Preparation for the Kona Odyssey has been ticking along smoothly. Not manic, but smooth and steady. The La Niña weather pattern in Sydney recently has resorted the training regime purely to road miles upon road miles. I’m told road miles early on in the season forms a great base and with any luck this will mean the back end of 100km marathons will be less traumatic than in previous years.
Training on the road is different in so many aspects to MTB specific training. On the road, the upper body isn’t exposed to the same challenges as faced with manoeuvring bike and body through tree bound corners and over rock ledges. If you find yourself struggling on the road, it can be an easy option to sit on the back of the bunch, take a breather and still come home and say that you’ve still clocked up the same number of kilometres. Out on the trail things can be less forgiving.
Subaru-MarathonMTB.com riders were issued with 2012 bikes just in time for a perfect summer’s weekend. I took the opportunity to light up Wingello with heavy hitters Anthony Shippard (Jet Cycles) and Jenny Fay (Rockstar Racing) aboard my brand spanking new custom Scott Scale RC 29er. It was my second mountain bike ride in two months and a mere 65km was enough to remind me of how different the two disciplines are. The road miles over the silly season weren’t enough to prepare me for the complete workout that is mountain biking. With the season kicking off in less than two weeks, the new bike will certainly provide some extra incentive to ride the rough stuff despite the poor weather.
Last year’s Spark RC 26in was decked out with quality products from SRAM and DT Swiss – whilst they performed well, I was looking forward to experiencing the different philosophies offered by Shimano and Fox.
Enter the marathon weapon of choice for Subaru-Marathon.com team riders:
Frame: Scott Scale RC HMX 29er
Groupset: Shimano XTR
Fork: Fox F29 Terralogic
Wheels: TWE build using Stan’s Crest 29er
Components: Ritchey WCS
Scott is renowned for industry leading carbon technologies and is repeatedly found stretching the boundaries for lightweight frames and factory bike builds. Out of the box, the factory Scale RC 29er is a scant 9.5kg without pedals. Together with a race spec wheelset and tubeless conversion one can easily drop this to sub-9kgs. With light weight comes bragging rights, but in reality a few hundred grams may save me seconds or possibly minutes over 100km, but in most instances it’s unlikely this will alter my overall position. Shimano and Fox make some of the lightest products available, but this build focussed on other offerings. As a rider, it’s great to be presented with choices on equipment and Shimano have reinforced that with their trail and race line-ups.
So what was it going to be, race or trail spec? XT or XTR? Well, a mix actually. The XTR shadow plus trail rear derailleur was a definite. The theory behind Shimano’s new derailleur innovation is that chain slap, dropped chains, and more importantly chain suck, are virtually eliminated. A drum brake/clutch mechanism keeps the lower pulley from being able to be pulled forward quickly. A clever application of the home-job tensioning springs of the early ‘90s, and is so simple you’ll wonder why it’s taken so long to hit production. Does it work? You bet.
XTR brakes with XT rotors. XTR brakes are as good as the reports make out. Confidence in braking power goes along way to going into a corner with more pace than otherwise. Butter-smooth lever action and bags of stopping power still has me in awe of these brakes.
The only minor downside is there isn’t a 6-bolt XTR rotor yet. The XT rotors still feature Ice-Tech technology, but are 20g or so heavier than what the XTR disk would be due to the smaller spider.
In 2011, I ran a 26/39 combo on 26 inch wheels and found the gearing to be spot on. Crank choice would be as easy as selecting the appropriate crank that had the closest gearing when adjusted for the larger wheels. This turned out to be the 26/38 combo of the trail crank. This is the lowest gearing offered by a double ring setup, and I wasn’t climbing enough mountains to warrant a triple. The Kona Odyssey will let me know if I am to miss that slightly easier gear I had with the smaller wheels. The Q-factor is wider than I am used to which leaves me wondering if there is a shorter spindle available to the XTR pedals.
Terralogic forks are the brain behind allowing you to focus on the trail rather than levers by automatically adjusting to suit the trail conditions. Perfectly suited to a hardtail, this was one of the easier build decisions. The Spark had levers aplenty, so it’s now a nice change to have a much sleeker cockpit. Together with QR15 axle option ensures the front end is precise and stiff. Not the weight-weenies fork of choice, but perfect for what I was after.
Wheels are built by Greg Ryan of TWE using TWE hubs laced to Stan’s Crest 29er rims for a combined weight of 1550g without skewers. A perfect balance of reliability, stiffness and weight brings a light and dependable race wheel that is solid enough to train on.
How does it perform? The hard-tail is surprisingly smooth. Scott’s Shock Damping System, 29er wheels, big volume tyres, and copious amounts of exposed seatpost all combine to provide a cracking sweet ride. If I could put a figure to it, I would say its equivalent to a one-inch travel 26in dually, but without the hassles inherent to pivots, cable and chain growth, and rear shocks. The bike tracked perfectly, and I enjoyed not having the back end wallow when railing banked corners.
The XTR performed flawlessly. Not once did I hear the familiar chain slap chipping away at the frame. The front end was super stiff, both torsionally and laterally. It will be a while yet before the suspension settings are dialled, but the first outing was promising.
I cant wait to see how things fair up under race conditions! Bring on the Kona Odyssey.
And to those still waiting, final weight is 9.5kg with pedals.