Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I once was lost.....

I admit, I had back-slid. I was spending more time on the road, on the track, and on the TT bike than was healthy. I had lost track of my MTBing whakapapa. But I became saved....

I had known my saviour since 1996 when I met him at the Ohau round of the MTB nationals. He was racing this new fangled suspension bike. A Santa Cruz something. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical. I couldnt see full suspension  taking off. I was racing my steel Diamond Back Axis with mag 21 forks and despite Mikes monkey motion bike, I was pretty sure I was faster than him so there was no contest. Hard tails ruled.

Somehow we kept in touch. Mike was always very suspicious and derisive of these hard-tail hold-outs from Wellington, although it was to be expected, he was a hard-core jaffa, and as he later confessed, he had never even experienced a real hill until he moved down to the main-land.

Mike was always saying that full suspension was the way to go, and I would respond with "Yeah when the guys in the world cup start winning on it I will get one". Of course this was a blatant lie. I couldn't afford one and that was that. Not that I was convinced anyway.

We would also debate such blue-sky science topics as the use of bar ends, or riser bars, or double chain rings and such. And Mike would preach me the sermon of Santa Cruz. Now the thing about Santa Cruz riders is, they are a bit like 29er riders, or singlespeeders. Or ex smokers. They are reborn. They are painful. There is even a famous thread on Vorb, "I bought a Santa Cruz to make me a better person".

I told Mike that until my wife won the Lotto, I would never be able to afford a monkey motion bike from Santa Cruz, so save your breath. Then one day it happened, I found $200 behind the sofa, and my wife let me have the rest. It was just one of those moments when the stars lined up. Mike even helped my with lots of old crap he had lying around so I could build up my first bike with real disc brakes. My Litespeed had a disc on the front, but it was pretty crappy, a first generation Hope that was worse than a good set of vees. So I transferred the rest of old stuff off my 1993 Litespeed onto my new (second hand) Santa Cruz Superlight frame.

I'd always regarded myself as a pretty crap rider technically, but with this new frame, I reckon I was coming up to average.  This new bike was amazing, I actually enjoyed being on my MTB again. It rekindled an old flame. It made me realise just how evil handling my old Litespeed was. There was only one problem. It was not really compatible with an 80mm XC fork. In a park like Makara I was pedal-striking constantly. Eventually I sold off one of my children for scientific experiments and used the money to buy a second hand 100mm SID from the Gos-bros crash-test dummies. Overnight I was Greg Herbold. I even passed Al going down the Lizardy track. I learned that forks are meant to go where you point them, not in the vague general direction that I was used to with my old carbon steered SID. The new fork's extra weight struck at my weight weener core, but there was no going back. I was starting to realise how out of control my efforts had been in the past.

As my confidence increased so did the amount of crashing I was doing, but it was fun. I always assumed that the advantage of full suspension was in the descending. I have found this to be the opposite. I still ride downhill like a girl, but I climb with much more authority over gnarly terrain.

For many years I was fortunate enough to be Kashi Leuch's webmaster, so at years end, Kashi would tally up my web-hours and give me first dibs on his surplus team loot. That is how a lot of the kit on my bike came to be the very fruity German "Tune" stuff. So now I have Tune hubs, stems and cranks, which match nicely with the Santa Cruz's black frame. It was pretty light kit at the time, but above all, very robust and well made.

The Superlight is a very adaptable frame. For the 1100km Kiwi Brevert, I made very few changes. I put on a heavier back wheel, the other was only a 28 holer, and put a bit more air in the rear shock. I strapped on a Freeeload Rack. I took off the carbon bars so I could bolt on some aero bars, and bar ends, and I swapped the crank spider so I could runner bigger ratios, old school 24-34-46.There were no complaints from me.... Ok, my butt had some problems, but I thought it was too late to change my seat at the last minute. Better the devil you know?

When I got back from the Brevet I left the Stans Crow on the front, somehow it worked, I dont understand why.The last time I weighed it, it came in at about 23.6 pounds with 500 + gram tryes on it. Since then I have put on Sram Gripshift as I have a tendency to whack the the Sram paddle shifters in a crash. It has an old square taper race Face cromo BB in it with an XT front derailer. The rest is Sram. Oh yeah, one of the things I love about it the most - the shifting. I have Nokon cables with a fully enclosed internal cable housing. This is the single best thing I think you can do for your shifting in my view. Wash the bike down after a muddy ride and its good to go. No more crunchy gears. It doesn't have to be Nokon, Nokon can be a pain, it scratches the frame and it can creak, but the shifting is perfect.

This is my racing and training bike, the only thing that I change are the tires. The shock has pro-pedal, but I very rarely use it. I have to admit its my first and only full suspension bike, but it suits me. Santa Cruz are still cranking them out after all these years so I cant be the only one thats likes them.

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