Ask TEAM ROBOT

“What’s worse – Brakes that squeal or gum wall tires?”

Gum wall tires. Squealing brakes may or may not be your fault, but the same isn’t true about your decision to buy gum walls. I’ll use this borderline unforgivable example from one of my favorite people in the world, someone who, unlike you, is on the DO NOT KILL list. He took what would have been a wonderful, tasteful build and did… this:

Et Tu, Brute?

 

To review:

  • The correct number of colored anything on your bike is two, and that includes frame and fork lowers.
  • Stanchion color doesn’t count. It’s like blue jeans: at some point, for some indeterminate reason, everyone agreed it’s okay to pair with anything.
  • Color-matched anodized components are a flag that says “packfill.”
  • The correct color for stems, handlebars, seatposts, rims, spokes, and tires is always black.

 

“Santa Cruz Hightower or Specialized Enduro 29? I like a really progressive, almost impossible to bottom out feel.”

Neither?

The good news is you probably have no idea what you’re talking about, so you might very well be happy with either bike. There are dozens of variables in bike feel, and most riders haven’t ridden enough bikes with enough different setups to actually tease out which variables affect what, beyond the basic ones like frame size, spring rate, BB height, etc. Most riders that get really descriptive about suspension curves, anti-squat percentages, or high speed compression tunes are really saying “I rode a bike once that felt good, and I’ve also ridden bikes that didn’t feel good.” I guarantee you 75% of TR readers and 95% of Pinkbike readers couldn’t take the Pepsi Challenge and tell me the difference between a 66 or 64 head angle on the trail, a Lyric or a 36 on the trail, or small variations in rear suspension leverage rate.

Rear suspension designs are all incredibly similar now. In 2017 we’ve ruled out most of the really wacky shit, and most rear suspension designs these days are, ceteris paribus, rideable (recent phallic monoshock carbon DH bikes excepted). I’m not saying I want to ride a Cube, I’m just saying suspension curves aren’t the reason Cubes are unrideable. Modern suspension designs aren’t homogenous, but every design in 2017 is converging on some very similar characteristics. They’re shooting for a steady falling rate, they’re typically optimized around a 32 chainring for fairly similar anti-squat numbers, axle paths are pretty similar (with the exception of a few high-pivot designs), and overall progression and leverage rates are pretty similar from bike to bike. For instance, we don’t see rising rate designs, we don’t see 2:1 shock rates anymore, and with the advent of trunnion mounts, you’re not going to see many teeny shocks, either. Things are better now.

“It kinda felt like humping an exercise ball, or like someone used a soft-close drawer slide as the damper against this 800-pound spring. AIDS? Can it feel like AIDS? I haven’t had AIDS, but I think that’s what it’s gotta feel like.”

 

Having said that, you picked two notable exceptions. Santa Cruz VPP trail bikes have had a very distinct regressive/flat/progressive curve since… forever? But don’t trust me, ask Uncle Joe about VPP rates throughout history. The new Nomad would be the only SC trail bike that fits your bill because it borrows its linkage from the V10.

Specialized has always had a painfully flat leverage rate, from the Demo 9 to the alloy Demo 8, right up to the current spaceship-seatmast Demos and fancy 2018 Enduro 29er’s. The reason Troy, Aaron, Loris, Loic, Finn, and Miranda all ran custom links is because… drumroll please… the bike is designed by midpack engineers who think Gypsy at Northstar is THE testing ground for DH bikes. They literally *just* changed the leverage rate on the 2018 Enduro, but only for 27.5, because apparently 29er riders don’t hit jumps.

Every team rider has a custom link to get away from the stock configuration. This should inform you about Specialized’s design goals and ideal customer.

 

The fact that you cited either one of those bikes and then asked about “impossible to bottom out feel” leads me to believe you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not saying small differences between suspension designs don’t matter- they do. The whole premise of this site is that, no matter what engineers, tech writers, or marketers tell you, everything matters. I’m just saying that, based on what little I know about you, you’re probably not the princess and the pea. If you want a good bike, you should buy the one with the amount of travel and wheel size you need, that fits best based on the geo chart, and then play with air pressure and reducers til it rides like a bike. Seriously, I defy you, stick some volume reducers in the Hightower or Enduro, then take some volume reducers out of a YT Jeffsy, and tell me with a straight face you can feel a difference in progression. (Hint: you can’t)

 

“The 5010’s alright I guess, but the top end of the leverage curve just isn’t giving me enough support.”

 

If you really can’t decide between the LT or the Enduro, you should buy the Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz isn’t perfect as a brand, but they’ve always let you run whatever shock you want, they never went to press fit BB’s on their mountain bikes, they gave the world Ratboy and five years of Rennie, their marketing manager just won whip off worlds, they never made an awkward break up vid for Sam Hill, and (as a percentage of revenue) they’ve poured more money into World Cup downhill than anyone. If you’re ever choosing between two fairly equal products, buy from the brand that makes mountain biking better. If you had to take hard-earned money out of your pocket and give it to either Roskopp or Sinyard… hmmm… tough choice.

 

None of those were scrubs

 

Eliot’s a smart guy. He knows a lot of things. I think he knows his rear tire wasn’t sliding up the jump face on any of those “scrubs.”

 

 

 

Shut up, James. You’re not helping.

 

Whatever man, I’ve been on this “scrub” thing for years now. Just let me have my grudge in peace, James. You make me wish I’d never even found the “word bubble” feature in Preview.

