The New Year is a great time to take up a new sport and with a few Mountain Bike sales recently I wanted to get everyone up-to-date on the tech and some things to look for when buying a mountain bike from us...
Lots of people assume that we’re only really into road bikes but many of our staff ride and race various types of bike. I love to race ‘cross as well as ride on the road and in TT’s, but one thing that never fails to make me smile is riding my cross-country bike. Whether it’s a stage race in the alps, a short trip playing in Wales or just an hour up at Bedgebury, you just can’t beat a blast on the mountain bike. If you’re riding on a bike from a few years ago or are new to mountain bikes there’s a lot of new tech and it’s made a massive difference to the way we ride.
First up, virtually everyone now rides full suspension – hardtails are a great way to get into the game but if you spend any time at a trail centre now, everyone’s riding “full sus”. The reason for full sus has always been function, but recent technology has allowed the price to be brought down to a point that most people can now get involved. It makes a world of difference and again whereas you used to have to spend top whack to get a full suspension design that worked, now most brands have great bikes for a lot less. Scott for example start at £1699 and the biggest advantage is the way the suspension allows you to flow over the ground, keeping you fresher and helping you out of trouble. This particular bike features a lock-out lever that adjusts the suspension at the front and back at the same time for different surfaces and conditions.
The biggest development in recent times has been wheelsize – 26” wheels were standard even up until three or four years ago but they’re now completely dead. Like the suspension, the larger 27.5 and 29er wheel sizes allow the bike to flow over obstacles much better. The contact patch of the tyre (the portion of the tyre that’s in touch with the ground) is longer and this is the reason that the bike travels better – most riders will then team this up with a tubeless tyre which uses sealant rather than a tube. This allows the tyre to be run at much lower pressures which allows the long contact patch to also widen, increasing grip to levels previous unknown. Most riders favour the 27.5 (650b) wheelsize for most trail riding and occasional race duties set at about 25 PSI. Taller riders or racers may lean toward the 29er.
Most riders have now thrown away their front mechs – this in part has been possible to the larger wheelsizes that have allowed a reduction in the gear range that’s needed. Previously many of the gears available were “cross-over” gears which meant that often, even a 27 speed bike probably only had around 13-15 different gears. The other big issue was the noise that you get from a front mech rubbing which is inevitable on a full suspension design (as the suspension compresses the gears would normally rub) – if you increase the rear cassettes range and remove the front mech the problem is solved. This is enabled by fitting a “clutch” to the rear mech, which ups the spring tension on the centre pivot, reducing the amount of chainslap that’s possible. Usually a special ring up front is needed as part of the system which features interspersed narrow and wide teeth, which help guide the chain to stay in a straight line. Scott furthers the security of the system by fitting a nylon bumper – kind of a belt and braces final touch! I’ve been using this set-up for a while and have not dropped a chain – a massive improvement on my old double and triple set-ups!
Hydraulic brakes are nothing new, but the technology has allowed the weight to be reduced significantly as it has throughout the bike – most models of frame can easily be built up now for less than 10kg depending on spec, with bikes like the Spark dropping as low as 8kg with some slightly more serious mods, or even down to less than 7kg on hardtails!
On this particular bike we’re also seeing the progression to “Boost” Bolt Thru axles – Bolt-Thru axles are pretty common across the board allowing the whole bike to be made stiffer and lighter. The steering also feels a lot more direct and the suspension works more accurately. The new “boost” standard is a wider hub spacing and this allows several things to happen. The axle area is even stiffer than a normal bolt-thru due to the wider stance. The whole area can be made lighter due to the forces being distributed over a larger area. Most importantly the boost spacing allows the 1x front ring to be set-up in an optimum position to avoid chain twist. This in turn allows all of the same improvements to be made to the BB area. What you end up with is a bike that feels smoother, more planted, more accurate and more dependable.
Ultimately all of this tech means one thing – the bike makes you smile more! This is the most important thing about riding any bike and the reason why we love selling and working on them! The workshop is fully set-up to work on all of the latest tech and most of the older stuff too. The shop or the workshop are both full of advice on your next purchase, whether it’s a standard bike or a fully custom build. Whilst we don’t often have mountain bikes in the shop due to space more than anything we’re more than happy to find a mountain bike to suit your budget and get you riding!
Photos and words by Glen Whittington #aeightracer.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He writes his own blog at aeightracer.wordpress.com and contributes to Simpson Mag. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and 'Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer