Singular rider Steve Day sent though this report of his amazing win in the Singlespeed category of the 24hr solo mountain bike world championships held last weekend in Rotorua, New Zealand.

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This was going to be a short trip… Disappointment in Weaverville in October last year left me with unfinished business. After picking up a rotator cuff injury 4 weeks before WEMBO-2015, I was forced to retire after 16 hours having lead for 9 hours in the singlespeed category. Limited holiday allowance meant flying out as late as possible, and straight back, so I would only be in New Zealand for 3.5 days! Once my wife, Ingrid, had agreed to me having another crack at the race, a training plan was drafted with Jon Fearne at E3coach.com to get me ready, including a trip to Southampton university sports science lab to focus the training a bit more precisely. All of this had to work around letting my shoulder recover fully, whilst maintaining the fitness I had built ahead of Weaverville.

I also needed to find a way to finance the trip… A friend suggested crowdfunding. I had never thought that would work as well as it did. Within a few weeks I was on my way, having raised my target of £1500 to cover the flight, hire car & hotel costs. I have been completely taken aback by the pledges  and support that people have given me, including Singular Cycles, and am so grateful for the opportunity to have a second crack at the WEMBO singlespeed title.

It also meant it would be the first 24-hour race without my wife & son there to support me due to how the race fell in relation to school holidays – a somewhat daunting prospect as 24-hour racing isn’t just about the physical & mental strength, it’s also about the support in the pits too. However, one of my sponsors offered some unexpected support… Sam Alison at Singular Cycles put me in touch with his New Zealand distributor, Allan Eng. Not only did he offer support in the pits, he also arranged for a brand new Singular Swift to be there as a back-up bike together with a mechanic and accompanying camper van and family. He was also a good source of inside knowledge on the local riders and the trails. Straight away this made me feel more comfortable about the challenge ahead and helped take some of the stress out of being there without my family for support. Allan did a great job prepping the bike, with some high quality kit on what will be one of his Singular demo bikes after the race.

Thursday afternoon saw me arrive in Rotorua after 27 hours of travelling, having met up with Allan in Auckland to pick up the spare bike & tools. I am glad I decided to go for a hire car rather than the internal flight as, due to the really foul weather, a number of flights had been cancelled! Thursday night saw a massive amount of rain fall out of the sky, with my mechanic, Murray, saying the water level in his pool went up 3.5″! The rest of the evening allowed me to stock up on supplies & prep my bikes before crashing on the bed & sleeping like the dead.

The forecast for Friday was significantly better than earlier in the week, with a few showers forecast for early afternoon, but otherwise being sunny, hot & humid. The bikes were thrown in the back of my hire car and 10 minutes later saw me at the Rotorua trails where the organisers were desperately trying to clear the standing water by digging new drainage ditches due to the 200mm of rain that had fallen in the last few days.

Local info was that a rigid bike might be a challenge on the trails over a 24-hour race, so Friday saw me ride 2 laps – one on each bike. The trails… a bit damp in places, but nothing like the North Warwickshire trails that I have been riding for the last 5 months which have been ankle deep in wet clay. It appeared that the rain had simply left the trails in perfect condition, meaning no dust and a fast surface, but still described as ‘muddy’ by the locals.

My Singular Spitfire was spec’d with a rigid fork and was at home on the Rotorua trails straight away, but the Swift with its suspension fork up front helped absorb some of the braking bumps and roots that littered the course. The 2 laps also gave me some idea as to how tough the heat and humidity would be… especially seeing that my last 2 training rides were in conditions hovering at around freezing – a +25-degree difference! However, the course was excellent – 9 miles of mainly singletrack with enough climbing and technical bits to keep anyone amused for 24 hours – just my sort of riding… putting me in a very happy place ahead of race day. It was also good to see some friendly UK faces in Richard Dunnet (Elite men) and Jason Hynd (45-49 men) and have a chat about racing & bikes.

Saturday saw me getting up early after a really restless night’s sleep, nerves finally getting the better of me… The morning was spent filling time until the start, eating, chatting & prepping the pit crew on what’s required in bottles. It felt good to be in such great, relaxing company.

