SSteel is Real… Heavy

Well, I completed my SS build just after Thanksgiving and have managed to log a over a hundred miles on it already. The frame is a Niner SIR9 with a Fox 32 F29 fork and Industry Nine XC 29er wheels. Niner touts this frame as demonstrating that “Steel Is Real” and thereby the frame got its name. While I do jest with a bit about the weight of the frame, steel does tend to be a heavier than its aluminum counterparts. The build came out to just over 25 lbs for the size large frame, not that this was a weight-weenie build by any stretch.

Niner SIR9 build complete

I got my first taste of mountain SS’ing this summer when I borrowed one of the Animal’s SS’s. It definitely a good introduction in that it left me wanting more. Let me tell you the smoothness of the Renyolds 853 steel is most definitely real. I have been more than impressed so far with this bike in that I have taken it on rides and trails that I would have thought reserved for bikes with rear travel, and not only has it held its own, but excelled. Now I’m not advocating this for your next DH session, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised on rough XC trails with moderate drops and rock gardens. To describe the Industry 9 wheels succinctly is fairly easy, stiff! I feel the tires flexing under me when I stand, but definitely not the wheels. This stiffness is very evident when returning to the ground after a jump or drop. They just keep rolling forward. At this point I have to mention that I am coming from 26″in. wheels to the 29″in. platform. I’ve never been accused of being a weight-weenie, so any added weight from the bigger wheel does not make a big difference to me; however, I have felt the advantages of the larger wheel with added momentum and better traction which is from what I understand a larger contact patch from the tire to the ground. I have both tires set-up tubeless, although only one of them was designed for it.
The sexiness that is a SS chainline.

For those of you who like model numbers and spec’s, here is the build in detail:
Frame: Niner SIR9 Large -Rootbeer
Fork: Fox F29 RLC 100mm -White
Headset: Cane Creek S8 -Black
Wheels: Industry Nine 29’er XC Silver w/ Red Spokes & Stans Arch Rims -White
Cranks: Truvativ Stylo 1.1 32t -Black
Cog: Niner Cogalicious 32t -Black
Bars: Niner Flattop 9 -Black
Post: Truvativ Stylo -Black
Saddle: SDG FXR -White
Brakes: Hayes Stroker Trail 180mm F/R -Gray
Grips: Ergon GX -Gray
Tires: F: Bontrager FR3 2.35, R: Maxxis Ardent 2.25
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy -White
Partway up the hill @ San Juan

From long high elevation changing fire road climbs to short weeknight rides, this bike is quickly and unequivocally becoming my favorite steed. I never thought I would return again to a hard-tail frame, but in the short month worth of riding I already feel at home on this bike, and hopefully am ready for my rapidly approaching first SS race this weekend. Stay tuned for those results.
Maples Springs waterfall enroute to Santiago Peak

How 1×9 got me ready for SS

As many of you know, we recently added the Sette Razzo frame to our lineup of bikes here at WCH. The Sette Razzo was built up as a SS. I have to admit, I was, and still am, very tentative about riding a single speed. I probably got that way due to all the Moe & RL puke stories. I, like many of you, are not a fan of puking.

SS can be quite a workout, especially if you go rigid

I decided to hit my local test loop, the Fully loop, for my first ride on the Razzo SS. The loop starts off for almost flat with just a twinge of an incline. I immediately felt the desire to shift gears and go faster, so much so that my right thumb twitched. Of course, there was no gear to change into so I ended up spinning really fast here and there. But I wasn’t used to all the spinning and my legs quickly got tired of it. I’m going to have to work on that part of SS riding.

What I was really afraid of were the climbs. None of the loop climbs are particularly long, about the only thing the loop is missing, but some are on the steeper side. The first short quick steep after crossing Euclid was conquered without any issues. Rolling along the street after the climb was a bit annoying because again I couldn’t get my legs to spin up fast enough. But ahead lay the climbs and as much as I was annoyed by all the spinning out I was cognizant that the lower gearing would be greatly beneficial on the climbs.

Redline Mono 9 has 9 gears. This helped get me ready for Single Speed riding

The climb that really got me antsy begins with a mild fireroad ascent. It then rolls along a little before hitting a short rooty section followed by a short steeper section. The end of this is a little past the halfway point of the loop. No puking on this climb. I was close… but I held it down. One more climb which is made difficult with railroad ties was up next and only my pride plus the presence of a couple of hikers stopped me from letting it flow.

