Kinesis FF29

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  • Kinesis FF29
  • Premier Icon mattjg
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    Capability (within the limits of a very large envelope) is more about the rider than the bike I think, I have a friend who has an FF29 at 120mm and he rides it down anything, including stuff I mince around on my slacker Yelli Screamy.

    Exactly as Kinesis, and you, say, I reckon this bike is optimised for FF over comfort or reassurance. **I think it’s a great choice for a rider who likes to push it hard, appreciates pace, and doesn’t mind being kicked up the back a bit.

    A bland ride it isn’t.

    ** based on a very short test ride and watching someone else ride one, could be nonsense!

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    ps thanks for the reports, this is an enjoyable thread. Talking nonsense about bikes is much preferable to reading the news!

    Premier Icon Kryton57
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    The more I see of the FF29 the more I want one. I’m supposed to be buying a winter road bike, but I’m considering diverting those funds in the direction of an FF29 in time for the Bonty 24/7….

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    I got a ride in on more familiar trails today, so I can make a clearer comparison against my Trance (and the Gyro that I tested over the same trails last month).

    First off, let’s get the 29er thing out of the way. I think I’ve made this point before, but was struck by it again today. Basically, everything you’ve read about 29ers is true, but the differences are much smaller than some people would have you believe. Yes, it rolls over things a bit better, but you’ve got to ride similar bikes back to back over the same trail (with the same tyre pressures) to really notice. Bigger rocks still feel bigger than smaller ones and rougher trails still feel rougher than smoother ones. Steering might be a bit slower, but I can’t tell and anyway it’s complicated by changes in head angle, stem length etc. Physics would suggest that it must be harder to manual etc, But I’m rubbish at manuals on my 26″ bike too. I can lift the front wheel enough to get over rocks and could do the same with the FF29. Maybe I was having to shift my weight back a bit further or a bit faster, but I couldn’t tell.

    So, the 29er wheel may make a difference, but when comparing this 29er HT against my 26″ Full Suss, it is the the fact that one is a hardtail and the other is a full suss that matters, not the wheel size. It’s the stiff rear end that makes the FF29 feel so different to the Trance (and the Gyro).

    So, what is the effect of that stiff rear end? Well it climbs smooth trails like a demon and is generally faster overall. Today’s loop usually takes around 2 hours and my previous fastest time was 1:47 back in September. Today I was round in 1:39 despite the fact that I’m nursing a cold and I set personal records on both climbs by quite a way.

    But it’s not all good news, that stiffness comes at a price and it’s much more of a handful in rock gardens for example. Basically, any time that it is rocky for longer than you can stand it’s going to be hard work. There is one rocky climb on this loop that I’ve only ever cleared once in over 20 attempts and that was the one time that I rode it on the Gyro. I’ve come close a few times on the Trance, but never quite got over those last couple of rocks. With this being a 29er (like the Gyro) I had high hopes, but in fact I didn’t get close. I was knocked off line early in the climb and never got it back again.

    Mind you, later in the ride I cleared a climb that I’ve never managed before. This is steeper than the one that I failed on but rather than loose rocks all the way it has a few rocky ramps (that I could stand and power up) and some longer energy sapping but smooth sections (where the extra efficiency of the FF29 made all the difference).

    Going down stuff that is not too technical is a real joy on this bike. It is wonderfully stable but still quite playful and will blast through rocks and roots with abandon. When it gets steeper and more technical though I still find I have less confidence than on the Trance (with the Gyro being the most confidence inspiring). As mattjg correctly points out, you can’t really talk about capability as that’s down to the rider. Back at the Olypics lycra clad loons were throwing aggressive race bikes down stuff that is now deemed too tricky to allow normal mortals on. But some bikes do give you more confidence, or are bigger skill-compensators if you prefer and the FF29 is behind the Trance in that regard. I guess that’s just the price you pay for that efficiency.