Race start was 12pm and it was getting hot, with clear blue skies. The elite riders got a traditional Hakka and a 10-minute head start over the rest of the pack to spread things out a bit on the first lap. The rest of us lined up, and I decided to get to the front to avoid getting caught up in traffic on the narrow twisty trails. This saw me riding with fellow a group of 4-5 other riders while watching Australian singlespeeder Ed McDonald disappear up the trail looking like he wanted to take some elite scalps. We spent a few laps chopping & changing positions before things started to spread out as pit-stop strategies began having an effect. I had settled in to a comfortable routine, but after 6 hours, at the point at which lights needed to be on my bike, I decided to swap bikes from the Spitfire to the Swift and take advantage of the front suspension as there were very few smooth line choices of the lap and a little bounce would postpone the onset of fatigue in my upper body.

My lap times were very consistent, and pit stops were slick, with Allan describing them as ‘like being mugged’ as they were so quick. I felt that things were going well as no-one had come past me in a while and I seemed to be picking off a few of the elite riders. At about the 1/2 way mark I received a message that Facebook had just ‘gone bonkers’ as I took the singlespeed lead having reeled Ed McDonald back in and finally put a couple of minutes in to him. I tried to keep my focus and to be consistent with my lap times, drinking and feeding which consisted of Torq bars & gels plus cold electrolyte drinks and cold coffee. At one point in the night I was lapping consistently 5 minutes faster per lap than my singlespeed rivals. These laps in the dark allowed me to stretch my lead slightly, my Exposure lights were faultless and allowed me to maintain my speed and open up a 30 minute lead (1/2 lap) at day-break… Not a massive lead, but a comfortable cushion to allow for any mishaps. Local favourite Garth Weinberg was in a close 3rd and just about a lap down, but putting in some quick laps meaning he was still in contention too.

As Sunday warmed up, riders started suffering. At 20-hours in there was a lot of wandering up and down the pits by support crews trying to get the inside line on Ed & Garth’s strategies for the end of the race and the condition of fellow riders. They were also doing the same in return, and on a number of occasions I pulled in to my pit only to be greeted by Ed’s crew asking me how things were going! Unfortunately Garth had no intention of backing off even though he was well clear of 4th, which would have allowed Ed & I to do some loitering and spare ourselves the pain of an extra lap. My lead was wavering between 15-25 minutes, so the last 4 hours were all about not giving in to the pressure and trying not to blow-up. My last lap was painful – my lower back was in agony and I was struggling to hold on with my left hand properly that saw me slip off a couple of times. I finally crossed the line after 24 hours and 21 minutes, collapsing with exhaustion and the effects of the heat & humidity, but had maintained my lead to take the singlespeed win and also finish 6th overall amongst the Elite men. Ed & Garth finished 2nd & 3rd singlespeed and 7th & 8th overall.

So, now I am the 2016 WEMBO 24-hour Singlespeed World Champion. Something that started over a beer after a 12-hour mountain bike race in August 2014, and has been my focus for the last 18 months. I am proud to bring the title back to the UK and hope to defend it in Italy next year. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my wife & son over the last year and a half and I am so grateful for their love and patience. Likewise, all of those people who made the trip to New Zealand possible through crowdfunder and helped keep me focused through the worst winter weather for training knowing that they thought this was possible too. Also, a thanks to Jon Fearne at e3coach and Julian Rider for their belief in me and their words of support – we got there in the end. Thanks to Allan, Murray, Nicky and Sapin for their time and support over race weekend. And finally a thanks to my other sponsors who have kept me moving over the last 18 months training: Singular Cycles, Fibrax, EDS Bikes, Exposure Lights, Torq, Repack and Hope.

 

I’ve had a few people ask me recently about standover height. I don’t tend to publish standover figures for any of the frames for a few reasons.

Firstly there is a huge amount of variance in the way different manufacturers measure ‘standover’; some say middle of the top tube (is that ETT or actual?), some say a direct line down from the nose of the saddle (what saddle? on what seatpost? at what height? in what position on the saddle rails?), and some say a certain distance in front of the nose of the saddle (with the same ambiguity). So unless you know you are comparing apples with apples looking at standover figures when comparing bikes doesn’t really tell you much at all.

Secondly, what size tyres used also makes a significant to stand over – especially so on Singulars, most of which are designed to work well across a pretty wide range of tyre sizes.

Lastly, standover is not a particularly good basis on which to size a bike, effective top tube or reach is much more important in achieving a comfortable riding position. As long as you can straddle the top tube with a bit of room to spare then for most applications that is sufficient. With the dropped top tubes across the Singular range it is quite rare for someone to find a frame which will fit in terms of reach, but doesn’t give safe standover clearance.