What I came to realize over my SS ride was that my body had built up a bit of a familiarity to sustained standing climbs which is really your only other “gear” when you’re riding a SS. The familiarity was achieved when I began riding the Redline Mono 9, a 1×9 geared 29er. Before the 1×9, I would sit and spin my way up but when I rode the 1×9 consistently I realized that if I sat and spun all the hills, I’d quickly run out of gears.

So I adopted a different approach to climbing that included a mixture of spinning for a while then climbing while staying in the same gear. For example, if I was in gear 4 on a seated climb and I felt I wanted to change gears, instead of choosing to shift I’d stand up and climb for a bit. This essentially doubled the number of “gears” I had available to me from 9 to 18 and also eased my transition from 27 gears down to one.

Being comfortable with sustained standing climbs turned out to be a great help when I rode the single speed. I truly believe that if I went straight from 27 gears to just one, I probably would have joined RL & Moe with puke stories of my own.

Interbike 2008: KORE Torsion BFD handlebars & B52 stem

At Interbike I received the new super wide Torsion BFD (Bighit Freeride Downhill) handlebars and the new B52 stem for review.  For the bars, the model I have is a low 20mm rise and super wide 800mm!
IMG_9033 copy by you.
Based on its description, it is perfect for Freeride / Downhill.  However with its length, this can be well suited for a Single Speed.  With its wide build, this bar would be perfect for sawing back and forth when hammering up the hill. 
IMG_9034 copy by you.                                    800mm is stock but has lines for shortening/cutting the bars which will accommodate from 680mm to 800mm length.

Torsion BFD bars:

Model:                      Torsion Race
Center Diameter:        31.8mm
Bar Diameter:            22.2mm
Bar Width:                 800mm w/cut lines 790 to 680mm
Rise:                         0mm, 20mm, 35mm, or 50mm
Upsweep:                  5 degrees
Backsweep:               9 degrees
Material:                   al 2014 double butted
Finish:                      shot-peen+anodized black / + powder coat white
Logo:                       laser etched (anodized) or decals (powder coat)
Weight 0mm rise:      309 to 350g (680 to 800mm)
Weight 20mm rise:     315 to 356g (680 to 800mm)
Weight 35mm rise:     322 to 363g (680 to 800mm)
Weight 50mm rise:     330 to 371g (680 to 800mm)

The stem is a 65mm, 200g in shotpeen white paint.  This stem looks bomb proof!

IMG_9045 by you.

IMG_9044 by you.                               

B52 Stem:

Model:                     New B52
Steerer diameter:      1 1/8” (28.6mm)
Bar diameter:           31.8mm 4-bolt face plate w/PC logo insert
Rise / length:           (0 degrees) 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80mm
Material:                 3D forged AL 6061
Stack height:           45mm
Finish:                    shot-peen black or white paint
Logo:                     laser+polycarbonate co-molded insert in face plate
Special Feature:       KORE 34 (K34) compatible
Weight:                  176g for 55mm, 200g for 65mm, 224 for 75mm

I love the white paint job! It just has sleek written all over it.   I’ll be swapping out my DH bars on my Intense Socom DH bike and replace with the Torsion bars.  The color will definitely match my bike!  Look for a full review in the near future. There’s a chance these may go on my SS build as well.  I’ll keep you all posted.

DSC_0103 by you.

For more information visit

Full Suspension Single Speed Update stepped up and sent me the Sette Single Speed Conversion Kit. I received it Friday and I was riding on it on Saturday and Sunday.

I’m happy to report after riding with the Sette Single Speed kit, I didn’t experience skipping or any type of issues with the drive train. I used the 18t cog in the back, previous to that, I ran a 17 cassette cog that would occasionally skip. But with this new kit, I was riding smooth the whole time.

The Yess Pro Full Suspension Single Speed Chain Tensioner…phew..that’s a long name…it has been a dream. Though I had to McGyver the tensioner to make it work on my bike. I simply added some washers between the tensioner and the drop out. Due to my chain line, the tensioner would sit too far in and cause the chain to ride on top of the lip of the roller which would then skip and make tons of noise. Once the washers were in place, no issues. In fact it works REALLY well!

You can barely see the washers between the dropout/hanger and the tensioner.
full suspension single speed tensioner

As of today, I have NOT broke anything, the Sette single speed kit and the Yess Pro Tensioner have been working better than I expected.