    So, what is it good for? Well it’s fast and loves to climb. It would be ideal for mixed trail and road rides. Riding into work on the road then having a play in the woods on the way home, for example. You need to be more active so get a better workout and for rides of up to a few hours that isn’t a problem. It may even make you a better rider and for rides of that length it is almost bound to be faster (maybe a lot faster) than a full suss. Where it wouldn’t be so good is on something like an all day ride over rough terrain, where you are going to want to sit and spin for a long while. I suspect that the 29er wheels are better for this sort of riding than 26″ ones, but the difference isn’t enough to make up for lack of full suspension.

    OK, that’s enough rambling for now. Here is a picture of it getting ready for a nice soft bit of trail:

    Premier Icon rickon
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    Really nice write up, most people tend to have the rose tinted view that the new bike they have is just amazing and perfect, which really turns me off.

    Being able to see both sides is really nice. After the wedding I *may* look to get a 29er hard tail ss for winter duties, and the ff29er is on the list. Your comments will be noted 😉

    Mboy – you should check out my 29er do it all hard tail tthread.

    Premier Icon mboy
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    I’ve been following that (though not posted) with interest mate.

    It’s all pie in the sky at the moment, but theoretically by the end of the summer I could be in the market for a new HT frame, forks and (if necessary) wheels. I love the look of the FF29, I love that it doesn’t apologise for being ally and a bike to thrash around the woods for fun. What I’m less keen on is the slightly old school 29er geometry with a head angle nigh on the same as the Inbred 29er I had, that whilst I enjoyed, I didn’t feel overly confident on rougher and steeper terrain. I’ve heard that they need a 120mm fork, and a long one at that, otherwise they just feel a bit twitchy. Though obviously if anyone near me has a medium I could try out, I’d love to have a go!

    I love the idea of a Cotic Solaris, the geometry looks spot on on paper, I’ve ridden Soul’s and loved them (and am told the Solaris rides pretty much as you expect a Soul might with big wheels). But my head says that much as I love steel, ally is a more suitable material for a 29er as the bigger wheels smooth the ride out far more than the difference in material ever would, and whichever way you look at it the Solaris is a 5lb frame. I’ll be coming off a 3.5lb Ti 26″ wheeled frame and don’t like the idea of gaining so much dead weight. A 4lb ally frame would be much more palatable. I know it’s only a tiny bit of weight, but it all adds up, 29er forks wheels and tyres all weighing a bit more than 26″ versions could mean I had a bike that was as heavy as my full sus quite easily unless I spent silly money or specced skimpy lightweight parts I’d risk breaking.

    I think the problem is I’ve ridden a Whyte 29C… The shortish back end combined with a long, low and relatively slack front end, made for very confidence inspiring handling in my eyes. I was descending a 23lb carbon race bike way faster than it felt like I should, and in total confidence. But I’m not likely to afford one any time soon, and I’d really only be after a frame on its own anyway…

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    @mboy see Singular Buzzard, Canfield Yelli Screamy etc http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/the-buzzard-has-landed or http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/do-it-all-29er-hardtail-if-you-had-to/page/2#post-5039231

    ally is a more suitable material for a 29er as the bigger wheels smooth the ride out far more than the difference in material ever would

    I don’t accept that as a given. I rode a Niner MCR9 it defo had steel ‘spring’, the Buzzard didn’t tho. Overbuilding for safety for big riders, and to meet CEN, may be a factor here. Anyway that’s a discussion for elsewhere.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    I’ve heard that they need a 120mm fork, and a long one at that, otherwise they just feel a bit twitchy.

    I am running a 120mm fork, not sure if it’s a long one though (Revelation RCT3). I’ll need more time on the bike, but so far I wouldn’t call the steering twitchy. It’s true that there appears to be none of that slow speed barge-like steering that you are supposed to get with 29ers, but crank it up to speed and it’s very stable. Coming down forest tracks, for example, you can really let it fly and it feels very planted, yet ready to deal with any obstacles.

    I’d say, based on my limited experience of trail centres, that I’d be happy on any trail centre red run. It’s when I get to steeper stuff (where my skills run out on any bike) that I find it doesn’t give as much confidence as the Trance. I’m less likely to just have a go at something that looks dodgy, which may not be a bad thing.

