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A hard tale – Mountain Biking Australia magazine

A hard tale – Mountain Biking Australia magazine 2020-10-12Leave a comment

electrical bike A tough story – Mountain Biking Australia journal

By Justin Walker | 12 October 2020

It was once an anomaly: on this fashionable world of efficient-pedalling twin suspension MTBs that comfortably negotiate terrain starting from baby-smooth XC/Stream trails via to punishing enduro and even downhill-esque descents, it was uncommon that you simply noticed a hardtail out on the paths.

Nicely, at the least it was till the previous couple of years, anyway. The resurgence of hardtail MTBs – most notably these constructed out of ‘old-school’ metal – has come on quick; Norco’s Torrent HT, Kona’s monster Honzo ESD are simply two of the most recent, becoming a member of manufacturers akin to UK-based Cotic and Stanton, together with Canada’s extremely regarded Chromag, in providing bikes which are powerful, quick, forgiving and up for something.

The combo of a motorcycle body comprised of a fabric considered historic by the ignorant, with a contemporary drivetrain (suppose: single-ring 1×12), forgiving wheels (once more, notably in 29-inch measurement), dropper posts, long-travel forks and the trendy MTB pattern of lengthy, low and slack geometry, and abruptly you might have a bang-for-your-bucks rig that’s super-tough, super-simple to work on, with no pivots, rear shock, and so on., and simply easy, superior enjoyable.

And it was this that led me to go down the MTB hardtail path round two years in the past. Though, for this ageing (ageless?) MTB rider, I approached the ‘hardtail resurgence’ in a barely completely different means…

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Retro to the purpose

I’ve all the time been a fan of metal hardtails, partly attributable to my – ahem – not insignificant age, which means I used to be really round for the daybreak of mountain biking, exploring quite a few trails on my fully-rigid stone-grey Diamondback Topanga again within the mid Eighties. That bike, sans suspension, taught me loads about line choice on trails and though it had since disappeared from my storage, I had by no means forgotten the enjoyable of a steel-frame hardtail and the way these bikes appear to interact the rider extra with a path (most likely as you do must focus extra on staying upright!).

When it got here time to search for a metal hardtail once more, I used to be after one thing a bit completely different to the norm; I had dabbled with a few Niners (a SIR 9, constructed with {smooth} Reynolds 853 metal and the ROS 9 – a 4130 chromoly all-mountain rig) however wished one thing that basically introduced me again to these earlier days of shorter wheelbases, flickable frames and – dare I say it – 26-inch wheels. I wished to (I suppose) show that such a motorcycle, with all these ‘old-school’ points, may nonetheless razz trails with the most recent and biggest hardtails.

So it was that after first sourcing a New Outdated Inventory (NOS) 2010 Rocky Mountain Blizzard body (the well-known Canadian model’s final XC metal hardtail in lovely, springy Columbus Zone metal tubing no much less) for my spouse to experience, that I scored big-time with what I assumed could possibly be the best hardtail all-rounder : one other Rocky Mountain Blizzard – however this time, the ultra-rare 2011 Lengthy Journey (LT) model, constructed with beefier 4130 chromoly metal, and which may take a fork of as much as 150mm journey. This all-mountain variant of the Blizzard was solely produced by Rocky Mountain for one 12 months – and in very restricted numbers – so once I noticed a really tidy Giant-sized instance over in (the place else) British Columbia, Canada, it solely took a couple of emails and a tiny quantity of haggle, earlier than a buddy of mine was getting back from BC with, er, just a bit little bit of further flight baggage.

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At this level, expensive reader, I’ll perceive completely the query you ask of why, in 2018, I might wish to return to the seemingly redundant 26-inch wheel-size, and in addition why I might wish to construct up a path/all-mountain hardtail body that additionally featured one other couple of ‘redundancies’: a straight-steerer head-tube, and a QR 135mm rear axle? Yeah, I puzzled about that myself, however have all the time been one to journey the marginally completely different street – whereas absolutely realising, on this case, that monitoring down new/second-hand elements to suit these out-of-date requirements was most likely going to be both half the enjoyable, or full my transformation right into a fully-fledged madman as I misplaced the battle to remain sane throughout what may have been a really fruitless search. It’s right here, of us, that analysis actually does repay…

The dream begins on the entrance finish

The thought behind this Blizzard LT construct was, initially, to scour second-hand markets for the required elements; I had thought (as did a number of others) that there was minimal – if any – chance of discovering a brand new straight-steerer fork for the bike and was ready to do the laborious yards of being affected person. After a few months, persistence went out the window and, in what was positively a semi-fit of insanity and desperation, I jumped on FOX’s fork choice web page. And it was right here I copped my first welcome shock: the US suspension big nonetheless really made a few forks for a straight-steerer 26-inch MTB, certainly one of which was the mighty FOX 36, albeit in 160mm-travel type, which was a bit longer than I wanted because the Blizzard’s advisable fork size maxed out at 150mm. Nonetheless, it solely took a fast chat with FOX’s Aussie distributor Sola Sport to verify they may drop it to my most well-liked 140mm (observe: this will change sooner or later) and I used to be super-stoked. What I had envisaged being probably the most tough a part of the construct had been sorted, albeit not cheaply. That resolved, it was
time to show my consideration to my subsequent doubtlessly painful search: a 26-inch all-mountain wheelset.

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Industrious effort

An all-mountain hardtail depends on plenty of elements to offer an excellent experience and dealing with expertise: the body materials is one (and as most know, metal is unquestionably extra ‘forgiving’ than alloy and even carbon), an environment friendly fork (it’s the one type of ‘suspension’ on a hardtail – apart from your legs and arms, in fact), and a wheelset that provides each compliance and energy.