A lot of people will also look at a standover height and compare it to their trouser inseam measurement. This is misleading as trouser inseam is not leg length. For instance my ideal trouser inseam is 33″ but my actual leg length (or more accurately and suitably – pubic bone height, see below how to measure it) is 36″. You also need to take into account the shoes you’ll be wearing if you think it’s going to be tight in the top tube / sensitive areas interface.

Notes on bottle cage mounts

When putting together the latest batch of Swifts there was a lot of consternation about bottle cage mounts. Now I know this is not something most people get all that exercised about, but to a bike designer these things are important. The goal all along with the Swifts and I guess my philosophy on bike design overall is to keep it simple. That said, this batch of Swifts I wanted to give a bit more versatility, with a specific view towards bikepacking as that seems to be something more and more people are doing on them. Fortunately we have a few guys in the Singular family who are no bikepacking newbs – Aidan Harding has done the Tour Divide twice, Iditarod (the long one) twice, and was the creator of the slightly bonkers EWE, not to mention the WHW double and a bunch of other self supported epics. David Kleinjan has the Kiwi Brevet under his belt, a record setting South Downs Double and other big stuff. So guys who could give some input on bottles and bags and stuff.

One of the key things that was common to these guys, and you can see them on the majority of rigs ridden by the folks who talk all this stuff rather seriously, is the ‘fuel tank’ type frame bag which sits under the top tube between head and seat tubes. This is a great place to store stuff you need easy access to, but doesn’t take up the whole front triangle so that you can still use a water bottle on the downtube, and depending on the bag, also on the seat tube. This means that on smaller frame sizes the downtube bottle cage mounts need to be well towards the bottom of the downtube.  If you do that it means you have limited to no space for a seat tube bottle. However, if you add another bottle cage mount under the downtube you can still carry two bottles. Plus we now also offer a fork for the Swift which has triple bottle cage mounts on it, so water carrying capacity is not so limited.

Designing bikes is always a juggling act, trying to weigh up different users’ demands and preferences to arrive at a solution which is going to suit most folks well. In this particular regard, a front triangle only has so much space – if you want a frame bag, bottles and a good amount of standover something has to give!

In short, the Swift now has three sets of bottle cage mounts in the L and XL sizes, but only two in the S and M sizes – the one on the seat tube being the one missed out. As always, I’m happy to get your feedback – does this sound good for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Sam

 

Aidan at completion of the Tour Divide in 2012

Singular has lived up to its name from the very beginning – Sam Alison founded the company and did everything from design and testing to sales, marketing, logistics and the ever present book-keeping.

However, to ensure the ongoing prosperity and health of the company, Sam has now entered a partnership with the owner of long time Singular dealer Frank Dressler in Weselberg, Germany.  Frank and his team will take on responsibility for storage, fulfillment, logistics and admin. Sam will continue to do all frame design, customer service, sales and marketing. This will mean much smoother supply of stock and better service for our customers.

In addition to these operational changes we have taken the decision to dramatically reduce the range for the moment. Sadly this means the departure of some beloved models such as the Peregrine and Gryphon. However what we do have is three fantastic bikes which cover a broad spectrum of riding from the road to full fat and a whole lot in between. The goal is to consolidate and build the strength of the company so that we can confidently either reintroduce some models, or develop completely new ones.

During this period of transition to the new structure there are bound to be some teething problems as we have built a completely new web shop and instituted new processes in fulfilling orders. We ask firstly that you make us aware of any issues you encounter with the website or ordering, and also that you have some patience with us in resolving them – though of course we will endeavour to do so as quickly as possible!

Overall, we are hugely excited about the new range of models we now have and what we are sure is a bright future that lies ahead for Singular. Thank you for your support of Singular over the years and helping us grow in the future. If you would like to check out the new frames please go here. And as always, if you have any questions please feel free to email us.

Kind regards,

Sam Alison & Frank Dressler

 

Frank and Sam with Martin and David – winners at Schlafloss im Sattel 2104.

Steve Day 2nd at Torq in your Sleep 12 hour

By Steve Day

With only 5 weeks to go until the World 24-hour Mountain Bike Championships in Weaverville, the Gorrick Torq12:12 was my last opportunity to confirm everything is in place for the trip to California. In usual British bank holiday tradition the forecast was looking ‘changeable’ with a pretty good chance of getting a soaking at some point during Sunday’s race.

Running behind on Saturday meant no pre-race lap… just a quick run around the arena and first bit of singletrack ahead of the start on Sunday which revealed a fast surface littered with the usual exposed roots and loamy surface. However unlike last year the dusty loam was a little more compact due to the recent rain, but not enough to make it hard going. Unlike last year I got to the line early & got a space amongst the fast boys and the quad bike for the lap of the arena to help spread people out, however trying to keep up with them once the quad started pulling away was always going to be a fruitless exercise on a singlespeed!

A midday start saw a bright start to the race, but a few nerves about the rain that was scheduled to hit around 8pm. A swift couple of laps saw people settling in to a rhythm on the 8-mile loop. On lap 2 I was joined by Richard Dunnet and we rode together for a couple of laps, however when he decided to put the hammer down on lap 4 I left him to it and watch him disappear in to the trees. I was rewarded a couple of laps later as I caught him back up again… Although he was riding in a different category, I was keen to see how I could finish overall. It was great for my head to know that I had made the right choice earlier to stick at my own pace.

At 3pm the 6-hour race kicked off, which meant all of a sudden there were pockets of more riders out on course that took some additional thought to get around, but kept things interesting. The course started to develop some new lines too giving some good passing places. By 8pm lights were on due to the gloomy, muggy conditions, but the forecast rain hadn’t turned up yet. A brief 5 minutes of light rain didn’t have any effect on the course and the pace stayed high and my pit crew of Ingrid & Erik kept me informed of progress, fed & watered.

All seemed well up to the end of my 14th lap when I was told that my 1-lap lead had been reduced and I needed to put the hammer down as second place was catching me. Fortunately as I entered the changeover area I was able to latch on to one of the fast team riders and upped the pace a bit for my last couple of laps. However, I was relieved to see that the times of my 12th & 13th laps had been combined so Javier Simon was still over a lap behind, meaning I won the Vets category as well as the singlespeed cat. I also placed 2nd overall solo, 10 minutes behind Will Mathews and 10 ahead of Richard Dunnet.

Once everyone was in the bar for the trophies & prizes, the rain finally came and didn’t let up…
Finally, a big thanks to Jon Fearne at E3coach.com for getting me this far… only 4 weeks to go! Also, thanks to Singular, Fibrax, Hope, Goldtec & EDS Bikes for their support this year.

Battling on the Beach

The rest of the Singular team seem to be turning in to runners, parents or both. So it was left up to me to fly the flag at the second occurrence of Battle on the Beach – a unique race on the south coast of Wales. Reports of last year’s inaugural edition had been overwhelmingly positive, so this year I made up my mind to make the long drive over to Pembrey Sands – just past Llanelli.

I loaded up the A8 of Fury with bikes and fuel for an early start Saturday so as to avoid traffic and get there in reasonable time to set up camp and get a little ride in. I had quite a selection of bikes on board – Kite disc proto, 27+ wheeled Swift and the full fat Puffin went on the rack….

Locked and Loaded

Plus my planned race bike of a singlespeed Gryphon inside…

race bike inside

Better pic of the race bike

beach racer

Arriving around midday I quickly linked up with a few old friends, we circled the wagons and created a bit of a makeshift Singular display area in the campsite – their bikes added another Gryphon and Puffin plus a blast from the past in Jo’s Hummingbird and Steve Day was there with the Rooster 29+ proto.

circle the wagons

The weather was stunning – mid to high teens and bright sunshine – this is about as good as weather gets in Wales and it’s not even April! We got kitted up and headed out for a lap. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, all I’d heard was of a long drag along hard sand up the beach, then fun single and double track through the dunes and forest on the way back. That turned out to be pretty much exactly true. The ride up the beach wasn’t as much of a drag as you might think – the sand being packed hard and a fortunate absence of wind. And the trails coming back were indeed a nice mix of sinuous singletrack and duney doubletrack.

The feature of the night was to be roller racing – which was fortunate because the clear skies meant as soon as the sun went down the mercury plummeted to somewhere around 0. I was hopeful my track legs might stand me in good stead – but a 250m qualifier with zero resistance wasn’t exactly playing to my strengths. Nevertheless I made it through to the knockout rounds and advanced to the semis. That was a bit longer 500m and I was only just beaten out by the eventual winner – in any case it certainly got the blood flowing!

