Took the Penance out for a test ride with its latest front fork. Figured a lap of the 'Puffer would show up any problems.
Here's a Flikr photoset
if you'd like to see the "Puffer course in summer weather.
The bike handled surprisingly well. There were only a few places where I did not ride. Probably a total of 30 metres all up.
The wooden bridge at the start of the singletrack at the top of the forestry road - I usually walk that anyway - seen too many spectaculars there
The last bit just before the woods - I got over most of it but got stopped.
The first rock slab. I figured it was rideable with this bike, but decided not to chance it because the grooves in it may have steered my slick tyres. The other rock slabs were simple.
The descent from the revolving seat above Loch Kinellan was tricky, but that was purely because of the lack of grip on the slick tyres on loose gravel. My path down there was somewhat random.
The View Rock descent was the highlight. I figured that would show up any deficiencies. The springer fork handled it all pretty well, even the stutter bumps left by the skid kiddies, and the only concern was lack of tyre bite on the looser stuff.
I didn't notice the brakes on the lap, so they must be working ok. The 90mm drum is much better than the 70mm which usually gives me arm pump after a couple of laps.
I figure there's still some room to improve the steering. I can drop the front about 10mm more which should do it, but I did get some pedal strike which suggests the BB could be higher. If I can squeeze a 650b size wheel in the back that may do the job by raising the rear and it will save me having to do some more metal carving on the front fork.
The lap took about 1hr 30 mins with one stop to rebuild the front fork to correct alignment problems. Cruiser forks are crappy things built with punched holes rather than drilled/reamed bushes. I'm working on a fix for that.
The belt drive walks slightly to the side - about 2mm - under pressure. I'll try modifying the alignment, but I suspect that I may have to use the Forward Components EBB to get more tension.
Verdict: it works. The concept - a bike for fire roads with the capability of handling more interesting stuff.