Intense Demo Day and UZZI Test Ride

Yesterday, the Intense Demo Tour along with BikeBling were at Daley Ranch in Escondido so I swung by to check out the scene.  There were lots of folks buzzing around right from the start and it did not take for the 20 plus sweet demo rigs to be set free with test riders out onto the trails. I’m pretty sure that I saw the entire lineup of bikes go out at least twice while I was there.

There was more than just the production bikes there.  There were some prototypes and preproduction bikes to kick around as well.  Here is a Jeff Steber science project bike.  This is a Tracer with a set of ISCG tabs welded onto the bottom bracket to allow for a Hammerschmit crankset to be used.  (Production Tracers don’t have these tabs) This is an internal geared crankset that allows you to shift under full load, while coasting or even pedaling backwards.  It is effectively a 22/36 crankset.  The additional clearance this thing could give is pretty freaking crazy.  This could also be pretty awesome if you had a bike that does not accommodate a front derailuer.

There were also couple of rigs they were setback for gawk and droll.  One of those rigs was a preproduction UZZI in Works Blue. What an incredible looking bike.  This one had the adjustable G3 dropouts set to the shorter wheelbase, a Rockshox Totem fork and the new (I think still prototype?) 2010 Fox DHX-A shock. I’m not sure how much the bike weighs but I guess around 34 pounds or so.

Later on in the morning the guys let me put some dirt on this thing and I have to say I was pretty freaking impressed. Daley Ranch is quite hilly but really does not have all the features to put this bike through all of it’s paces.  There is enough there to establish an impression.  If I had to sum up my thoughts of this rig into a single sentence it would have to be this. 

A killer rig that will have you thinking you have much less than seven inches of travel when you are climbing and you will swear you have much more than seven inches of travel when you are descending.

I do very little shuttling or lift-assisted riding so a rig of this size would have to be able to climb for my usage.  Daley Ranch is an excellent place to get your climb on, and I purposely picked a route that would meet my “threshold” for climbing.  Basically if the rig could  climb this route without undo pain, it would meet my criteria for a “climbable rig”.   The sag on the DHX-A shock was not too far off for me so I only added air to the main pressure chamber to get the sag somewhere around 30-35%.  So you know what I comparing against, my normal rig is a 6.6 and I have ridden it with an older style (15-click propedal) Fox DHX-A, a RP23, and most recently a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock.    Right out of the gate I was impressed with the small bump compliance.  I was taking the rockiest lines I could find and it felt really good.   The propedal worked as it should, but I found that the climbing efficiency of the VPP design makes propedal not a major concern for me.   The bike was setup in trail bike mode with the adjustable G3 dropouts setup for the shorter wheelbase, higher BB and steeper head angle.  The slacker angles compared to my 6.6 with a TALAS 36 fork where noticeable on the climbs. I routinely drop my fork down on steeper climbs but you can’t do that with the Totem fork so adjusting your body position was required on the steeper stuff to keep the fork on the ground.  This is something I find easily adaptable.  

I worked my way to one of my favorite spots that has some rocks to play on that include some drops.  I was pretty quite surprised when I hit the first drop.   The rear shock felt freaking awesome.  In the past I was never really able to get either the RP23 or the DHX-A balanced where I could have small bump compliance and not blow through all of my travel on drops.   The feeling in the rearend of the bike on the landing was very similar to the progressive ramp up that you get with a coil shock.  I was by myself, but still had to verbally say “WOW”.  I spent a good chunk of time sessioning the drops and rocks just to keep checking out the feeling.  This shock was not blowing through the midstroke travel like I had seen before in the older DHX-A on my 6.6.  I have no idea what is going with the internal changes for the 2010 model but it is certainly a vast improvement.   Now experience wise I’m still pretty new to the coil-shock scene, but I would have to say from a layman’s perspective this new DHX-A felt very coil like.

For the downhill stuff, Daley Ranch offers only small bits for letting this rig loose.  When those spots came, the bike as expected shined.   Holding lines, sucking up rocks and bumps, it was cool.  I’m pretty sure this rig would be quite the Chunk Gnar-Meister.  I’m betting that those G3 dropouts would be really awesome for some lift-assist action or someplace like Downieville where you could lengthen out the wheelbase, lower the BB and slacken up the headangle. 

