Feature Introduction: Bikerumor Project 24

Find all Project 24 posts here!

There’s little that will encourage a long, hard ride on a cold day like… fear.  Don’t get me wrong- I love riding my bike.  Bikes.  I love the feeling of exhilaration that only a few pedal strokes down the road or trail inevitably brings.  The camaraderie and the community.  The fitness and, of course, the bikes themselves.  Blah blabbedy blah blah.  Still, during the cold, dark days of December and January, there’s little like the thought of an impending 12 hours’ worth of riding- no, racing- to give me that extra boot out the door. So here I am once again, paid up for a duo spot at Tucson’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.  Epic Rides puts on a great event, with a fast but fun 15 mile course out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s not particularly technical, but can be loose and there are plenty of barrel cacti around to encourage riders to stay on the trail.  Over the past several years, I have raced the course on single speed 29ers and 5in trail bikes.  This year, with a potentially competitive partner, I figured that it was time to do things properly and put together my idea of an ideal 24-hour race bike. But what would an ideal 24-hour race bike look like?  I knew that I didn’t want a buckboard-stiff 18lb hardtail.  As fast as those can feel, I’ve done enough 24 hour racing to know that being consistent, staying fresh, and staying on the bike are more important than bragging-rights lap times.  So, I set out to build a bike that would be efficient, comfortable, light, and reliable.  Of course, being the foundation for a series of reviews, I also made a point of seeking out parts and components that I was curious or had heard good things about.  Interestingly, almost every company on the list makes products that compete with others we’ve chosen: Magura and Shimano make brakes, Crank Brothers make wheels, American Classic and Fi’zi:k make seatposts.  Rather than a one-brand build, we’ve tried to keep things interesting, making choices that a reader might.  With the help of a number of supportive and enthusiastic manufacturers, we’ve pulled together a bike that I can only hope to live up to.  Here’s the plan:

Frame Ellsworth Truth SST.2 Certainly one of, if not the, longest-running full suspension bikes available.  If it ain’t broke…  Looking at XC race bikes, I was struck by just how unique the Truth is.  Using Ellsworth’s patented Instant Center Tracking suspension design, the Truth has evolved over the past decade or so, but largely stays true to its roots.  Rather than bandaging an inefficient design with aggressive damping, the Truth is designed to remain active without rider-induced jacking or bobbing.  In an age of $3,500 Taiwanese-made carbon fiber frames, the US-made Truth is looking like a heck of a deal at just under $2,300.  And I’m willing to bet that it’ll be around for longer than the vast majority of those.
Fork Magura Durin Race 100 Though it may not come across particularly well in print or online, it’s hard not to be impressed with Magura forks when seen in the flesh.  It’s really only in person that their forks’ quality and attention to detail is obvious.  With improved-for-2011 internals bringing a more progressive spring rate and better low-temperature performance, it seemed like a good time to give the 3.11lb (actual), dual-arched fork a go.  In keeping with the Truth’s (and my) philosophy, the Durin is an active fork, which should help to forgive any late-night operator errors.
Wheelset American Classic MTB 26 Tubeless American Classic’s 225g disc hub is the foundation for the company’s 26in cross-country wheelset.  Not disposably light or frighteningly flexible, this tubeless-compatible wheelset nonetheless claims to come in at 1,486g- not bad at all.  I’ve been abusing a hubset that uses American Classic founder Bill Shook’s unique freehub mechanism for the past several years on my single speed, and it’s been nothing but reliable.  Strong enough for trail use, light enough for racing.  Sounds good to me!
Shifters Derailleurs Crankset Cassette Chain Shimano XTR M980 I can’t say that I’m especially excited about the arrival of 2×10 drivetrains- or Shimano’s abandonment of low-normal rear shifting.  Still, when the opportunity to pick up a shiny (and I mean shiny) new version of Shimano’s range-topping drivetrain presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  Who knows- it’s possible that by March, I may be a believer in adding a cog and ditching the granny.  What I can say for sure is that every new generation of XTR exudes quality like little else on the market and that each and every part that currently sits, waiting to be ridden, is a thing of beauty.
Pedals Crank Brothers Candy 3 With my current Eggbeaters working just as well as they always have, I’d had little reason to give Crank Brothers’ revised pedals a go.  When we contacted them about their bars and seatpost, they offered to throw a pair of pedals into the box as well.  The improved bearings will certainly be appreciated as will their light weight, reasonable price, and mud-shedding ability.  The (now largely aluminum) Candys (Candies?) should offer plenty of platform for a bit more all-day comfort.
Brakeset Formula R1 FCS Going fast requires stopping fast.  All too often, cross-country brakesets sacrifice power and control for headline-grabbing weights.  Despite being some of the lightest brakes available, Formula’s R1s are also some of the more powerful I’ve tried- which is why these Italian-made brakes were the first I thought of for this project.  How is it that this one company so often releases brakes so far ahead of the pack?  New for 2011 is the Feel Control System (FCS) tool-free lever stroke adjustment upgrade.
Handlebar Seatpost Crank Brothers Cobalt 3 Known first and foremost as a pedal company, Crank Brothers approach everything that they make from a slightly different perspective.  While their stem is not yet available, the clean lines and reasonable price and weight of the company’s first handlebars and seatpost had us wondering how they’d do on the trail.  The carbon fiber Iodine handlebars have been great- let’s see if they can maintain similar levels of comfort with their lurvely aluminum offerings.
Saddle Fi’zi:k Aliante VS Antares VS The wide, shallow groove that make for the Versus variants of several of Fi’zi:k’s saddles is designed to relieve pressure on delicate tissue without concentrating too much pressure on other areas.  If there’s someplace where you don’t want too much pressure duting a 24-hour race, it’s on ‘other areas.’  I’ve ridden and liked the shape of the Antares and the Aliante Gamma is my favorite mountain saddle- now we’ll see what the channel adds in the way of comfort for when long days turn into really long days.
Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic Racing Ralph Schwalbe somehow seem to have a lock on what makes fast-rolling tires grip and what makes grippy tires roll fast.  For Project 24, they’re sending out tubeless-ready Snakeskin versions of both their Racing Ralph and Nobby Nic tread patterns.  Depending on course conditions and my experiences leading up to the race, I’ll be selecting the combination that works best for me (and keeps me on the trail).  Whichever tires I choose, they should be under 600g apiece- or, as we say, stinky light.

