the real one?
Price -
We don't know the price of all the coming aftermarket chainrings, but from those that we have seen thus far, their prices aren't out of line compared to the OEM XX1 chainrings from SRAM. An ebay search for new XX1 chain rings shows us a range of prices starting at $90. Reputable and known online cycle component shops like JensonUSA are selling them for $100-$115.

Wolf Tooth Components has offerings starting at $79 for a 104mm BCD chain ring on up to $120 for a custom blue snowflake chain ring. These prices seem to fit nicely into the current pricing hierarchy.

Compatibility -
I think this is the primary reason that these aftermarket XX1 chain rings are being offered. SRAM decided to manufacture the XX1 chain rings and crank sets with a 76mm BCD(bolt circle diameter). This is a new "standard" and these chain rings are not compatible with any crank sets or spiders currently on the market.

Some riders may have bikes with bottom brackets not compatible with SRAM XX1 crankset current offerings. Other riders may have cranksets with power meters that they want to keep. Maybe they just have a crankset that they are happy with and don't want to lay out the money to upgrade. In each of these aforementioned situations, these riders are not able to use the OEM XX1 chainrings without a spider adapter  that adds cost and complexity.

None of the aftermarket rings that we know about so far are made in SRAM's 76mm BCD. They are all being made to retrofit existing cranksets.

Style -
Personally, I like the styling of SRAM's OEM XX1 chainrings, but a quick look at the aftermarket mountain bike component market should tell the obvious tale that mountain bikers have varied and eclectic tastes.

People like to have different options when it comes to design and style. The polished metal look of the OEM chainrings isn't for everyone. Personally, I'm looking forward to the e*thirteen chainrings:
If you are looking for something different in the style department, you should definitely check out the colorful Race Face narrow wide chainrings they showed at the Sea Otter Classic.

What reasons can you see for these aftermarket XX1 chainring offerings?

e*thirteen XX1 Chain Ring Prototype

As discussed recently the e*thirteen XX1 style chain ring is being shown at the Sea Otter Classic. Art's Cyclery has a nice pic of the chain ring mounted to their TRSr crank:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sram XX1 Aftermarket Chain Rings

Many mountain bikers have been carefully watching the roll-out of the SRAM XX1 drivetrain system. There are several key innovations wrapped up in the new drivetrain. The unique chain ring tooth profiles seemingly negate the need for a chain guide. The wide range 10-42 tooth cassette negates the need for multiple front chain rings and a front derailleur.

Because of these different innovations, the set appeals to several classes of riders. The downhillers love the simplicity and inherent chain retention. The cross country crowd likes the weight savings. And what's not to love? OK, there is the price. And the whole special hub. And the funky 76 bcd chain ring!

What if you just want to take advantage of the unique chain ring tooth profiles for chain retention? What if you didn't care about the 10-42 tooth cassette? Or SRAM's super fly crankset?

If that's the case, you are in luck, or at least you should be soon. There are already at least three companies making aftermarket SRAM XX1 chain rings.

Wolf Tooth Components - Available Now!

Wolf Tooth Components makes several different versions of XX1 profiled chainrings for 88, 104, and 120 BCD cranksets as well as for SRAM GXP direct mount cranks.


According to this article from Bike Rumor, Raceface is developing XX1 style 104 bcd chain rings that will be announced any day now (Sea Otter Classic). UPDATE: They were announced at Sea Otter Classic and look great: See them in this video


e*thirteen is also jumping into the mix according to this article from Bike Rumor. There aren't many details yet other than the fact that they will be compatible with current e*thirteen cranksets.

Absolute Black

According to this article, they expect their offerings to start at $60 and be among the lightest available.

Works Components

Currently out of stock, but their price is 35 GBP. This picture was on their facebook page:

If you don't want to wait on the aftermarket chain rings, you can always spring for a custom spider for your current crankset that will match the odd 76 bcd of the original SRAM XX1 chain rings.

Hopefully we will continue to see others ramp up production of this innovative tooth profiled type of chain ring.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Racing for Mountain Bike Innovation

I love what competition does for any industry, sector, etc. It speeds up innovation. It causes people and organizations to stretch and reach for innovations and ideas that otherwise might never have entered someone's mind let alone made it to a drawing board.

Look at the technological innovations that happen in F1 racing. Exotic new materials and technologies are developed to wring every last drop of power and efficiency within the confines of the rules. Not all these technologies will trickle down to our personal vehicles, but a surprising number of them do.

Photo by Martin Pettitt
First, the high-end boutique car makers start to use the technologies, then the more mainstream manufacturers throw it into their "halo" vehicle, then a decade later, we see a more practical, cost-effective version in our own vehicle.

It works much the same way when it comes to bikes. Manufacturers use their mountain bike racing teams for R&D. If they see something that works, it trickles down to production. Fortunately, it seems the gap between mountain bike R&D and production is getting smaller and smaller.

Part of it may be the fact that mountain bikers are an inquisitive bunch. Maybe you could call it gear obsession? Either way, we watch carefully for new technologies.

I don't have numbers to back this up, but anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that a higher percentage of active mountain bikers follow and try to keep up with new technologies and trends than in the auto industry. I rarely meet a mountain biker that doesn't have an opinion on single-speed drivetrains or 650b wheels. I could be wrong, but that's the way it seems.

Why is this?

My personal opinion is that the gap between the typical mountain bike rider and the typical mountain bike racer is not perceived to be that large. When you look at auto racing and all the money, it seems so far fetched and impossible. When you look at riders on the World Cup Circuit, they seem more... like us. More accessible. More down-to-earth.

Photo by JMDGolfman

Obviously there is a huge skill gap. There is a reason we all aren't sponsored and racing around the world, but because this gap is perceived to be smaller, the gear and technologies used on the race bikes also seem more accessible. It's easier to see how it works, how it helps the racer, and how it could also help us.

Photo by Steven Wilke

Average Joe mountain biker wants that new piece of gear ASAP after seeing his favorite racer flaunt it on the international racing circuit and that's where capitalism steps in. Because people are following the new mountain bike technologies more closely, the market for these new technologies develops more quickly.

Yes, I know there are other factors in play like less regulation, less complexity, scale, etc., but I think a big reason that mountain bike technologies trickle down faster is because mountain bikers pay closer attention.

What think ye?