I sure hope the guys at Intense will be able to get off all the drool marks both I and everyone else left on thier bikes. 🙂

WANTED: New MTB Model/Beer Sherpa

Avid Southern California Mountain Biker/Website Owner seeks Mountain Bike Photography Model/Beer Sherpa.

This is two-three month temporary position with the potential for migration to a full-time position.

Applicant must possess ability to ride technical trails in backwoods remote enviroments.

Must have a loose interpetion on the follow terms:�
– Lost
– “Almost There”
– “Minor Flesh Wound”
– “A Little Hike-A-Bike”
– “Perfect Cycling Trail”

Must have sound interpersonal communications skills required for dealing with rangers, land managers,  locals and hot trail chicks.   Must possess a diverse knowledge and deep appreciation of North American Microbrews.  Applicant must also possess ability and means to procur such libations. (Even in Utah)   Possessing a sense of humor on the suttle differences between an epic and a death march is a plus.

Send resume, pictures of your female riding friends and six of your favorite  microbrews to the following address:

MountainBikeBill.com
4E01 Intense Rules Trail
Notarealplace, CA 92081

If the brews and pictures pan out you will be promptly contacted by a member of the MountainBikeBill staff. 🙂

—————————————————
 Joking aside, I got some really bummer information today.  One of my closest riding buds with whom I have done countless rides and numerous trips had a nasty crash over the Thanksgiving weekend.  There are probably more pictures of Bill, AKA MrMountainHop online, on my site than anybody else. 

The place was Soquel Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz.   The place is a awesome place to ride and challenge yourself.   Bill has some folks in San Jose so he rides this place often enough.   The scene of the crime was one of the many jumps out there.  I’m not sure which trail it was on yet, but Bill said if landed, it would have been his biggest jump yet.

 

Well the landing did not go well and his wrist took the worst of it.   This does not look good at all.

 

Ouch Ouch Ouch!   At least he is right-handed.   When I last spoke with Bill, he was about to go into surgery to get somethings put back in the proper spot. 

Bill – Heal well my friend, I guess we just have to straight the beer and mexican food for a while!

 

A Shocking New Toy

Time to tinker with the bike so I’m trying a new shock out.  My Intense 6.6 has been a really killer bike so far and it has played a part in helping me to push myself.  I have been getting more comfortable getting the bike in the air lately.   I am at the point with my Fox RP23 air shock on my bike that when I put enough air to keep from bottoming out harshly on larger jumps,  I loose small bump compliance.   Time to try out a coil shock.  Enter the Cane Creek Double Barrel.

 

This is going to add some weight to the bike, but at this point, I got more than a couple of pounds of beer reserves around my belly to be more concerned about.   Why not a Fox DHX Air?  Well I rode a 6.6 with a DHX-Air for a few months and the difference between the RP23 and the DHX Air on the 6.6 just did not seem to be all that much all things being considered.   I got a steel spring on the CCDB for now.  I just could not see dropping the cash on a Ti-Spring until I know for sure what spring rate coil is going to work for me.  One bummer is that I’m heading out of town for a couple of weeks and will not be able to test it out until I return.  But man, does it look prudy!

A little bit of Skyline DH

On a whim, I decided to head up to Corona and investigate a trail I have l been eyeing for a year or so.   To get there I needed to climb the Skyline Drive Fireroad on the the northeast side of the Santa Ana Mountains.   I arrived at the trailhead at fairly descent time and since this was an on-a-whim ride, I was joined by all of my friends.   The temps were pretty nice as I started my solo climb up the fireroad. 

While the grade did not seem steep, I was surprised how quickly the elevation stacked up.  There were some nice views to the north despite the ickyness that was setting down in the valleys below (That is not fog). 

The climb went by quicker than expected and I even got a really cool treat.  I rounded a corner to see a young bobcat crossing the fireroad.  The cat was not much bigger than your average house kitty.  He climbed up a steep embackment and stood at the top looking down at me for a good 15-20 seconds.  I was trying to get my camera out without causing him to bolt, but as soon as he saw the camera come out of the bag and me start to raise it, he stepped into the brush.   Geez, he was pretty.  It was awesome to get to admire one of these critters up close.  It was not long after this encounter that I made it to Beek’s Place and continued along Main Divide past the golfball.

