Monday, November 30, 2015

Green Monster

Not that Green Monster. This Green Monstah...the Green Monstah below is of course my Zank SSCX bike. It was first given the name Green Monstah by Mr. Matthew Pierce in the beginning of the season at Quad CX. The name fits. The bike is a beast. Custom built alloy SSCXy goodness by Mike Zanconato himself. It was built as a SSCX race bike. But as is my nature everything ends up turning into a woods bike. Really doesn't matter what bike we are talking about in my garage. At the end of the day they ALL need to be fun to ride in the woods.

But this specific "project" has been percolating for about five years now. Lots of people think aluminum is too stiff to ride all day in the woods. They are crazy. Or just set in some misguided mythology about bike frame manufacturing. I have ridden ti bikes that are so stiff they are unrideable. It is not the material it is the builder and the components you put on a bike that make it comfortable to ride in the woods all day. I have been drifting towards a monster cross bike for a while. Our love of adventure riding and taking CX bikes in the woods and shredding is obviously driving this. Not just me obviously but lots of people are heading in this direction. It oddly is still sort of a trigger topic for lots of people. When I say my CX bike can ride everything in the woods the diehards start getting hot under the collar. I am not saying I am going to huck my CX bike off some rock ledge in NTF and expect anything but the obvious to happen. Riding a CX bike in the woods requires a bit of finesse. That is actually why I think a lot of us like this type of riding. It makes trails that would be "boring" on a mountain bike really fun. And you can ride literally all day. And cover a ton of ground. 20-50 mile trail rides are pretty much the norm for us right now. 

But let's take a step back from this love fest of the monster cross bike for a second. I have had some of the worst crashes of my life on a CX bike in the woods. And again I am not trying to start flame wars here just stating my opinion and personal experience. Yours may vary according to luck, skill and experience. Most of my crashes have involved speed, wet roots and rocks. I blame the tires and cantilever brakes. There I did it. Cantilever brakes suck. Mini-Vs are somewhat better but suck also. The new hydro disc brakes for CX and road bikes are next level. They are safer and allow for more control. Now add big fat tubeless tires into the mix and you have a CX bike (ok maybe its a mountain bike with drop bars now...) that can handle almost anything. And it can do it without white knuckle braking and tip taping down trails. There is a HUGE difference between how a tire handles at 30 psi and 45 psi. A tubed tire in NTF at 30 psi will last all of about 1 second. Literally. At 45 psi you still might not get out of NTF without a flat. I remember one Ronde where we went over Blue Hills on our CX bikes. I am pretty sure one of my teammates (who won't be named) had no less that four flats. Four. That will ruin your day.

But back to a more positive note and to where I am right now with this bike. I (believe it or not) am a late adopter of technology. Especially with CX. Not that I am retro just that maybe I like to wait to see how the new technology sorts itself out. Tubeless is a perfect example. As is hydro disc. Both in my opinion are now 100% reliable and ready to be adopted by those who are interested in making the leap. It is weird how both of these technologies are 100% reliable and accepted on a mountain bike. There have been some hiccups along the way but take for example the Green Monster in its current set up. TRP knocked it out of the park with these SSCX brakes. The fact that they are SSCX specific is mind boggling. Lots of racers have been using them with Di2 sprint levers tucked into a little port that TRP smartly built into the brake lever. The brakes work flawlessly. Great lever feel and solid braking. A bit more "feel" if you will than the Shimano hydro. With Shimano the brakes are one finger on and then off. Legit one finger braking. The TRPs are a bit "softer" which is kind of nice actually.

But the wheels. Holy shit. The first time I heard of November bikes was through my good friend Lesli. She raved about them and how nice they were and how great their wheels were. Then I saw Mike Wissell rocking some November wheels at Quad CX. I talked to Dave over the next couple of months and we decided on a set of Grail rims to November house branded hubs. The wheels came out amazing. So CXy and a total game changer. I hate flats. But really to me what its about is being able to run low pressure in the woods for performance. As stated earlier a tire (especially a big tire like the WTB Nano 40) at 30 psi acts very different than the same tire at 45 psi. At 45 it deflects off everything and beats you up. Tires in my opinion are what really beat you up on a bike. Not frame material. Tires at low psi roll so smooth it saves your back and hands from so much jarring. The Nanos are my favorite woods tire. And they actually roll pretty fast on pavement and fireroad. Its basically a 1.5  29er tire. Which makes me happy.

The rides that have been epiphanies for me are the Ronde and the VT Overland. You don't hear too many people talking about epiphany rides here on the east coast. Maybe they worry it makes them sound like a dirty hippy. I am ok with my inner dirty hippy. And most epiphanies I have are on rides. Its where and when I figure out my life. And think about bikes and rides and how to take the whole weird ride and take it to the next level. The Ronde as most of you know is the original bandit mixed terrain ride in the NECX. It pretty much got this whole weirdo mixed terrain adventure ride thing going around here. I am forever thankful for Rosey for giving us this Spring classic. Each year its gotten harder and harder. Last year I rode it on my 29er. And frankly had a blast. Rosey rode it on the same bike pictured above only much larger as I am a Hobbit. Rosey stuffed a 29er tire on the front and a mud on the rear. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And made me think about the possibilities. Then at the VT Overland Todd kicked all our asses with a 29er with 40s. Another epiphany. The Green Monster is my sort of mash up of these two ideas. 2016 is going to be ALL about monster cross riding. Definitely going back to VT Overland. And this time I am not bringing a butter knife to a gun fight.

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