Even donning all of my clothes before bedding down in a rather chilly tent didn’t really keep me warm and I had a fitful night’s sleep. Waking to find a heavy frost surrounding us was no surprise. The sun quickly melted that though and tea and Jon’s bacon baps got me moving.

600 souls assembled at midday for a mass start across the sand. I managed to secure a position somewhere towards the front. To run across the soft sand was definitely the right choice, unless on a fat bike you quickly got bogged down. A remount honed from a winter racing CX stood me in good stead and I was soon charging along the hard sand spinning with all my might. Gear choice amoung the singlespeeders was interesting – I went a little bigger than normal on 32-16. I knew this would not be big enough to keep up with those on gears on the beach, but there were some sharp little pinches in the woods which wouldn’t be rideable on anything much bigger.

An initial glut of people streaming past me in the big ring slowed and I settled in to a nice bunch and got sucked along in a pattern of spin like fury then coast – and repeat. Once we got off the beach on the first lap we had a further open section to try to reduce bottlenecks before hitting singletrack, which was moderately successful. As it was we were generally off the bike for the steeper bits so I could have gone with a bigger gear… Still, it was all good and it’s not like I was there to win.

Well, it was all good until I felt my rear tyre going a bit squidgy just as we entered the dune section about half way back…. I optimistically had just popped a bit of sealant in the Dugast Fast bird tubulars, crossed my fingers and didn’t take a pump or anything with me. This was silly. Still, the good thing about tubs is you can still ride on them to some extent even when flat. So I did that in a somewhat gingerly fashion and combined with a bit of running meant I’d only lost maybe a few minutes by the time I finished the lap. That gave me time to think about what next. I’d grab the Kite disc proto – that was set up with some nice 42mm Maxxis Hookworms and was pretty much ready to roll. It was at the campsite though and was all locked up – and Jo had the keys for safekeeping…. Fortunately I spotted her quickly at the finish area and retrieved the keys.

By the time I’d swapped bikes I’d lost maybe another 10 minutes, but it was a beautiful day and a fun course so I pressed on. I wasn’t officially racing any more as I’d entered the SS class and was now on a geared bike, plus I’m not sure whether bike changes were even allowed. Not that it mattered, I enjoyed the fun bits and hurt myself a bit riding solo with gears along the beach.

Finished - photo thanks to Tom Cutting

This is really a brilliant and unique event. A whole contingent of experienced beach racers from the Netherlands were over – they do a lot of beach racing there but without the singletrack – they loved it and took the podium spots. Steve was 2nd SS on the Rooster and friends Dan and Jane smashed it on the fat front SS tandem 🙂 That was probably the most unique bike out there, but everything from CX to fat bikes could be seen on the course – and they all had their place. Brilliant event organisation from Matt, Nia and their team makes this weekend one that is already in the calendar for next year!

Last lap on the beach

Al takes another win at Margam Madness

While most of us were sitting back eating chocolate eggs team rider Al Fairbairn was putting in another very strong performance to take the Vets win at the Margam Madness. 

The name George Budd is becoming synonymous with large amounts of pain and suffering being dished out to my poor legs. When he suggested we race the second edition of the Margam Madness 8 hour enduro i knew i was in for a day in the pain cave!

We were out the door and on our way to south Wales at 6am and arrived to a beautiful sunny morning. We promptly registered, assembled our bikes and set up our pit areas.
Although the sun was out there was a cold wind blowing and i was glad to get the racing underway.

At 10.30am the whistle blew and sent the pack charging across a grass field towards the ominous hill side. From here the track began climbing through a combination of wooded singletrack, fireroad and loose rocks. I settled into the top 5 as we hit the first  descent. As we started the next climb George and the other front runners gradually pulled away. I decided to let them go as 8 hours is a long time and i didn’t want to go too hard too soon.

The course was an amazing blend of horrific climbs punctuated by awesome descents featuring trail centre style berms and jumps, steep technical black graded routes and rocky fast singletrack.
As the day wore on the climbing really started to take its toll. It became a mental process of breaking things down into fun sections to look forward to, in the hope that this would motivate me to keep on climbing!
The format of the race was to finish the last lap before the 8hr cut off. As i came round on my penultimate lap i learned i was leading the Veterans category by about one and a half laps. This meant one more lap and it was in the bag. I came over the line with 50 mins to spare. Potentially i had time for one more lap but hey…why push your luck 😉

All in all a great day out. I went home with the Veterans win, completing 10 laps, 64 miles and 13,515 ft of climbing. George took the win in his category and in the process was the fastest man of the day beating all the teams as well!