  I have been tinkering with a new helmet camera mounting setup that would allow to get away from having a dedicated helmet for the camera system.  Wearing the helmet camera on long climbs when you are not filming is a bummer.  I want to be able to quickly remove the camera gear so that I could only carry a single helmet on a ride.    The new setup basically uses the quick-release mounts designed for professional/prosumer grade camera tripods.  When completed this setup should be must more versatile.  So far I have only completed my full-face helmet.   That was also part of the reason I chose this trail, it seemed silly to bring a full-face helmetcam out to some place like Penasquitos Canyon.

After about a mile of climbing on Main Divide Truck Trail, I reached the “Skyline DH” (Have no idea what it’s actual name is yet).    I was looking at this ridgeline quite a bit on the climb up and it certainly looked to have some steepness.

Steepness it did have.   While this trail felt a little like Bell Ridge at the beginning it soon became much more like Coldwater.   These types of trails are somewhat of an acquired taste. There were some sections of pure adrenaline rush as you just flew down the trail.  Other sections were so so steep that you had to be somewhat surgical with controlling your bike and the brakes as you could only marginally control your rate of acceleration let alone stop.  I like sections like that for the challenge they present but they are not my favorites.   As I neared the bottom, I came upon a firecrew contracted out from Oregon to do some debrushing for fire abatement on the trail.  They were doing a fine job, but since I caught them in mid-workday, they had yet to remove all the trimmings from the trail below them.  This made the last bit of descent slow going but overall this ride was well worth it.

Changing Ride Plans

 So the plan for today was to hit up some Santa Ana Mountains Fireroad Up Singletack down action. One phone call from a total stranger yeseterday afternoon changed those plans. The stranger in question was the manager of a gas station a few miles from house. My oldest son, Will, had gone skating with some of his friends and something had gone wrong. The paramedics had already been called and all the guy would say that he had really hurt his right hand.

When I arrived the local fire department paramedics were already on the scene and had loosely wrapped up his thumb in what had already become a blood soaked cloth.  They advised me that they could save me a lot of money if I drove him to the ER myself, but his hand needed to be looked at right away.

So before long we were at the ER.  At this point I had not seen the wound yet but I was worried as Will said it was sorta numb. When the assessing nurse took of the dressing to get a look it as we were dealing with it was all I could do not to openingly freak out. Parents are meant to see their childrens’ bones. But there it was, back to the first knuckle was flayed open with the nail off to the side and the skin and muscle off to the other side with the bone showing. Our time spent in the waiting room was exactly zero seconds as we were whisked off to X-Ray and then Orthopedtics.  Will was a popular guy as many folks came by for a look. It did not take long for the doctors to make the call to bring in a hand-surgeon. There was going to be a delay in the specialist arriving so in addition to the normal pre-surgery stuff, “Dr. Feelgood” made a visit and gave Will some Morphine. Will was giggly happy for quite sometime before doozing off.

So the hand-surgeon arrives and within an hour Will is in the operating room to have his thumb “repaired”. That term seemed odd to hear as I expected something like sutured or set.  Repaired just seem so serious.

After a long couple of hours, he was out of surgery and off to the recovery room. The surgeon seems to think that it should heal up just fine.  He was kept overnight and released this morning.  He will be back to the the doc again in a few days to see how the healing is going and to see where to go from there.  Geez, you only wish for the best for your kids and it hurts to seem them hurt. Will will be taking a break from Hockey, Biking, Skating Boarding and the Electric Guitar for a bit. School work should be a little interesting as well since he is right-handed.

Of course like father like son there was a video camera on the scene. My bet is that his buddies will soon have it YouTubed.

Bumrushed with Life

So not much in the way of blog post in the last couple of weeks.     It is funny how life has a way of taking over your life.   I’ve been back from my east coast trip for a week and have been throughly swamped with honey-do list, work-list, and the kid’s hockey stuff starting back up.   Somewhere in all of that the site and mountainbiking was pushed down on the list.    Moss

I have a couple of places on the east coast, that I have yet to put up pics and talk about.  Probably some of the best stuff I rode out there, York River State Park and :Gatewood”.

