Carver Bikes 96′er Mountain Bike Review

June 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Bikes

carver 96er sideview 300x225 Carver Bikes 96er Mountain Bike ReviewLet me begin by stating that this review is for the Carver 96’er frameset. However, I could do a review on so many items on the bike, since I have never ridden any of them before. I wanted this build to be new and fresh as I always do, rather than build with components I am familiar with. In this way, I am able to have a broad knowledge of many brands. I try to be unbiased when evaluating different items, and judge them on their own merit. However, I will state that I would not change a single component on the bike – everything performed flawlessly!

I have been riding a rigid single speed 29’er for the past several months, so I am very familiar with riding 29” wheels. They are great for rolling trails, but I would prefer a 26” bike for racing or very technical singletrack. One of my good friends has become a 96’er convert, and now has a rigid Carver single speed, as well as another brand’s full suspension bike. I was intrigued by the 96’er idea, especially having come from a motocross background. A larger tire up front will roll more easily, which is why so many people are now riding 29”-wheeled bikes. On the other hand, it does take more effort to spin up a rear 29” wheel, so technical riding can suffer when acceleration out of corners is required. Companies making the 96’er-style of bicycle use this as the rationale for using a 29” front wheel and a 26” rear. After building Tom’s Carver 96’er single speed, I knew that would have to be my next frame! However, all three of my current mountain bikes are single speeds, so I knew that I wanted gears. I plan to race again (2 or 3 x 9), but in the meantime, I felt that a 1×9 would serve me perfectly in the Atlanta area, since I could ride most trails on a single speed. Given the benefits, a 96’er 1×9 would seem to be the perfect all-around bike.

As built, the Carver was 25.5 lbs. with pedals – very respectable, considering the fact that it had a 29” front wheel and fork. I was not aiming for a light bike necessarily – after receiving the frame, I bought the Halo rims, knowing that they would be relatively heavy since they were freeride rims. However, I compensated with the other components. I have never personally had Chris King hubs, but I have built dozens of wheels with them. I knew that I wanted the best. I decided to use a 20mm thru-axle just because. Originally I was going to get a FOX fork, but they did not have any 29’er forks in stock since they were transitioning to 2010 units. I currently have FOX, Marzocchi, and Rockshox forks on other bikes, so I decided to try the Manitou. I have been riding several models of Avid and Hayes disc brakes, so I wanted to try Magura SL. Finally, I went with the Ritchey carbon bars, stem, and seatpost.

The first thing I noticed about the bike was how responsive it was! The tubeless tires helped, but I was immediately comfortable on the bike. My friend Dave was riding behind me, and he commented several times on how well I was able to flick it around. I actually had to keep reminding myself that it was not a 26”-wheeled bike. It pulled a wheelie much easier than my other 29” bike, and just felt “right.” I was a little reluctant to push heavily into corners at first due to the standard tire converted to tubeless on the front, but my confidence increased as the ride progressed. The harder I pushed the bike, the more it seemed to want! The bottom bracket was super-stiff, and handling was exactly as expected. I have an old Mazda RX7 GSL-SE I am restoring, and this bike reminded me of that car – point it where you want it to go and it does the rest!

Descending was zero effort, and I felt perfectly confident at any speed. I will admit that the tires and brakes were a large factor, but the geometry of the frame was the main reason. Climbing was equally as impressive. I tried the new “Monster Mile” at the Fort Yargo trails in Winder for the first time, not having any experience with it. There is a decent-sized “horseshoe drop” which was the most technical part of the ride. The bike dug in and climbed out of the Georgia clay without incident – I never put a foot down on that entire trail!

I can’t say enough about how happy I am with the bike – it is the PERFECT mountain bike for almost every trail in Georgia! I am definitely a 96’er convert now, and that will be the bike I use mainly. Sure, the components were incredible, but they were only as good as the foundation. A painted Carver 96’er frame is $399 MSRP. I would take that frame any day over a $1,500 carbon 26” frameset! It was stiff and responsive with perfect handling. What more can I say? The bike was amazing!

carver 96er frontview 225x300 Carver Bikes 96er Mountain Bike ReviewFrame: Carver 96’er
Fork: Manitou Minute-29 Super 09 Absolute T-A – 100mm travel
Rims: Halo Freedom Disc (29” front, 26” rear) with Stan’s NoTube kits
Hubs: Chris King ISO Disc (20mm front thru-axle)
Spokes: Black Wheelsmith double-butted with blue alloy nipples
Brakes: Magura Marta SL (180 front and 160 rear)
Headset: Chris King NoThread
Shift Lever: SRAM X.0
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X.0
Chain: SRAM hollow pin
Stem: Ritchey WCS carbon
Seatpost: Ritchey WCS carbon
Handlebar: Ritchey Super Logic carbon
Tires: Kenda Nevegal (standard 29” front and 26” UST rear)
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Troy Lee Design
Grips: Oury
Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater Ti

Proper Disc Brake Wear-In

January 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Tips

Disc brakes are one of the best advancements in mountain biking, especially downhill bikes. Rims can get bent without affecting the braking surface, braking power is much better, and water and mud are much less of an issue. However, disc brakes require more attention to the break-in period than V-brakes.

avid juicy ultimate disc brake 242x300 Proper Disc Brake Wear InRecently, I set up a new personal bike of mine with Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes — 160mm rotors on the front and 140mm rotors on the rear. Although those brake are made to be extremely light and they are not extremely aggressive, I felt that they would be more than adequate for my 29” rigid single speed. There were some mounting issues with the rear brake due to the frame design, so I was down to the wire getting the bike ready for the ride the next day. After the first downhill, I realized that I had made an error in my haste – I had never broken in the brake pads. By the end of the ride, the brakes were fine, and a perfect match for that bike after they had worn in. However, the process could have been sped up with a few minutes of prep work.