Twice in one weekend!

It’s a rarity for me to be able to ride my bike on Saturday and Sunday. Since I had to work on Saturday, my buddy Joe from work and I decided to ride a short loop at Aliso Woods before we had to come into the office. We started super early and found that the conditions provided a nice cool ride…40 degrees and thick fog.

Here’s Joe after climbing up a trail called Cholla…its a wicked climb. The kind that makes you bitter about climbing.

Here’s some of the thick fog that I was talking about. Below is Laguna Canyon..passed those mountains is the Pacific Ocean.

We came from the bottom of Woods Canyon on the lower left corner of the photo.

As we’re going down Rock-it, we were greeted by a dozen riders climb up the trail. Now from what I understand, riders going down had the right of way. Meaning they should have pulled over for us…right? Or do I have it backwards?

The next day Priscilla and I hit the Fullerton Loop. I was out testing my newly built project bike. As we’re going through the trail, we encountered this group. A dad and his two sons. Great Kodak moment right. Well you can’t really see this, but the dad didn’t have a helmet, and the kids had their helmets on their handle bars. Not the smartest move…So I roll up to the dad and say, “You’re boys should really be wearing their helmet.” He said thanks. Then I roll up to the kids and said…in a very nice manner, “You boys should wear your helmets, that way you don’t hurt your head if you crash.”

The good news was, we later saw them on the trail and the boys were both wearing their helmets.

We then ran across a group of what I call “Filipino Freeriders” who were trying to get back to the trailhead. I say freeriders because some of these guys had full face helmets, down hill bikes, pressure suits, pads…the whole nine yards! Here’s what’s cool about meeting them, one of the Pinoy fellas says…”hey, aren’t you the guy from that website…MTB…MTN…Bike…” I say yes and he even recognized Priscilla from the Birthday Ride we had for her. So he then introduces us to the rest of the guys.

Super cool fellas…I just wished I had gotten their info. But I did get a group shot of them. So if you are one of the FreeRiding Filipinos, then leave a comment with your contact info!

RL’s Pet Project: Full Suspension Single Speed Bike-Maiden Voyage

I think I’m done with my bike, meaning I don’t need to tweak it any more. I installed a KMC chain that I had in the garage, though its vintage, its brand new. I took the advice of Jack “Ghost Rider” Sweeney and use a 3/32″ 6-8 speed chain. Doing so actually eliminated my chain skipping problem.

What I like about the Yess PRO FS/SS chain tensioner is the adjustability of the unit. I tried out a 32/20t combo and found that it was way too low and found myself spinning like a hamster. So when I went to a 17t, I thought I had to break the chain again to change the length. But no! With the Yess PRO, I was able to adjust the spring tension because it uses a standard V brake/canti lever spring. Once the tension was set, there was no need to break the chain to accommodate the 17t cog…nice eh.

He’s a handsome bike.
full suspension single speed

Having just one gear naturally limits your climbing ability…well not really.

Today at the Fullerton Loop, Priscilla accompanied me on this daunting task of making sure the bike is legit. I had to test the integrity of all the components installed by mashing on the pedals, jumping and doing what ever I can to put stress on the bike. So far, nothing broke!

We rode about 10.5 miles of the Loop and I have to tell you, there were a few times when I dry heaved because I was exerting myself more than I normally do. On each hill, I was mashing each pedal stroke and to be completely honest, I thought something was going to snap on the bike. But like I said, nothing broke.

What surprised me most about this rig was the fact that I spun as much I did. Here I was thinking that I was going so frigging slow. But when I would look behind me, Priscilla was further back on the trail than I expected. She did compliment me though, she said that I was pretty fast…faster than I would be on my regular geared bike…huh? How could that have been? My only guess is that since all my options of having multiple gears was taken away, I made the best of what I had. Through out the ride, my legs were on fire! Lactic acid and I became really close.

On one of the hills I was trying to climb, I sped up to build momentum, I was standing the whole time and I pushed myself to clear that portion of the hill. Once I got to the middle section where I had to turn left to do more climbing, I stopped. I got dizzy and started gagging, and tried to throw up! While I’m doing that here’s Priscilla passing me on her bike and at the same time she’s saying…”C’mon! Get it OUT! Just throw it up! You’ll feel better!” I knew she was right, but I couldn’t get anything to come up! Bleh..I hate that feeling…

The nausea finally surpassed and I was able to gain some sort of composure through out the ride, but my legs were spent. By the time we got back to the car, I was was worn out. But this was a great feeling. Yes I was tired, but also pretty excited because of the potential I see in the bike. Sure the bike has less gears, but that’s the beauty of it, less is more. No problems, no hassle, and all the same pluses of riding a regular full suspension multi-geared bike.