Gatewood

The twisting singletrack of that I rode along coastal Virginia was a lot of fun, but there was not much in the way of elevation change at all.   This Friday I rode Lake Calvera and I probably got in in more climbing in one session there that I did in a week back east.    I was very pretty darn non-energetic on the ride.  I imagine that huge Mexican combo plate I had for lunch did not help much on the ride.   I planned on going for a ride today, but I spent the better part of yesterday painting the trim on my house and I’m just too beat down today to give the bike a go.  Yeah, call me a waahbulance!  Oh well , things should settle out in the next week or so and I can regain a routine.

Gatewood

Until then, enjoy a few imagines from the east coast.

Bike Luggage Bingo

What a pain the butt, I had over the last couple of days getting by bike packed up and ready to go to the east coast with me on a business trip.  The original plan was to ship the bike ahead of me and have it waiting for me at my hotel when I arrived.   So I packed the bike into my Trico Sports Ironcase Bike Box.   I have used this thing in the past and it is great.  Through your bike as well as most of your other bike stuff in there as well.  Well the price checking this box in as luggage has gone up from sometimes free or $75  to $125.   UPS was quoting the weight as about $70 to ship it.  Great, I could save some money and not have to fuss with the bike box through an airport terminal.    I get to UPS and HOLY CRAP!   Seems that due to the size of the box it falls it falls into the irregular catergory and they want to ring me up for $153 each way.   No thanks, I’ll take check it on the flight.  

I live about 10 minutes from the Carlsbad commuter airport that I would be flying out of so I decided to swing by on my way home with the box and make sure I would not have any problems beyond dropping some coin to get it on the flight.  At first the guy was like, “sure no problem, a bike box is a bike box.  Pay your $125 and you will be good to go”.  At this point I questioned him because I read somewhere that I weight restriction had changed as well and I did not want any surprises the morning of my flight.   After a bit of keystroking, he confirmed that there is a 50lb weight limit is in addition to the special charge because it is a bike box.   This means that the airline wants $250 one-way to take my bike along for the ride.  I would need to get this bike box down to 50lbs to make it even worthwhile to bring.

So I took everything out of the box and weighed.   Ouch!, the box along weighs 27 lbs.   That does not leave much room for the bike.  Out goes everything but the bike.  Crap! Still over weight.   I finally take the tires and tubes off the wheels off.   Geez, just a fraction over.   Off goes the water bottle holder.  BOOM!   50 pounds 0 ounces.

50 pounder

Now I had the problem of dealing with all the crap I took out of the bike box.    Now I’m traveling for three weeks and I have to both some work presentable attire as well as chill out clothes, and I only want to do laundry once a week.  Then means I have a little more stuff than I would normally bring along.  So clothes, camelbak, helmet, shoes, pedals, tires and tubes all go into a chick-sized suitcase.  I weigh it, DAMN, 51 pounds!    So I transfer a pair of shoes into my carry on back and all is good.

crap to get in luggage

So time to travel.  When I checked in at Carlsbad, the ticket guy checks the weights, calls it all good and charges me as regular baggage, all total just $40 bucks.  Sweet!   We will have to see how the return flight works out.

The flight to LA was uneventful, but the rest of the trip was a different storry.   My flight out of LA is delayed because they are servicing the plane. I had a tight connector schedule so I hopped on the phone and had my connector into Virgina switched to a latter flight.  Two hours later, the call is made to switch us to a different plane and about an hour later we are shuffling onto another plane.  Once loaded on the plane, we are informed that the engine may have sucked up something into one of the engines while the plane was taxiing to the gate and the engine would need to be inspected.   After one hour of seating on the plane at the gate, we are shoved off.

Needless to say I did not even make my latter connector.   So I get a free stay at Hyatt O’hare.  I’m pretty sure noboby ever books a room at his hotel, it is all stranded  travelers.   The following day, I would finally get into Norfolk.  The rental car place would turn out to be a silver lining in this little storm cloud.  I get hooked up from an econobox speck to a respectable gas guzzling SUV.   Sweeet, big pimping and I get to help melt the polar icecaps…..I’m cool!   But hey lots of space for a bike with the seats folded down.   More to follow…..

All Hail High Gas Prices!

Or maybe it is “Awh HELL, High Gas Prices!”

