Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Ibis Mojo’

Christmas shopping for cyclists: A theoretical overview

In Bicycling, Mountain Biking on December 6, 2009 at 2:33 am

The issue for gift-giving to bike riders this season may be summed up in the epigrammatic Dylan lyric about need versus want (“Your debutante just knows what you neeeeed, I know what you waaaaannnt“). That special cyclist on your list may need a new pair of gloves. Or a chain for his or her bike. Or a reflector vest for riding at night.

But are these things they really want? Especially for, of all times, Christmas?

MTRB.com, on the flip side, suggests a new Ibis Mojo HD for under the tree. It may well be something we all want for Christmas. But given that I have an Ibis Mojo in the basement already — which I don’t even get to ride in the winter because it’s just too cool a bike to get all muddy, squeaky and pivot-trashed — is a new HD something I really need?

Granted, the additional travel, beefed up rear end and matching color bling are all things that would come in handy in coming months, especially after Whistler opens the lifts sometime in June. I need another .8 of an inch of rearward boing. I need the stiffer pivot links for climbing prowess. I need a frame without the little scrapes and blemishes on the Mojo I have. And I really need for people to notice my bike and come up and talk to me about how much I like it, which they would most certainly do with the HD.

But even if someone were willing to spring $2400 to get me the HD — or, say, I bought it for my own Christmas present, which has been known to happen — there’s a problem.

On Thanksgiving Day I had the extreme good fortune to be introduced to Mr. Ibis himself, Scot Nicol, on the annual Appetite Seminar ride in Fairfax CA. And when I told him what I not only wanted but needed for Christmas, he just laughed. The HD is months away from production. I could not even place an advance order for one.

This made me feel like hey, I need this bike even worse than I thought I did. But Christmas is just not gonna happen.

So in the vein of more realistic, albeit lowered, expectations, and in recognition that need and want also are a function of fiscal resources, I’m going to be offering over the next few days a more modest rundown of gift suggestions for that special cyclist in your life — even if, as in my case, that special cyclist is yourself.

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Interbike 2009: Carbon rising

In Bicycling, Equipment reviews, Interbike 2009, Mountain Biking on September 23, 2009 at 9:15 am

When it comes to cycling, carbon, which used to be called carbon fiber, which was actually a technical implementation of plastic, is becoming the new metal.

From the early 1990s days of carbon road frames that pioneering manufacturers like Watsonville, CA-based Kestrel and big-name companies such as Look and Trek built, carbon has made inroads into mountain biking as well (Kestrel’s seminal frames included). But frames are almost incidental to carbon innovation today.

At Interbike 2009, carbon bikes still are turning heads (the latest being Santa Cruz’s full-suspension 29-incher, the Tallboy). But carbon accessories and parts are showing up all over as well. And like frames, they’re being touted as stronger than aluminum, while also just as light and durable.

So you’ve got carbon handlebars, carbon seatposts, carbon rockers, carbon cranksets and even forks (lowers in mtb suspension forks). The least expected stunner: A carbon “chain,” actually a belt drive, that supposedly will outlast and outperform its veteran steel counterpart.

Although widely reviewed by test riders on a spot-ride basis, the Gates belt drive jury is still out, simply because so few real-life installations yet exist. The drive cannot be used with conventional derailleurs and is best suited to single-speed setups or an internal hub like the Rohloff. That said, it offers immense maintenance and performance advantages — as long as it lives up to its billing.

Similar claims are being made for other carbon parts, particularly handlebars. Once prone to chipping and breakage, bars today come with strength specs that surpass metal while soaking up hits better and transferring less shock for a smoother ride.

Carbon posts, which early on were flexy and unreliable, have made strides as well, although slippage remains a problem. And hollow carbon cranksets are turning in gram counts that put the shame to aluminum.

But is all the carbon chatter for real, or just industry hype aimed at suckering bleeding-edge types and weight weenies? We went through all this before with the first wave of carbon, which relied on pattern weaves and epoxy, and saw frames shatter, components fail and performance diminish quickly over time.

I’ve had three carbon bikes. The first, a Trek Y-33 bike, was light and stiff and compliant (it soaked up hits well). Its single-pivot design was not the greatest and it sure was noisy (the slightest sound reverberated through the hollow body) but the bike stayed in good shape as long as I had it (about a year before it was stolen). I got a Giant carbon hardtail in 2002 and loved it. It was by far the least harsh hardtail ride I’ve ever had. But the bottom bracket shell separated from the frame after about 9 months, and Giant, which had given up making the frame, replaced it with an aluminum model.

Today I have an Ibis Mojo for high-country XC epics, tipping the scales at 25.2 lbs. It seems tougher and sturdier than previous carbon, and I’ve had no issues in two years of riding. I’ve also ridden the new carbon Blur, which feels downright bulletproof. One thing about the Blur is how the one-piece molding transfers load so evenly, you don’t feel like you’re hammering the bottom bracket. The whole bike seems to soak up hard pedal action.

All that said, carbon is in many ways still too evolutionary to draw hard-and-fast conclusions. Carbon still can shatter, as evinced by Jeremy Honorez’s encounter with a traffic bollard. One doubts aluminum or steel would have survived such an impact either, but let’s remember we’re not talking infallibility here.

A lot of the carbon hype has to do as well with looks. Carbon molding, combined with its innate strength, can add some sexy curves and design innovations to a fork and frame. The press release usually banners the performance advantage, but let’s face it, a cherry design sells. And carbon is offering more design variability than aluminum or steel.

Manufacturers also seem confident about boosting carbon’s warranty claims, as Gary Fisher recently tweeted:

“I get asked ” is there a weight limit on your carbon MTBs?” No and they all have a lifetime Garantiee”

Fisher isn’t alone. Santa Cruz has replaced its aluminum Blur XC line with carbon Blurs (not everyone is pleased), and says its longer-travel Blurs will take any fork without risk of frame breakage. Other manufacturers, including Ibis, are making similar claims. Weight claims are getting downright feathery, with 22-pound builds not uncommon.

Carbon still does not seem ready for burly duty. No one yet is offering cranks for freeride or downhill action. Carbon frames are rare in those arenas as well, although they may be coming. Carbon forks, pedals and wheels also do not yet seem ready for the Big Hit crowd. Innovative Pivot went with a carbon rocker for its long-travel trail bike, the Firebird, but has since begun replacing the rockers with aluminum. The issue supposedly is to permit a coil shock, but you have to wonder whether carbon was holding up under the jumps and drops.

(Aside: I asked a recent mountain-biking acquaintance who works on parts specification for Boeing whether carbon was making any inroads into commercial airline production. He kinda laughed.)

Still, carbon’s future seems bright. While aluminum and steel are pretty much set in their ways and maxed out on specifications, carbon technology seems to improve almost annually. And let’s face it, the stuff is basically still plastic, which means costs should keep coming down with widespread adoption.

For now, carbon is cycling’s miracle drug. It’ll be fascinating to watch it evolve in the marketplace.

Links Links Links

Gates belt drive

Blur LT

MTBR.com at Interbike: Carbon, carbon, carbon!