I was reading the latest copy of STW the other day and an article about the Orange R8 got my heckles up.
I re-read the article a couple of days later and realised I’d misinterpreted the article but by then the seed had been sewn for this article. I’m going to start with the idea that the current VW Polo is as big if not bigger than a Mk1 VW Golf was. So the quantum jump in thinking there is that cars get bigger. Granted in the current economic and ecological climate things have gone in reverse but bear with me.
Hardtail design seems to have followed a similar trend and I present the Orange P7 as exhibit No.1 your Honour. Currently it’s up to coping with 140mm of fork travel up front. But it doesn’t seem that many years ago that Simon’s P7 was “extreme” with 100mm Marzocchi’s on it. Hell 100mm Marzocchi’s WERE extreme. So now Orange bring in the R8 to allow the “whippet” riders to have something more XC than “downhill”.
My question is do we really need all this travel, especially in the Surrey Hills?
Recently I ended up moving my bike selection around a bit, partly sparked by the bargain Intense Spider 29er frame but to make way for this my “hardcore” hardtail 456 frame had to go. Recently this is the bike that had seen least miles and I have to admit it was because I found it a bit of a handfull. The Spider with it’s 73/73 geometry is a nimble little beast and once I get over the Marin D2D experience I’m sure I’m going to love riding it again!
The reason I wasn’t riding the 456 was that the SS 29er was light and agile, the Orange 5 was the bike of choice for Swinley and Afan so the 456 just lacked the spark for me and I found it heavy and slow. I’m sure it’s in my mind, but the new Blue 456 never felt as good as the original THAT Blue version.
A few more changes and I ended up with an aluminium hardtail, an On-One ScandAL. Corrected for 80-100mm of travel I’m loving this around the Surrey Hills. It’s fitted with 100mm Reba Team forks and handles sharply, flies through single track and allows me to lead downhill most of the time as well. So what’s with all this 140mm to 160mm of travel?
I queried Brant Richards of Shedfire about it and he came up with these thoughts.
As far as I can see, some hardtails are evolving to use more componentry that perhaps was more originally intended for use on full suspension frames. Particularly long travel suspension forks, large tyres, even Maxle back ends in some cases.
These tougher components allow a faster/harder riding style which means new geometry requirements. Of course, in many cases, it’s the same trails we’re riding, but we’re doing it now at higher speed or with different lines.
I have had very much of a direction change on bike geometry, having spent several years riding largely rigid 29ers around Calderdale, and now exclusively riding long travel, large tyred 26in hardtails. I was even riding around with my saddle a good 2-3in below “normal”, with flappy knee/shin pads on yesterday, just pootling up stuff, then blasting down.
Which makes sense to me. I recall when I got the first 456 with Maxle Pikes that I pretty much gave up worrying about flints and larger stones in the track ahead of me I just ploughed through. The bikes seemed to give me a lot of confidence. Having said that I’m not sure that 3 years on I don’t ride the same trails the same way now but with 40mm less travel. Confidence and Experience must have something to do with it, maybe it’s a learning phase.
Then again, having watched some of the videos of Brant riding round his local trails I have to say that it’s probably a notch up on the gravity scale from what we have round here. Given that the Ragley Blue Pig is probably the spiritual sucessor to the 456 I wonder how I’d find that round Holmbury or Pitch Hill, especially fitted with newer lighter forks? Maybe time will tell as I’m trying to convince Hotlines it would be good to get one reviewed round the Surrey Hills.
For now, for me I’m back on what is apparently an “XC Whippet” riding with bars that according to a comment in a popular forum “cause” me to ride badly! Long live the opposition to popular opinion!!