Today I went to work a little later than I normally do, so the commute traffic was quite different.  There were a lot more people on the road in their mad-dash to go see “The Man” for eight hours or so.  There were typical half dead types like myself swilling coffee and most likely cranking some jams in a effort to jumpstart their melon out of a sleep-deprived coma.   Geez, there were way too many chatterbox girls yapping on their phones.   I think the new law in California requiring the use of hands-free devices while driving is a good idea for most part.  EXCEPT for these ladies as  now they get to talk with BOTH of their hands while driving instead of just one.   One of the more exuberant chatterheads looked like she was being attacked by a swarm of angry bees.  I felt sorry for the poor bastard on the other end of that call.   I would like to say she should have no more than six months to a year to live with driving like that, but stupidity always seems to find a way to survive.  She will probably live to be 105.

Enough of stupid ladies on the road.  Driving through my hood, there were a bunch of bikes on the road today.  Full roadie-kit guys, hybrids commuter setups, fixies, and even some Wallyworld Specials.  I saw at least four old-school 10-speeds with downtube shifters and suicide brake levers that were just killer.  I could not help but think these rigs had spent quite a few years hibernating  hanging upside down from garage rafters gathering dust.   My guess is spring arrived for these wintering steelies when gas hit around $3.50 a gallon.  If you were a bike how cool it would be to get a new lease on life.  I grabbed quick looks at the riders of these reborn rigs as I went by and they were not the types that strike you as a vintage bike connoisseurs.   No, these were average folks on their way to work, school or wherever they had to be.   Bicycles as your basic form of transportation in the US,  now there is a green concept.  At this rate maybe $6.00 a gallon will be the cure for the nation’s obesity problem.

By far the coolest bike thing I saw today is a story that is over a half a year in the making.   A little over six months ago, I first noticed “Melrose Ave Lady”.  She looked to be in her early to mid 30’s and when I first saw her she really looked to be new to cycling and a fitness lifestyle in general.  At first I lifted an eyebrow and pulled my head back as I was positive some federal or state laws governing the use of spandex were being broken.     After snickering just a bit, I thought “Good for her, I hope she sticks to it.”   Over the next few months, I would pass Melrose Ave Lady just about daily.  She was sticking to it and she did not seem to be laboring on the climbs like she had in the past.  A few months ago, my schedule changed and I stopped being on the road the same time as Melrose Ave Lady.  Just last week, while driving down this road I wondered how she was doing.

 For those of you that have kids in your life, you know well that you tend not to notice the growth that occurs in the ones you see everyday.  However when your nieces or nephews come over you are generally shocked by their growth.     Such was the case today when I saw Melrose Ave Lady.    WOW!!!!!   I was absolutely amazed at the transformation this lady had done to her body.  Lord knows how many pounds she lost.  She was toned and tanned and could easily be 20 something.  She also cruised up the hill like it was a flat.    Melrose Ave Hottie, who ever you are, you have been totally inspiring to watch and I am so proud of the commitment you have put into your new lifestyle.   Hundreds of cars have passed you everyday and I am sure I am not the only person to have followed your progress.   It would not be surprised if some of those additional bikes on the road today are a result of the inspiration you gave on Melrose Ave.     

I think I’ll check the tires on my commuter bike.

Bill and Will Roadtrip Day 2 – The Central Coast

We woke up fairly early this morning to some nice sunshine over the Laguna Seca Recreation/Raceway Area.   Will reluctantly said his legs were sore and he did not think he would be up for riding today.  I’m glad he told me as I would not have wanted to push him into riding and then not enjoying himself.  We were orginally thinking of going to Montana Del Oro State Park and get in some riding.  

Laguna Seca

The nice thing about working off of an idea vice a schedule is that you can change things pretty darn easily.  After a bit of breakfast, we broke camp and hit the road.   It was just earlier in the week that the Pacific Coast Highway was reopened after being shutdown for nearly a week due to wildfires burning in the Big Sur and other areas of the Los Padres National Forest.   It has been quite a few years since I had been on this highway and I had forgotten just how pretty this drive can be.

PCH

 We stopped at many places along the way early on to take in the sights.  This was a good thing as before long the coast became completely socked in with thick fog and we could not see much at all until we were near San Simeon about 90 miles south of Monterey.