    However, it’s worth repeating that when I was forced to take it down those rock steps it did cope just fine. These were steep enough that I’d probably have baulked at them on any bike and looking back I could see a well worn line to the side (which I’d missed) that most people clearly preferred. I fully expected to crash and it was only because I saw them too late to be able to stop that I took them on. I figured that if I hit the brakes I’d go over the bars at the top, so I might as well crash a bit lower down. I was amazed to find that I was still attached to the bike at the bottom and actually it had bounced down without ever feeling out of control.

    So, clearly, I’m the limiting factor here and the bike can handle more than I have the nerve to attempt. It’s just that I feel less confident, but maybe that will change with a bit more time on the bike.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    so I might as well crash a bit lower down

    Likin’ your logic!

    FWIW I’ve been riding slacker bikes the last few weeks, I am a renowned mincer and have defo been riding a bit braver. I’m not seeing a downside to 68 degrees HA yet.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    slow speed barge-like steering that you are supposed to get with 29ers

    This is a myth, up there with ’29ers are only for tall people’.

    Premier Icon mboy
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    @mboy see Singular Buzzard, Canfield Yelli Screamy etc

    Singular Buzzard is 6.5lb and has a very short TT… I don’t want a 29er dirt jump bike thanks!

    Yelli Screamy is on the money geometry wise, but its all the money… And I’m not sure about the looks, and I’d bet the bare frame weight is near enough 5lb+ despite it being ally.

    I’d say, based on my limited experience of trail centres, that I’d be happy on any trail centre red run. It’s when I get to steeper stuff (where my skills run out on any bike) that I find it doesn’t give as much confidence as the Trance. I’m less likely to just have a go at something that looks dodgy, which may not be a bad thing.

    This is where 2-3 degrees off the head angle makes the difference sadly. It’s not that the bike can’t do it (of course if can), but a slightly slacker angle can give you the confidence to just do those steep technical sections without thinking twice. I want a frame that encourages me, not one that makes me feel a little reserved about riding such things. It’s 99% rider and only 1% bike still at the end of the day, but if the geometry on the bike makes you feel more confident about riding certain things, that’s a large part of the battle over. If the FF29 had a 2 degree slacker head angle, I’d probably already have found a way to buy one, I love the looks of it otherwise so much! But repeating the phrase “71.5 degree head angle” in my mind makes me think back to my On One Inbred 29er, and the only thing (weight aside) I didn’t like about that was the overly steep head angle. Hence I think the Cotic Solaris is winning again for me.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    But repeating the phrase “71.5 degree head angle” in my mind makes me think back to my On One Inbred 29er

    If I’m reading the Kinesis geometry chart right the HA should be 70 degrees (not 71.5, so almost 2 degrees slacker :-)) at 120mm. They quote 71 degrees at 100mm and say it drops by 1 degree for a 120mm fork.

    That’s actually only half a degree steeper than the Trance and Gyro, although I’m not sure that they are measured the same way and I guess that, when you shift your weight back on a full suss to go downhill it squishes the back end and slackens the head angle a bit, which doesn’t happen with a HT. Either way the FF29 feels a bit steeper to me, but it could just be a case of getting used to it.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    Perhaps you guys are thinking a bit too hard.

    @mboy Yelli and Buzzard are near identical in geometry. They’re not jump bikes, they’re do whatever you want and have fun doing it bikes.

    Nowt wrong with the FF29 either, my friend who has one adores it and rips up the hills on it. The new titanium one, which I believe is a tad slacker, looks great too.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    Well I can’t ride all the time, so might as well do a bit of thinking in between 🙂

    Something doesn’t quite add up with the geometry listed on the Kinesis web site. As I said, the FF29 page suggests that HA should be 70 degrees at 120mm, but the page for the new Titanium Synch frame says that it is slacker than the FF29, is designed for a 120mm fork, but still quotes the head angle as 71 degrees.

    I love mine 🙂


    DSC01768 by South Downs MTB Skills, on Flickr

    Premier Icon mboy
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    @mboy Yelli and Buzzard are near identical in geometry. They’re not jump bikes, they’re do whatever you want and have fun doing it bikes.