I’m not going to lie to you, this was a brutal ride for me. Legs were burning, lungs felt like they couldn’t get enough air…but did provide a great work out. I do look forward to riding my new favorite bike. I figure if I can just ride this bike a minimum of 2 times a week, I’ll already be ahead in my fitness level than I would be if I rode a multi-geared bike with the same amount of saddle time.

RL’s Pet Project: Full Suspension Single Speed Bike Part 2

Today I received the Yess Pro Full Suspension Tensioner. One I got the chance, I slapped on the hardware and tried to see how it works.

Here’s what I got…

The tensioner can work with a hard tail, the only difference that is has for the FS…in my opinion, is the roller that you install onto the pivot.

Here’s how it looks.

But now I’m having chain skipping issues. I suspect that my chain is all fudged up since I had to lengthen it. Since it was getting late, I decided to leave it for another day.

RL’s Pet Project: Full Suspension Single Speed Bike Part 1

Today I was able to set up the Full Suspension Single Speed Woodstock 707 with a SS chain ring, spacers, and a 17t cog in the rear. As far as the chain tensioner, I’m still waiting on the Yess FS/SS gadget, but since I wanted to start riding, I purchased an inexpensive chain tensioner to see if it would work. So far so good.

I headed down to the Jax Bicycle Center in Fullerton. Matt K gave me a hand in installing the tensioner and setting up the chain length.
full suspension single speed

17t rear cog and tensioner.
full suspension single speed

Side profile shows chain tension.

One of the concerns I had with this set up was having enough tension around the cog. But the tensioner we had installed seemed to be working just fine.

So to find out if the chain/cog/chain ring would skip, I had one of the guys, Scott, do some bunny hops around the store to see if he could get the chain to jump or completely fall off. If you watch this video, you’ll see that it doesn’t budge.

Now the real test would be how well the bike does out on the trails…stay tuned.

RL’s Pet Project: Full Suspension Single Speed Bike has been known for its many bike builds and projects. The newest one to hit the work stand is my very own project. You all may remember my Woodstock 707 frame that I stripped down to the bare metal. I was going to polish this thing until it was a mirror finish…but I didn’t have the patience to do so. I basically left it the way you see it.

So what’s this new project that I’m cooking up? Well originally I wanted to build a single speed bike. Some of the fittest people on the trails I see these days are guys that ride single speed bikes. I had all the parts for it, well almost, but we’ll get to that later. I thought about using an old steel or aluminum frame I had. But after talking to Khoa, he told me that MB Action magazine recently built up a Full Suspension and they made it work!

The problem that I hear the most about FS/SS bikes would be the chain. Some say that it wouldn’t work because of how the suspension compresses and the chain tension and all that jazz. So I asked for the help of some of my bestest buds in the business. I called Scott Finch of RPM Cyclery and he was familiar with that article that Khoa mentioned and said that as long as I had constant tension on the chain that it would work. My buddy Vince Rodarte of KHS Bicycles said the same thing, I also called Jax Bicycles of Fullerton, Nathan Burke reiterated what the other fellas mentioned.

Then there was our very own Jack “Ghost Rider” Sweeney. He directed me to a company called YESS Pro. They actually make a chain tensioner for Full Suspension Single Speed Bikes!
full suspension single speed

I was going to use some old cassette spacers and an old 17t cog for the rear wheel, but I quickly found out that the spacers had these little keys that needed to be flushed mounted onto the rest of the cogs in the cassette. That basically meant that this idea was shot. So that led me to the Single Speed Conversion Kit. This thing priced around $13!

Here’s the tale of the tape:
Woodstock 707 frame
Manitou Radium Rear Shock
Manitou Axel fork with 100m travel and lockout
Axel Disc wheels
Hayes MX2 Disc brakes and rotos
Tektro Brake Levers
Uno 2 inch riser bars

Yess had already said they are going to send me the tensioner. I’m working with to see about getting the Sette Conversion kit sent to me as well. Other than those two parts, the bike is about 80% complete.

I’ll keep you all posted with any updates I may have.