PCH

One of the really cool stops we did was at vista lookout about five miles north of Hearst Castle right off of the Pacific Coast Highway.  Here you can check out a large colony of Elephant Seals.  These are some big critters and the males make some mighty deep and throaty noises when other males get around their babes.

Elephant Sea

This fellow reminded me of a disgruntled Walmart customer say a earlier in the week.

Elephant Seal

We continued down the coast until we neared San Luis Obispo.  Instead of going to Montana Del Oro State Park we turned inland and made our way to Mt Pinos near the town of Labec.    We ended up at the Mt Pinos campground that sits at 8,200 feet and we had the pick of the place as we were the only ones there.  Later that evening two more groups would come in, but for the most part we had the great views virtually all to ourselves.

Camp sweet camp

We had several hours of daylight left after we got everything setup and the next thing you know Will was bucking to get on the bike and mess around near camp.   I joined in on the action and played around on a log.

Log Ride

The South Ridge trail starts right from the campground and goes down to the McGill Campground a couple of miles down the mountain.   I had to see the camp host down there so when I drove down, Will took the trail.   He was pretty darn excited when he came off the trail and proclaimed it was the coolest singletrack EVER!   The trail is setup as a cross-country ski trail and has plenty of small rounded jumps that are just the perfect size to catch some XC sized air.  Will really dug those and I was stoked to see him stoked.

Will Air

Back at camp, we enjoyed the last night of being able to have a campfire as a ban on them would start the following morning, due to the dry conditions.   We climbed into the tent an hour or so after sunset.  When we are back at home, Will is always trying to fight off going to bed.  It is like the world is moving too fast and he is going to miss out on something if he is sleeping.  It was nice to have him so easily climb into his sleeping bag.  I was reading a book and I had barely turned one page when I looked up to see him already down for the count.    Tomorrow we would get in a good chunk of riding in.

Camp fire

My Medium or Large Story

Okay I am the classic in-between sizes guy as I can fit on a medium or a large on most bikes. I spent a great deal of time this year figuring out wither a medium or a large Intense 6.6 was going to be the bike for me. The following rambling of words is most of the thought process I went through on figuring out which size frame to go with. I have been riding a medium Intense Spider since 2003 as my cross country bike. I have been riding a large 2005 Specialized Enduro Pro for a few years as my all-mountain rig as my main point of comparison. I would have to describe the riding I do with this bike as all-mountain stuff that has to deal with chunk, ledges and some occasional airtime in the 3 to 4 foot range. My bikes see very little shuttle action so they have to be climbable. First off let’s look at the geometry.

 

Aspect

Intense 6.6 Med

Intense 6.6 Large

05 Spec Enduro Pro

Top Tube

22.8”

23.8”

24.5”

Seat Tube

19”

21”

19” (Effective)

Stand Over

29”

29”

30.3”

Wheel Base

43.3”

44.3”

45.5”

Head Angle

68.5 deg

68.5 deg

68.5/69.5 deg

Seat Angle

73 deg

73 deg

68.5/69.5 deg

Chain Stay

17”

17”

16.7”

Bottom Bracket

13.75”

13.75”

13.7/14.2”

Okay lets get some of my geometry out of the way. I’m 5’11.5” with a 32.5” inseam and I weigh between 195 and 205 pounds on any given month depending on my riding and drinking regime. The burrito and pizza intake seems to most consistent part of nutrition plan.

The Previous All-Mountain Rig

I liked the 2005 Enduro Pro, it is a capable all-mountain bike with six inches of travel. The rear shock is a Progressive 5th Element and the front shock is a Fox 36 TALAS RC2. The bike comes with two rear shock mount carriages which allow you to vary the geometry of the bike slightly. One carriage provides a higher bottom braket and slightly steeper head angle than the other. I kept my Enduro setup with the higher bracket (14.2”) and steeper head angle (69.5 degrees). The main reason for this setup was that when I first got this bike I had a hell of a time trying to steer the bike with the low bottom bracket and 68.5 degree head angle carriage installed. I was coming from a zippy race/cross country oriented Intense Spider and had not developed the skills of handling a long slack bike. The steeper head angle carriage helped with that transition and I never bothered to try the bike with the other carriage installed after learning how to steer a long, slack bike.