A big thank you to Gareth Hayes for putting on such a great event. I will definitely be back next year!

From team rider Al Fairbairn

If there is hard way of doing things I’ll probably find it. When I heard there were some like minded fools heading out to ride the South Downs Way over night I jumped on in with both feet.
I had just borrowed the Singular Puffin from Sam for a bit of a demo so it seemed like a top idea to use a fat bike!
The weather forecast was looking pretty bleak with strong winds, fog and heavy rain. I met my band of merry men in Eastbourne train station and we promptly set off into the night.

Disaster number 1 of the night shortly followed with stuntman Scott trying to commit bike assisted suicide by throwing himself down the first descent. How he got up, let alone carried on, is testament to how tuff Aussies are!
Next followed an onslaught of punctures that would see us out of tubes and patches and getting nowhere fast.

A descision was taken to call it quits with Scott and Nick heading off in a Guildford bound direction while Chris and I mended his last tube and plotted a road route home for us.

We had covered only 44 miles off road so this left us with a sizeable chunk of miles to do. Heads down and onwards into the night we went, heading through Petworth, Midhurst, Petersfield and across the meon valley. The Puffin is hardly ideal for road miles but left with no option i ground my way up the climbs and flew down the descents.

Chris turned towards Winchester while i headed home with the lure of bacon sarnies and fresh coffee firmly fixed in my mind.

All told I was out there for nearly 14 hours, covered 113 miles in the pouring rain and loved every single minute!

Thanks for a memorable evening guys. Till next time……

 

From team rider Al Fairbairn

After last weekend’s (mis)adventure on The South Downs Way that resulted in a 70 mile road ride to get home, I figured it was time to show the Puffin some proper trails. With the car fully loaded we headed off to Afan Forest Park and the lure of some fast, rocky terrain.

My friend Rob and I arrived Friday evening and after a quick bite to eat, suited up and headed off into the darkness. The plan was to ride a quick loop of The Whites Level Trail to loosen up our legs for the following days big ride.

If I’m honest I really wasn’t feeling the love for the Puffin to begin with. This was my first real off road ride on a fat bike and I found myself struggling to find any flow. I was bouncing off rocks, having a hard time cornering and getting pretty frustrated. We finished the ride and I headed off to bed questioning my choice of bike for the weekend.

Saturday morning began early. Breakfast was consumed, coffee drunk and bikes adjusted. I decided to let a little more air out of the tyres to see how that would effect the ride. I finally settled on 10psi. This seemed like a happy medium between too hard and destroying the rims on the rocks.

 

As we climbed up the first section of trail the difference was remarkable. The grip offered by the 45 NRTH tyres was phenomenal. It takes a little while to adjust to the handling characteristics of a fat bike. You really have to muscle it around. The steering is a lot slower and heavier than the lightweight race bike I normally ride. The feeling of inertia from the enormous wheels and tyres takes a bit of getting used to.

We made our way up the fire road climb to the top of the Skyline Trail. There has been a lot of tree felling so the regular route has been changed. The diversion took us down some superb fast rocky descents. I found myself gaining confidence and aiming for the steepest most gnarly lines. The Puffin devoured the rock gardens with ease.

 

As we headed back towards the visitors centre we joined the newly opened Blade Trail. This contained some fantastic sections of fast bermed singletrack, jumps and rock drops as it plummets down hillside. We arrived at the Skyline Café ready for a well deserved lunch stop. After lunch we rode down the valley to sample the reopened Penhyyd Trail. This began with a long climb on a combination of graded singletrack and fire road. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Puffin is a joy to climb on but it was nowhere near as bad as its weight would imply. It was basically a case of sit down, select an easy gear and grind your way to the top.

 Rob was starting to feel the effects of a long day in the saddle and was glad to finally turn downhill. The decent featured a mixture of natural singletrack and man made swoops and turns that promptly returned us to the bottom. A gentle cruise back up the valley to the car and that was that. 65 miles and 7000ft of climbing completed. I can safely say I am now a fat bike convert and can’t wait for the production Puffins to arrive!

I was recently asked by the BikeRadar site to answer a few questions about the new 29+ (29×3″ or 622-80 for the uninitiated) tyre size, some of which were included in their article. For those who want more, here is the full text of my responses.