To break in the pads, you want to slow the bike down from gradually increasing speeds. However, it is important not to come to a full stop. Basically, the best way is to find a gradual incline where you can make several runs with increasing speeds. Start at roughly 5mph, and slow the bike down to 1-2mph. Again, it is important not to lock the brakes up by stopping. Gradually increase the speed with the next run by roughly 3mph – 8mph on the second run, 11mph, etc. It is as simple as that. The main purpose is to seat the pads to the rotors, and also burn off any initial residue from the rotor or pads. After a total of 4-5 runs, the brakes should ready for actual riding on the trails.

Derailleur Hanger Alignment

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

In the early days of index shifting when the first systems were 6,7, and 8 speeds, derailleur hanger alignment was important, but not crucial to shifting. Due to the wider spacing between cogs, the derailleur hanger could be bent slightly, and the derailleur might still shift reasonably well. However, with the new 9 speed mountain bike cassettes (10 and now 11 speed for road), proper derailleur hanger alignment is absolutely imperative. Even a slight deviation of the hanger can cause incorrect shifting, and also cause the derailleur to shift into the spokes of the wheel, or jam the chain between the cassette and frame.

Whenever I build a new bicycle, I always check the derailleur hanger for alignment. Without fail, they are slightly bent (or worse) every single time. This cannot be avoided due to the initial fabrication of most frames, transportation, etc. A common mistake made by riders is to think, “I just bought a new hanger, so I will bolt it on and it will be straight.” The logic seems correct, but this does not take into account the fact that surface of the frame where the new hanger attaches is not necessarily aligned (usually it isn’t).

derailleur hanger alignment 300x300 Derailleur Hanger AlignmentThe replaceable derailleur hanger is a relatively new item, but it has saved many frames from the junkyard. In a crash, if the derailleur is near the smallest cogs, the derailleur will become bent severely – causing the hanger to become bent in the process. The replaceable hanger is designed to bend easily or break off in the event of a crash. Steel frames without a replaceable hanger can usually be bent back, unless the threaded hole has become elongated from an extreme bend. Aluminum will fatigue and fail after only a few cycles of bending. In the event that a non-replaceable derailleur hanger on an aluminum frame is bent, extreme care is required when it is aligned. There is a high likelihood that it will snap. Regardless, the hanger will be weakened, and will be more likely to bend in the future.

To achieve proper hanger alignment, a derailleur hanger alignment gauge is used. Using the rear wheel of the bicycle as a reference, the gauge is used to bend the hanger so that the hanger is in the same plane as the wheel. This is not rocket science, but it does take practice to prevent breaking the hanger. Due to the cost of the tool, it is probably best to have the alignment checked by a qualified shop when there is an issue with shifting, or after a crash.

Solving Bicycle Noise Issues

November 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

Bicycle noises can be one of the most aggravating problems for cyclists. Although most do not cause any damage to the bicycle, they can make a ride completely miserable. I have seen cracked frames on rare occasions, but the culprit of a noise is normally something simple. There is not one root cause for squeaks or creaks, but they can usually (key word) be found quickly if investigated in a thorough and logical manner. I will not mention torque specifications since the average rider most likely does not own one, and these numbers can vary.

weldtite lithium grease 300x207 Solving Bicycle Noise IssuesWhenever two metals come in contact with each other (especially dissimilar metals), there is a chance for a noise issue to occur. Application of grease not only allows the threads, spline, etc., to become tighter, but it also acts as a noise insulator in case there is any gap between the metals. Lithium bicycle grease is the most popular.

When trying to eliminate a squeak or a noise, perform one adjustment at a time, then test ride the bicycle. Although the disappearance of the noise is the end goal, nothing is gained by eliminating it without discovering the root cause. Do not wash the bicycle before the problem has been solved – water acts as a lubricant, and will cause the noise to disappear until the water evaporates.

The most common noise is a clicking while pedaling the bike. This is a drivetrain issue. The first thing to investigate is whether the pedal threads have been greased and/or that the pedals are tight. Although greasing threads seems counterintuitive, adding grease to (most) threads on a bicycle can eliminate almost all creaking Remove the pedals, lubricate the threads, and reinstall. Make sure that the pedal is tight, but do not over tighten.

grease pedal threads Solving Bicycle Noise IssuesWhen a creaking noise originates from the crank, it is most likely the left pedal or crank. Why would this be, since we apply the same pressure to both the left and right pedals? The left pedal receives the torque in a binary (on/off) manner — when the crank is pressed down at the top of the stroke. This is then transferred to the bottom bracket in the same position, time after time. The right pedal (drive side) receives torque in a much more distributed manner, since it is being divided over four or five arms on the spider from the chainrings. Of course, with the introduction of two-piece cranks, the loosening of the crank at the bottom bracket spindle is no longer a factor. However, 99% of the time, the left pedal is still the pedal which is creaking.

The next thing to check are the chainring bolts. If I am checking them, I normally remove them and apply grease to threads before tightening. Again, use uniform torque without stripping the threads.

Working backwards from the bike, check anything that the drivetrain might affect — grease the dropout and frame interface as well as the bolts/screws, check the tightness of the quick release skewer (even grease the face of the frame where the skewer attaches), etc.

Creaking seats can be a major problem as well.Often the noise is associated with the drivetrain, but it is actually caused by the rider changing position on the saddle, causing the rails and/or clamp to creak. Try wrenching the saddle back and forth to see if the seat is the problem. If so, remove the bolts and grease the threads, grease the rails, etc. Sometimes the point of attachment at the nose or in the back — spray a teflon lubricant in these areas if greasing the clamp/bolts did not eliminate the problem.

Due to the in-depth nature of suspenion problems, I will discuss this at length in a future article.