    Just going on info I found on their respective websites. Horizontal TT length on the Buzzard on a medium is 570mm. That’s at least 25mm shorter than anything I’d ride and I’m only 5ft10. The Large is bang on 595mm, but with exceptionally bollock unfriendly stand over clearance. It’s like they’ve got the geometry spot on except accidentally they put a small length TT on the medium, and a Medium length TT on the large. There’s no getting away from its quoted frame weight either!

    If I’m reading the Kinesis geometry chart right the HA should be 70 degrees (not 71.5, so almost 2 degrees slacker :-)) at 120mm. They quote 71 degrees at 100mm and say it drops by 1 degree for a 120mm fork.

    Ok that’s weird, a review I found the other day it said they’d measured the head angle at 71.5 degrees. Yet I’ve just checked the Kinesis website and you are indeed correct. Hmmmm…

    Nowt wrong with the FF29 either, my friend who has one adores it and rips up the hills on it. The new titanium one, which I believe is a tad slacker, looks great too.

    Oh dear, you’ve ruined it for me now! WANT! :-p

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    Well I can’t ride all the time, so might as well do a bit of thinking in between

    Anything that avoids confronting real life is good by me. BSing about bikes qualifies well.

    Oh dear, you’ve ruined it for me now! WANT! :-p

    I’d snap one in in slacker/shorter geometry.

    Premier Icon Cheezpleez
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    A medium Buzzard isn’t 6.5lb, despite what’s on the website. My complete bike with heavy rims, tyres and a dropper weighs approx 28.5lb with pedals. I too was worried about the TT but I’ve actually gone from a 70mm stem to a 50mm (with 760 bars) and it’s comfy for me at 5ft 9in with longish arms. Yes, it’s more suited to mucking about for 3 hours than epic all-day journeys but it definitely isn’t just a jump bike. And it is sooooo much fun.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    I don’t think a pound or two is material for this kind of bike. I have a light bike to ride if I want, when I go to the bike shed I’m finding I pick up the fun bike and the light bike is gathering dust.

    (My Yelli is 25lb, singlespeed, 120mm Revs, Reverb, Arch Ex, 2.25 tyres, big wide bars & chunky stem).

    Let’s say the frame was a pound lighter, that’s 4% of the build, and < 0.5% of rider + bike. No biggie, not worth compromising on geometry for, for me.

    Premier Icon househusband
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    I keep reading these FF29 threads and keep coming back to them…

    Built up a Salsa El Mariachi over winter; it’s my first 29er and whilst I’m happy with it I can’t help but wonder just how heavy it is compared to a lighter frame – not just in physical weight (30lbs or so) but also ride. It’s a large frame so is in the region of a couple of lbs, close to a kilo, heavier than alloy (incl. the FF29) frames.

    Can anyone offer a comparison..?

    batman11
    Member

    Hi house no comparison regards frames but I’ve put some weights in this thread a large frame I’ve just got came in at 4.4ibs if this helps any.
    Bats.

    rewski
    Member

    Saw a lovely green ff29 in jevington today, look great in the flesh, got my heart set on the sync.

    Premier Icon househusband
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    large frame I’ve just got came in at 4.4lbs if this helps any

    Thanks, batman11. That’s not as much lighter than my El Mar as I’d hoped!

    batman11
    Member

    Welcome house mines just about pinned together now so should have an all in weight by tonight it’s a pretty normal build so far with only wheels being on the weightier side so will be interesting to see what my ultimate scales say.
    Bats.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    If the frame were much lighter then I suspect it would lose some of the stiffness, which is the defining characteristic of the frame. Personally, I think stiffness trumps weight every time when it comes to bikes. I don’t want a compliant frame. I want a frame that transfers as much of the power produced by my legs to the ground. I’ll get comfort from tyres, saddle and suspension if needs be and I’ll drop weight elsewhere (me for example) if that matters. But, each to their own.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    I want a frame that transfers as much of the power produced by my legs to the ground.