Wheels had been difficult. The realm of 26-inch wheels that provide respectable width nowadays may be very skinny; I used to be after as a lot wheel width/tyre width as I may match within the comparatively slim chainstays of the Blizzard to assist dampen the rear finish. Most 26-inch wheelsets I discovered on the second-hand market had been solely 19-21mm in width, and possibly lower than dealing with me hucking the bike off larger drops.

It was at this level that I realised my finances was going south – and in a giant means – and I may have fairly simply pulled the pin. However, no, as a substitute of doing the smart factor, I assumed if I used to be going to blow a big portion of it, I would as properly go the Full Monty…

I’m guessing it had been a short while since Trade 9’s Australian distributor, Dawson Sports activities, had acquired an enquiry a few custom-build set of

26-inch wheels; the Trade 9 Torch Enduro 32 Gap hoops, to be actual. Certainly, Brent Dawson, appeared each shocked and a tad impressed by the dream construct thought he was listening to from the madman on the opposite finish of the telephone once I rang.

Trade 9 has a well-deserved sterling repute for its high-engagement wheel hubs and wheelsets. These Torch Enduros had been ideally suited, with a 26mm inside diameter (30.5mm outer) a three-degree engagement and six-pawl mechanism. Uniquely, Trade 9 affords consumers the choice of anodising, whether or not that’s simply the hubs (akin to I did) and even the butted aluminium spokes as properly. Fairly colors apart, these wheels are constructed powerful, however nonetheless mild (weighing in at 1610g) and have a welcome 113kg rider weight restrict. Plus, they had been accessible in 135mm QR rear hub format. Sure, these had been fairly rattling costly however as this bike was constructed as a real ‘keeper’, I used to be sort-of okay with the pricing. Wrapped across the wheels are some Schwalbe Hans Dampf 26×2.35 tyres up entrance, and Nobby Nic 26×2.35 rubber out again.

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The necessities add up

After the large expense of forks and the Trade 9 wheelset, the Blizzard challenge was beginning to resemble a nasty day on the inventory market. This meant refocusing on the truth that the remainder of the elements wanted should supply loads of bang for my ever-decreasing bucks – sure, I used to be nonetheless delusional by way of wanting this construct to not go overboard…

The drivetrain and brakes had been a no brainer: I’m an enormous Shimano fan and, again in 2018, Shimano had simply launched its SLX 1×11 drivetrain with that massive 46-tooth ring on the rear cassette – add in a set of SLX brakes (180mm rotors entrance/rear) and I used to be almost there.

For the cockpit, I caught with a Canadian theme and went for Chromag’s OSX bars and a 50mm Ranger stem (in crimson to match the hubs), together with a schmick Chris King headset and – ideally suited for my massive measurement 12s – a candy set of Chromag Scarab flat pedals (additionally in crimson). Lastly, I’ve, because the preliminary construct, fitted a 125mm KS Lev dropper publish.

To say the Blizzard construct challenge grew to become larger than Ben-Hur is an understatement. However, fortunately, the precise construct itself – undertaken by grasp bike mechanic and former MBA Editor Tim Robson – was easy. And, as soon as I noticed Robbo snap out a wheelie as a part of his ‘shakedown’ after the bike had been constructed – and noticed his large grin – I knew all that part chasing, dreaming, and means an excessive amount of cash had been properly price it…

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Outdated timer making trails new once more

I’m lucky to reside close to certainly one of Sydney’s hottest MTB trails – Manly Dam – and in addition steadily go to my ‘oldies’ close to Tathra on the Sapphire Coast very often. So, it has been primarily on these two very completely different path networks that the Blizzard LT has been ridden.

My different bike is a dual-suspension 29er, so each time I soar on the comparatively ‘small’ hardtail, it does take some time to readjust my driving fashion. Fortunately the hardtail is a forgiving bike; that FOX 36 eats up the uneven, rocky sections and drops on Sydney’s Northern Seashores fairly properly, with the metal body and people Trade 9 wheels taking a little bit of sting out of the experience as properly. The bike’s quick wheelbase ups the enjoyable issue immensely; the extra you fling the bike about, the extra enjoyable you might have on it. That is counterbalanced considerably by having to be far more on my recreation by way of each general bike dealing with, and in addition permitting for the smaller-diameter wheels’ reticence to roll over every part – though that simply provides me an excuse to leap off extra stuff. The Shimano drivetrain and the KS Lev dropper have by no means faulted since being fitted, and people SLX brakes are simply so efficient each time.

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I’m, nevertheless, about to make a couple of adjustments: the 50mm stem goes to be swapped out for a 60mm to provide me a bit extra ‘room’ for my long-ish torso, but additionally to compensate barely for a planned-for improve in fork-travel, from 140mm to 150mm. It will slacken the top angle a bit as properly, one thing that’s all the time welcome on the Northern Seashores’ gnarlier, steeper trails. The opposite tweak could also be fitment of a carbon bar, for a bit extra vibration damping up entrance.

General, I’m fairly stoked with the Blizzard LT. I strive to not suppose how far over-budget I did go along with this construct however for me the top results of a motorcycle that I’ll doubtless maintain without end makes that preliminary barely scary funding worthwhile. Sure, I nonetheless take a look at the trendy hardtail MTBs and suppose ‘possibly’ – particularly a few of these candy Stanton fashions constructed with so-sweet Reynolds 853 metal – however the absolute grin issue I expertise each time I soar on board the Blizzard LT, whether or not for a fast blast round Manly Dam, a day on the paths down at Tathra, and even simply to experience with the child to highschool, means it will take one thing extremely particular for me to ponder parting with it.

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