I enjoyed the long wheel-base of the Enduro as it was quite stable at speed. At 45.5” it did make take some effort to navigate tight switchbacks and body English was required on the twisty stuff. The bike is not a light one as it was somewhere around mid-to-high 30s according the wheelset and tires I was using. It was a climbable bike but it was not a bike you could hammer up the hill, it was more that you would come to an agreement with the bike and it would beat you down over the course of a long day of riding. Additionally, the split seat tube design also limited how much you could adjust the saddle height. For me I had to compromise on the seatpost length to allow me to get the seatpost low enough for technical riding while extended enough for climbing. The end result was that the saddle when fully extended was about half and inch lower than what I would have like for optimal climbing. When lowered all the way I was forced to have just under two inches of post still sticking out.

The Medium 6.6
The Medium 6.6 that I first rode was built up extremely lightweight. XTR drivetrain (triple chainring) and brakes with Easton carbon bars and seat post. The wheels were Mavic Crossmax XLs with a set of Intense 2.25 System 4 cross country tires. The fork was a Manitou Nixon. The total weight on this setup was around 28-29 pounds. Needless to say this rig climbed extremely well. The term very “Spider-Like” came into my head on the first climb I hit with this bike. It was a bike you could hammer up the hill with. Once the bike turned downhill there was one thing perfectly clear, this was one extremely plush rig. However, the Nixon fork had only 145mm of travel which is a bit short as 160mm should be what you should be aiming for. The bike I had was one of the 6.6 prototype rigs that at the time of its buildup, the 160mm forks were not available. While the Nixon was super plush, between it and the wheelset, the frontend was quite a noodle when you get into the chunk. It was bad enough to cause a dip in my confidence in the chunk. I was spoiled with the Fox 36 TALAS RC2 that was on the Enduro. Compared to my Enduro Pro the cockpit of the Medium 6.6 felt cramped with the front wheel feeling a little too much underneath me. I felt more on top of the bike instead of down in the bike.

Okay so now it was time to change some things around. I virtually moved my entire component build off my Enduro an put them on the medium 6.6. The burly medium 6.6 now included XTR derailleurs, XT crankset with 2 rings and a bash guard. XT brakes, aluminum handlebars, 90mm 10 degree rise stem, Fox 36 TALAS RC2 fork, Spinergy Xyclone Enduro Wheelset with Kenda Kinetics 2.6 tires. I also used a laid back Thompson seatpost.

Boy what a difference this setup made.  With a longer and burlier fork combined with a stiffer wheelset and more purpose suited tires, this bike really came alive in the downhill chunk.   This build added some weight to the rig, but it was still lighter than my Enduro.   The laidback seatpost opened up the cockpit a bit but it still felt initially just slightly cramped. I quickly adapted to the feel.  The need for a laidback/angled post did however limit how far I could lower the saddle, being forced to leave about four inches of post sticking out of the seat tube.  For this medium this created what I call a minimum seat height (seat tube + exposed post) of 23 inches.   This was only minor concern as my Enduro used a split seat tube which also limited how far I could lower the saddle which created of a minimum seat height 22 inches.  

med shot

The shorter wheelbase (by 2.2 inches) of the Medium 6.6 was quite noticeable.  The 6.6 was quite spry on switchbacks and tight twisty singletrack considering the slacker geometry and travel.  There was little in the way of competition with the Enduro at this point.  The 6.6 thoroughly trounced the Enduro in this area. I did not expect this as my Enduro was setup with a one degree steeper head angle than the 6.6.  My thinking is the major difference was wheelbase.  The performance of the two bikes in the higher speed downhill stuff was different.  I have found that the longer travel bikes have a “wake-up” speed.  This is generally when the bike becomes lively and in its element.  The 6.6 was lively pretty much when you started turning the pedals.  The Enduro needed a bit more speed to become lively.  On the other end of the speed spectrum there is the stability aspect.  You can scream downhill on both of these bikes, but the Enduro felt just a touch more stable than the medium 6.6 when you approach “ludicris” speed.  I attribute this to the much longer wheelbase of the Enduro.