    A stiff frame _feels_ efficient, but perhaps it’s not if the rear wheel is in fact skittering about.

    A little compliance is no bad thing IMO if it helps the rear wheel stay on the ground.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    That’s a very good point and I’m showing my roadie roots I guess 🙂

    I did one steep but rocky climb that I can only just manage on the full suss Trance. I was looking forward to it on the FF29, thinking that it would fly up no problem. In fact I got bumped about so much that I only just made it. I guess that’s the advantage of full suss. It may be less efficient when things are smooth, but it keeps the wheel stuck to the ground when things get bumpy. I also need to work on my standing climbing technique though, so at least it’s just the weight of the bike being lifted over the bumps and not the weight of me as well.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    Your’re defo getting your money’s worth out of this bike. 😆

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    That’s the plan 🙂

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    OK, time for another rambling update, following a few more rides.

    I’m going up and down a bit at the moment with my appreciation of this bike. Sometimes, when I’m riding along a rocky section of trail, getting knocked all over the place, for example, I think hardtails are a stupid idea. I just want to enjoy the ride without getting my rear tenderised. Other times; like when I’m thrashing my previous best up a climb, enjoying the efficiency on a smooth bit of trail (or road) or bouncing down a nice bumpy section of trail, I think it’s just perfect. It will be interesting to see how that argument plays out long term.

    Manoeuvrability is an interesting issue on this bike. Lifting the front wheel certainly takes more effort than on my Trance, but is still possible. Car park tricks would probably be an issue, if they are your thing, but it’s still fairly easy to lift the wheel up a step, rock or water bar, for example and to keep it fairly level going off small drops, which are the only drops I do. Plus, the bigger wheel means that you don’t need to lift it quite as much to clear the same rock and you tend to hit those drops a bit faster too, which means you need less of a lift to keep things level. So, while it is easier to move the front wheel on a 26″ bike, for the riding I’m doing at the moment that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    I’ve heard it said that 29ers are better for wheels on the ground riding, but I’m not sure about that. Yes, it rolls over bumps more easily, but if you want to use those bumps as little launch pads it still seems quite happy to play.

    One thing that I hadn’t expected is that the lighter rear end seems to make it easier to pick the back wheel up. I’ve been trying to work on my water bar technique. We’ll I say technique, but I’ve already admitted that my skills are rather limited. Still, by the end of the ride last night I was managing to lift the front wheel over the bar then flick up, or at least unweight, the rear enough that it just grazed the top and skipped over, rather than smashing into it as has been my method so far.

    Well that’s my thoughts on the FF29 so far. I’m still not sure where I’ll go with it long term. I still have an irrational urge for an Orange single pivot and one of the hopes with the FF29 is that it would help me decide which one. I may conclude that the 120mm 29er format is ideal for my riding and doesn’t really have any downsides, but I still don’t like being bashed up the rear on every bump. In which case I could just swap the FF29 frame for a Gyro. Alternatively I may conclude that the FF29 is actually perfect for some rides, but I still want a more all-mountain bike for rougher rides. In which case it would be a matter of keeping the FF29 (probably selling my winter road bike to make space, as the FF29 could do that job to) and getting a Five in 650B or 29er flavour. But it’s too early to make that call. For now, I’m just enjoying the rides on the FF29.

    foxyrider
    Member

    Just back-ordered myself a kinesis SYNC full build – exciting – End of June hopefully 🙂

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    I took the FF29 on the kind of ride that it’s ideally suited for yesterday. A 43 mile loop from the front door; 25 miles off-road, 18 miles on-road, 4,900 foot of climbing, a bit of carrying through the heather and some nice (red-level) descents.

    It continues to impress on the climbs. I hit one climb after three and a half hours of riding that I’ve never managed to clear, despite usually being a lot fresher. I was amazed to find that I could ride right up it. OK it killed me for the rest of the ride, but it was worth it 🙂

    I’m getting a bit more confident with it on the descents. It always feels taut, but goes where you point it.