Comments

eric - 12/30/10 - 9:56am

Did you pay for any of this or was everything provided free from the various manufacturers?

Carlito - 12/30/10 - 10:06am

That’s certainly an off-the-wall build kit! When are we gonna get some pictures and some GoPro action footage? ;-)

Billy Moffett - 12/30/10 - 11:28am

Whats the weight? Any chance we could get you to race the 18 Hour (Scouts Honor) in Richmond this year?

Marc - 12/30/10 - 8:59pm

Eric,

The only part of this build that I bought was the XTR group (and the not-mentioned headset and stem)- as with many (most?) of our reviews, companies have loaned us the gear to evaluate and write about. That said, I approached them for all of the reasons I mention in the text- it’s all stuff that I personally have an interest in and thought would make for a good fit for the project and interesting read…

Billy,

Thanks for the invite, but VA is a bit of a haul for me (Tucson is *only* 7 hours away). The bike isn’t built yet- the ’11 Ellsworths are just being built now. I get all excited every time I hear the UPS truck, though. My guess is that the entire build (with sealant, bottle cage, computer, pedals, etc) will come in at 24.75lb. I’ve got the AC wheels and Magura on another bike right now and they knocked almost a pound off of an already respectable build weight… Believe me, you’ll have photos as soon as it’s built.

marc

joseph grimes - 01/06/11 - 10:57pm

have you raced 24hrs before?? if not you may want to consider doubling up on bibshorts – sure you might need to lower your saddle 3mm but i think you’ll agree its worth it.

marc b - 01/09/11 - 2:44pm

Joseph,

I’ve done probably too many solo and duo 24 hour races at this point- enough that I should know better by now. I’ve never been a fan of doubling pads, actually- there are plenty of different shapes and thicknesses out there and doubling up can invalidate a lot of any given pad’s advantages. I’ve got a couple of models that work well for me and have found that keeping them clean and using a saddle that works for my body has been the best approach. I have learned, though, *not* to leave the best shorts for last. By the time you’re really wanting them, it’s probably too late.

marc

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