What are your personal thoughts on the wheel size? Pros/cons, etc…
As someone who’s often gone for the largest, lightest 29er tyres possible – like the old weirwolfs and 2.4 racing ralphs – 29+ immediately appealed to me. I’m a full time hardtail rider and most of that is full rigid, so high volume tyres have a natural appeal.  As soon as they were available I quickly built a 29+ front wheel to go on my Gryphon and really loved the ride of that up front. It gave a lot of the confidence inspiring cush and traction of a full-fat (26×4) front end without anything near the weight penalty or rolling resistance. Plus they have the benefit of being able to be used on a standard width hub and cranks – so if you want you can use a regular set of 29er race wheels in the same bike and you have the added benefit of acres of mud clearance (important for us in the UK!).
The main cons are weight, tyre and availability and fitting them in to existing frames and forks. But those are the exact same things we were saying about 29ers 12 years ago. I remember when we only had the Nano, so it’s reminiscent of those times.
What sort of challenges does the 29+ pose to the frame builder?
I think you can approach it two ways – either just make a 29er which will fit 29+ size tyres. Or start with a clean sheet of paper to design a specific 29+ bike. My initial thoughts were the former, but I ended up starting from scratch for the Rooster. (side note – though the Swifts and Gryphons will now take a 29+ tyre up front).
The main ‘challenge’ is fitting it all in there – big tyres, short chainstays, front derailleur and multiple chainrings – people want it all! I don’t claim to have it completely nailed – but I think the first proto is pretty close in that respect. Then there is the overall frame geometry and layout. Those tyres are big so I’ve gone for more BB drop. It’s also got a slacker head angle and lots of fork rake, so mechanical trail is short to counteract the effect of greater pneumatic trail – more rubber on the ground. I’ve also gone with a bit stouter downtube, fork blades and a tapered steerer because those big tyres and all that traction puts more stress through the frame and the wheels can ‘overpower’ too flimsy a frame and fork.  My initial impressions and the feedback from test riders so far is that this has all worked out quite well.
Do you ever see this size gaining widespread acceptance, or do you see it remaining the realm of custom builders and smaller brands like Surly, Singular, et al.?
On a purely practical level I think it should. I think it creates a much more versatile, capable and usable bike than full fat – not that I don’t love the full fat platform as well! Very few people would ever choose to have full-fat as their only mountain bike – I can see 29+ being a much more viable option to be that sole mtb in the shed.
However thinking a bit more pragmatically I worry that this may end up being a tyre size too far. Way back when, we only really had 26″ for mtb’s. Then in the last 10 years there’s been an explosion, 29ers, 650b, 26×4, now 26×5, 26×3 and 29+. I’m a bit concerned that it may just end up being one option too many among a plethora of available tyre sizes. That would be a real shame because I think it offers a lot more advantages than some others.

But once we get more of these things on the dirt, and people see that you can have a bike which rides brilliantly with the full 29+ tyres on it, plus you can throw some lighter faster tyres on for racing or thick mud if you want, and you can use most of the parts from your existing bike it’s really a great platform. We need to see at least one more tyre (more suited to softer conditions – bring on the Dirt Wizard!) then I think things could really gain some impetus from there. I see this being more of a ground-up development in much the way 29ers were, rather than the ‘industry’ suddenly clamouring after a ‘hot new thing’ as seems to be the case with 650b – not to diminish Kirk Pacenti’s vision and hard work in being the progenitor of 650b for dirt.

In your opinion, what sort of mountain biker should consider 29+?
My long held belief is that 29ers work best for taller people. This is changing somewhat due to shorter chainstays and forks with more offset. However I still think you have a minimum practical height of around 5’5″ – yes, I know there are going to be people who pipe up saying “I’m 5’3″ and I love my teeny tiny niner” which is fine, but I just can’t see how they would really handle well – I think most of those people would really be happier on a well designed 26″ (or 650b) bike, at least for the type of trail riding I like to do. This effect is heightened further with 29+ wheels. You are forced into longer chainstays, and just the weight and size of the wheel makes it hard for a shorter person to move their centre of gravity far enough in relation to the wheels to maneuver the bike effectively.
Other than that caveat, pretty much anyone!  Maybe not your full on hard core jumpy/downhilly/north-shorey folks (though the traction offered could be interesting for those sort of applications), but essentially if you enjoy 29″ wheels you should also try 29+, at the very least up front. If you like 29ers and you like fat bikes – there’s a very good chance you will love 29+.

 

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