    I’m still not sure about hardtails in general though. Yes, it’s great on smooth stuff and I’m loving the climbs, but on longer rocky descents I still find myself wishing for some rear suspension. Yes you can stand and use your knees to absorb the bumps, but that gets tiring after a while. Maybe I just need to get stronger though.

    Premier Icon Shackleton
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    Yes you can stand and use your knees to absorb the bumps, but that gets tiring after a while.

    !!!!!!!!!! 😐

    Never, ever sit down on a hardtail while going down hill! The pain of having my saddle shoved up my ring to mash my kidneys outweighs the sore legs every time. I’d rather stop for a rest than sit down while going over bumpy terrain!

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    It’s not so much that you can’t sit down, although I agree that would be a seriously bad idea 🙂 I don’t sit when pointing down on a full suss either though. It’s just that, on the hardtail there is a lot more work to do to absorb the bumps with your knees, which is what gets tiring. Descents that are just pure fun on the full suss start out just as much fun, but after a while it’s a case of “enough now, this is starting to hurt”. But, as I say, probably just a matter of building up some muscles that haven’t had to work hard enough in the past.

    Premier Icon mattjg
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    Kinesis owe you a big thank you for keeping their product on STW.

    Bear in mind not all hardtails are created equal. That said I live darn sarf we have no rocks here so not very qualified to comment on your hardtails in rocky places experience.

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    Well, if they want to send a free SYNC my way I won’t complain. Otherwise, I’ll just have to look forward to reading foxyrider’s thoughts.

    Sorry to dig up an old thread but what standard is the rear wheel fit? As in QR or 142/12mm QR etc. Cheers.

    Premier Icon Speshpaul
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    Premier Icon roverpig
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    Yes, good old 135mm QR. If it’s stiff enough for the pros currently riding the Tour de France then it’s probably stiff enough for the rear of my hardtail too 🙂

    Just a quick update:

    I used the FF29 on the Corrieyairack challenge at the weekend and it was pretty much ideal. I managed to puncture right at the start and after failing to get the hole to seal and resorting to a tube I started the ride 15 minutes behind the field. But actually that was a blessing as I was only doing it as a bit of fun anyway and starting at the back meant that I was just picking my way through the field all day and ended up right in the middle of the pack, which is where I’d have been anyway.

    It’s 10 miles from the start to the top of the Corrieyairack pass and pretty much uphill all the way. Once again the climbing ability of the FF29 was amazing. It’s so planted on the climbs and I was able to just sit in and spin my way to the top without stopping or pushing.

    Coming down the path is loose in places with a number of water bars (basically rock steps), some of which are pretty large. To make matters worse there are ditches in front of the steps made by the flow of water. Like the rock steps these ditches vary quite a bit in size and you can’t really tell how big they are until you are on top of them. This leads to a few hairy moments as you need to decide whether to go for it or not before you can really tell how big the lift needs to be. Although it is still not as easy to lift the front wheel as it is on my Trance (the flip side of the stability on the climbs) I am getting better at it now and managed to clear around half of the bars despite being quite cautious as I really didn’t want to puncture again. I did get lazy on a few and was surprised to find that it still just ploughed over them. Even when I hit one hard enough to knock my feet out of my (fairly tight) SPDs it still got over.

    I switched to 23mm road wheels at the changeover for the 40 mile road section and used bar ends to get a nice stretched position. Although I’m sure it wasn’t as fast as a proper road bike it felt pretty good and allowed me to carry on climbing slowly through the field. More importantly I enjoyed the ride.

    So, all in all a very successful outing, but that is really the sort of event that a 29er hardtail ought to do well in. It will be interesting to see how I get on with it now that’s over and I’m back to just messing about on trails for fun. I was expecting that I’d want to jump back on the Trance as soon as possible, but that hasn’t really been the case. I’m off to Mull next week and have decided to take the FF29 rather than the Trance as I think it will cope better with the sort of exploring type riding that I’ll do over there. It won’t be a pain if I end up riding on the road for sections and it’s lighter if I end up having to carry it.

    OK, that’s enough for now, but for those who like such things, here is a picture on it in its “go anywhere, do anything, whatever the weather” mode.

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