 

Okay, fine: http://www.eliotjackson.com/

The Rules: Keep filming

If you’re ever filming a friend hit a jump for the first time, and he overshoots the jump by 30 feet, mid-nosedive, headed for an immediate ambulance ride, TEAM ROBOT has a friendly reminder for you:

Hold that phone or camera steady and keep filming. Please. You might feel pangs of guilt and a sense of responsibility, but in this moment you have a higher calling than even your sacred bond of friendship: millions of people the world over want to see a complete clip of your friend eating shit, and you owe them that. I want to see your friend eating shit. Later you’ll want to see your friend eating shit. Provided he doesn’t die on impact*, your friend will definitely want to see an uninterrupted, unshaky video of him eating shit. Don’t blow it.

It’s tough, but you have a duty here. You need to put on your big boy pants, hold the camera steady, and stand firm like the stoic, emotionless documentarian we need you to be.

 

*or on the ambulance ride, or from complications in the hospital, or after a multiyear coma like Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill, or any other sort of crash-related death that would prevent him from watching a cell phone video of them eating shit before going up to the Jerry Hall of Fame in the sky.

 

Handlebars

Truvativ is now offering 35mm handlebars. What exciting times we live in.

 

I have limited experience on 35mm handlebars. I spent a season on Gravity’s 35mm Grid aluminum bar on my trail bike, and while the bar did feel a little like a broomstick compared to the normal (and more expensive) Gravity Light bar I’ve ridden for years, the Grid bar wasn’t unrideable. I didn’t love the straighter, flatter angles of the new bar, and it was a little rougher than the 31.8 bar, but the additional stiffness wasn’t a love it or hate it thing, it was just kinda there. Blind test, I’m not sure I would have noticed the additional stiffness. Maybe?

Apparently though, alloy bars aren’t really the point of the new interface, just a bonus option and a way to sell more NewCoolShit. TEAM ROBOT might be irrelevant and half-dead, but we’ve still got people, and our people indicated that the real reason 35mm exists is to create a safer BCD for plastic bars to save ham-fisted home mechanics. The previous pattern was apparently:

  1. Home mechanic over-tightens stem on new carbon bars.
  2. Breaks their face off when their new 800mm handlebar turns into two 400mm handlebars.
  3. Home mechanic then funnels cash to the dentists of the world to fix his shit.
  4. Dentists spend that cool facial reconstruction cash on carbon bars and other lightweight components for themselves in a nasty pattern known as ‘The Dentist Cycle,’ to be covered more extensively in a later post.

So plastic handlebar safety is the first argument, which is valid, and the second argument typically revolves around plastic handlebar stiffness. This also seems valid, because I’ve personally felt some ridiculously flexy 31.8 carbon bars. During a parking lot test on one of the first generation Enve DH Bars, I got the bars to make a frowny face. I did the same with a set of Crankbrothers 710mm plastic bars while standing over the bike with both feet on the ground. I don’t have stiffness test values for those bars, but I’d guess they’re somewhere in the zero to shitty range.

[Editor’s Note: Sure, I guess the third argument for carbon bars would be vibration damping, as noted by one of our commenters. But that idea is stupid on many levels, so I didn’t mention it. To be addressed in a future article)

But it’s worth asking: what would drive someone to run carbon handlebars in the first place? Why does this seem like the place to save weight? I can’t think of any component that’s worse to break, and I can’t think of a single 800mm bar that weighs more than 400g, meaning your max *potential* weight savings is less than half a pound. to review, the cost to save less than a half a pound with carbon handlebars is:

  • $130-225
  • Maybe your face

Sure, I can justify the $130. Even on the high side, you can still rationalize $225 to save half a pound, especially compared to a fancy set of wheels or Ti spring. But maybe your face seems like a pretty steep price for a marginally lighter cockpit. A friend of mine makes a practice of taking off his old bars every two years and sawing them in half so no one ever rides them again, and while that’s a little dramatic, it illustrates a point- handlebars will not be friendly if they break.

 

And you thought those bars were expensive.

 

Of course, from a materials standpoint, carbon can be stronger than aluminum. As long as you don’t over-tighten your clamps, score the interface with twisting brake levers or controls on the bar, allow your bike to bump into others during transport, take your bars off and on repeatedly, accidentally hit the surface with sharp tools or rocks, drop your bike, or crash. As long as you don’t do that, you’re fine.

 

These articles were excellent

https://www.pinkbike.com/news/ridden-and-rated-5-four-piston-brakes.html

 

https://www.vitalmtb.com/features/Vital-MTB-Face-Off-The-Best-Dropper-Posts,1762

 

These articles showed a clear editorial stance, gave thoughtful opinions, and took maximum advantage of the product-testing powers available to each publication. They even highlighted downsides of certain products. I respectfully part ways with Levy on the topic of brake power vs. modulation, but that might have something to do with the extra 40 pounds I have on him and the fact that my home trails are better.

This is exactly the sort of tech writing we want in the MTB world. They might be shoot-outs, but they’re a long way from MBA.

 

Has anyone ridden these?

I’d put the odds at 50/50 that these berms are awkward, slow, or generally ride like shit. I’ve never ridden them so I don’t know if they suck, but there are some big red flags:

  • Not built by motos or as natural ruts
  • On the East Coast
  • Probably built by stoked mountain bikers
  • In bounds at an American chairlift-accessed resort
  • They seem to do everything other than go down the fall line
  • Super tall early on where you don’t need berm, less tall later on when you do
  • Looks like builder was focused on symmetry and aesthetics, aka not focused on ride quality

 

Nonetheless Dave, great picture. I like the fall colors.

Play this, not that

Fantastic riding from Max, but awful (presumably license-free?) music ruins the video:

 

So either play it on mute, or play something that doesn’t sound like the background music to a youtube knife informercial:

 

When I got rid of the slow-paced knife-infomercial music, his riding looked faster too. I can only guess, but I think I was so angry about the music that my brain assumed he was part-Joey and unconsciously slowed down his riding to match.