I’ve been riding my prototype 29er for about six weeks exclusively. Here are some photos of it:
I built this 29er after my short exposure to Harper’s uni.5 - I though it might be fun to have a more road oriented machine that would be faster than a 24x3.0 MUni but still able to be ridden on gravel roads and mild dirt trails. Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out how the 29er fits in with what I like to do.
The frame is basically the same design as the aluminum 24x3.0 MUni frames I’ve made with the strange pinch type bearing holders and screwed on fork blades. The fork blades aren’t nearly as elaborate as on the MUni frames. Even though they are longer than the MUni blades, the frame weight is less - about 1.8 pounds - because of the minimal amount of material left after machining the blades. Seat post is an Interloc Racing 27.2mm aluminum with a home-made seat rail adapter. The seat is a plastic Miyata base with CNC handle and bumper, “dog bone” inner tube pouch and Reecycle cover. The hub is also home-made and is the same as I’ve used on several of the MUni’s (so far without problems - knock on wood). It has an Alex Adventurer rim and IRC Notos 2.1 tire. It’s really a very nice uni that weighs just under 12 pounds.
I first thought “I’ll ride this thing on the road” so I installed the cranks that came with my first uni - a SEM 26" XL. They are steel 125mm and seem ridiculously short compared to the 170mm cranks I’ve always used. With these cranks the 29er has a feel very different than a MUni - similar to the uni.5 and the Coker I test rode for a couple blocks - but less pronounced. Kind of a “lack of control” over the wheel that takes some getting used to. I’ve ridden on city streets, paved bike paths, flat gravel roads and flat dirt trails. I even commuted the three miles to work once - arriving drenched in sweat.
I’ve found riding from point A to point B on the road to be more of a challenge than I ever imagined. I feel like I’m burning a lot of energy by constantly varying pressure on the pedals to stay consistent and smooth. I’ve read about the flywheel affect of the big and heavy Coker tire and wheel and how it makes for a smooth consistent ride. The tire and wheel on the 29er are very light so there’s not much of the flywheel affect. I’m sure that more time in the saddle would smooth out my pedal stroke and make distance riding more enjoyable. Still the 29er seems slow when trying to cover a lot of ground. Again though - I’m sure my technique leaves a lot to be desired.
Today I’m on holiday at my cabin, right now sitting on the deck with a cold Moose Drool! I’ve brought along the 29er and have replaced the ridiculously short 125mm cranks with ridiculously long 177.5mm cranks. I knew there was now way I would be able to ride the steep roads and trails here without longer cranks.
Long cranks give the 29er a very MUni-like feel. I’ve been riding up and down the steep gravel road that leads to my cabin, hopping (35 psi in the tire seems right), idling (much easier than with the short cranks) and generally having fun. Today in the gravel I’ve had pretty good luck with my weak foot idle - strong foot idle seems almost easy. The 29er rolls over gravel, rocks, ruts and irregularities nicely. The 2.1 tire has enough air volume to cushion the ride and allow for a pretty good hop, and the overall light weight is great - but it’s no 24 x 3.0! Tomorrow I hope to get up bright and early to ride the 29er on the “Palisades Creek Trail”. This trail is not flat by any means but long sections of it are pretty mild and might be perfect for the 29er with long cranks.
In conclusion I still don’t know where the 29er fits into the whole scheme of things. For road riding I think a Coker or uni.5 is preferable. For off-road a 24 x 3.0 Gazz can’t be beat. Where the 29er might shine is when trying to cover a lot of ground off-road - a mountain bike race for instance. It’s definitely faster than a 24x3.0 MUni rolling 11 or 12 percent farther for every pedal stroke. Probably 150mm cranks would be the best compromise between speed and power.
I’ll keep riding the 29er - mostly because I’ve given away my MUni’s for testing and it’s all I have right now!