Decisions Decisions

At this point I had not decided wither I would get a medium or a large frame. The biggest difference between the medium and the large was the top tube and seat tube length.  That additional inch in the top tube would open up the cockpit area enough so that I would not have to use a laidback seatpost.  Eliminating the need for a laidback post would allow for the post to be lowered all the way down into the seat tube.  I had read quite a few posts where riders were concerned about the two inch longer seat tube of the large.  The concern being with ability to get behind and down on the bike when you get into the steep stuff and drops.  For me this ended up not being a concern.  The large frame and a straight post would allow for an effective minimum seat height of 21 inches.  This was over two inches lower than the medium 6.6 and an inch lower than the Enduro.  Another minor item dealing with the seatpost was that if I wanted to use a Gravity Dropper style seatpost at some point, it would have to deal with a cramped cockpit on a medium.   I was not interested in using a longer stem as that would move my weight too much forward on the bike.

 

There is a lot to be said to the adage of use the smallest size frame that you can fit on.   For me the high speed stability of the longer wheelbase and the ability to get the seat all the way down by using a straight post with the large frame won out over the medium frame.

 The New Rig  wider shot of bike 

So last week I got the new rig all build up and I am pretty stoked.   Here are the specs.

Large 6.6 in Red Works Finish

Fox RP23 rear shock

Fox 36 TALAS RC2

XT Crankset with Raceface bashguard

XT derailuers, cassette

XTR Brakeset

Thompson Elite Seatpost

 Titec Hellbent  Handlebar

 90mm Stem

 Cane Creek Double XC Flush Headset

 Intense Saddle

 Spinergy Xyclone Enduro Wheelset  (Normal wheelset)

 Spinergy Falline Wheelset (Downhilling wheelset)

 Kenda Kinetics Stick-E 2.6 tires

 

The rig comes in at 31.7 pounds.  

Another Closeup

 

I got in two rides over the weekend with the bike.  On Saturday I went out to a local trail that has some flowing yet tight singletracks as well as a couple of small stunts.  The bike handled really well and when I drop the TALAS fork down to the 130 travel, the bike became extremely snappy in whipping through the tight tree covered singletrack.   The term “Spider-Like” came back into my head again as this setting dropped the handlebars enough that my posture was very much like how I set on my XC rig.  I also used the 100 setting of the fork during some moderately steep and tight switch-backing climbs and this setup worked really well.   For the pressures on the shock and fork, I’m sure I don’t have them quite dialed in just yet, both being a little on the high side. It is generally thought that you need several rides to break in the shocks and forks so I was not concerned with the small bump compliance not being optimized yet.   I hit one of the features out there and caught about as much air as I would ever want to and I did not bottom the fork and just did on the RP23 shock.

 

 

Why the RP23 shock when you see so many with a DHX Air?   The medium 6.6 I rode had a DHX Air and while I got it dialed, it seemed like a lot of shock for the performance you get.  I had talked with some folks who prefer the RP23 (usually Pushed) over the DHX-Air so I thought I would give it a try.   If I can get the small bump compliance I want as well being able to handle 3-4 foot drops with my weight, then I will be happy.  Otherwise I may drop the coin for either a DHX-Coil (pushed) or a Cane Creek Double Barrel.  

 

 Closeup of bike

Needless to say the first outing with bike was a success.    The following day ended up being a 28 mile ride up in the San Bernardino Mountains which included some rocky and steep terrain along with some sections that allowed for the bike to let loose.  Boy did the bike shine here and there were plenty of occasions where the saddle was dumped all the way.  Since someone left their memory back at home, I have not pictures.  I had no problems with getting behind the bike as it at least once, I grinded my butt on the rear wheel.    The bike also felt really stable at ripping speed and was every bit as stable (if not more) as my stretched out Enduro.    Once again I was glad I went with the large frame with the longer wheelbase.   At the end of the day I was feeling tired from the 28 miles, some rough terrain, and a sizable amount of climbing but was not feeling beat up.   The 6.6 proved to be a great all-day rig.  I would be extremely hard pressed to take the Enduro on this ride as I would have been creamed from the weight and overall sluggishness it has on the climbs over the cross of the day.

 

 

So what it the point of all this rambling about medium versus large?  Well I figure there are other folks like me that are classic in-between sizes guys who have tossed around the pros and cons of each.  When the rubber hits the trail, it comes down to small preferences and trade-offs.   One thing is for certain the 6.6 is one kick ass all-mountain all-day bike and I am stoked to have one the stables.