Project 24 Update: The Build
Find all Project 24 posts here!
After over two months of planning and anticipation, it’s exciting to pull a collection of parts together into an honest-to-goodness, rideable bicycle. As with any ground-up build, there were some lessons learned and last-minute parts ordering, but with just about a month to go before race day, everything came together very nicely. At this point, the Project 24 Ellsworth Truth has seen 120 miles of riding- and several of its components many more. Happily, it’s proving to be exactly what I had in mind.
When all is said and done, the Truth came together (with pedals, a bottle cage, sealant, and computer) at a shade under 25lb. While that is significantly heavier than the advertised weight of a lot of cross country bikes, those are often weighed in their smallest size without pedals, let alone accessories or the critical-in-the-desert 2 scoops of Stan’s sealant per UST tire. Really, there isn’t anywhere on this bike to shave a whole lot of weight without making some serious financial or durability sacrifices. Still, the size Large frame came in at 5.9lb with its Fox shock and the Candy 3 pedals aren’t Crank Brothers’ lightest. The biggest change will come when Schwalbe’s tubeless-ready 2011 tires replace the older UST models currently fitted. Click ‘more‘ for the details…
The biggest issue when building up Project 24 came from the headset. Because I thought I knew what headset was needed (and didn’t think to ask Ellsworth), I purchased what proved to be an incompatible headset for the build. When the frame arrived, it clearly didn’t fit- and headsets reducing the lower 1.5in Zero Stack head tube to fit the 1 1/8in straight fork steerer were difficult to find. Thankfully, Magura were able to swap our steerer out for a tapered version and both Ellsworth and Cane Creek came to the rescue with headsets to fit any liklihood.
Seeing as this bike was built with 2-person 24-hour racing in mind, we set out to pull together a bike that would be efficient, comfortable, predictable, and durable. Though the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo course isn’t particularly technical, the last thing that a rider needs is to be thrown into a cactus or bucked off of a water bar by an overly twitchy ride. While stiff, race-only bikes can be fast for 90-minute NORBA sprints, fatigue really starts to become a factor once the hours start to pile up. Ellsworth and Magura are two companies whose suspension doesn’t rely on excessive compression or platform damping to make a bike feel fast. Instead, priority is placed on effective, active suspension that helps to maintain traction and control and reduce fatigue by responding to both large and small impacts. At least that was the theory. Happily, the character and feel of Magura’s dual-arch Durin 100R fork couldn’t be better matched to that of the Truth. True, both will bob a bit if ridden choppily, but thrown into an unexpected rough patch at speed, both dispatch the terrain with the sort of confidence that makes me wonder why I didn’t dive in even harder. Anyone who thinks that fast bikes need be uncomfortable ought to try this combination.
The fantastic American Classic wheels and Formula R1 brakes have been performing without complaint or neediness for over a month, as have the Crank Brothers Cobalt 3 bar and seatpost. Despite my stated dislike of clamp-on grips, the foam Cobalts are winning me over- despite being freakishly light. I’ve been going back and forth between the Fi’zi:k Aliante VS and Antares VS saddles and both are similarly comfortable. Still, for a 12-hour day, the Aliante is looking like it deserves the nod and treated my happy parts well on Sunday’s 70-mile washboard-packed dirt road adventure.
The nickel-colored Truth’s blue rocker and “bling kit” work really well with the pewter and blue of the Crank Brothers components, with splashes of red coming from the R1s and American Classics. I really think that the bike came together nicely, appearance-wise. The only odd thing, aesthetically, is the Truth’s head tube. It took me a while to figure out why, with my usual 9in steerer, I needed so many spacers under the stem. It turns out that the Truth has the shortest head tube I’ve seen on any non-29er in its size: 5.5in. That, the Zero Stack Loaded headset, and the low-rise Cobalt handlebar mean that a lot of spacers were needed to get my bars to within a few inches of the saddle. It’s a visual stumbling block, but the saddle, grips, and pedals all ended up in the right place, so the bike fits just as it should, and that is what counts.
With only a few (though long) rides on the XTR 2×10 group, I’m still adjusting to the idea. The shifting, as expected, is excellent (though the high-normal rear isn’t as smooth as low-normal XTR was 2 generations ago), and each component is solidly and beautifully made. Everyone seems drawn to the contrast between painted and polished finish, best seen on the crankset. That’s one sexy crankset. What I’m finding, though, is that I’m shifting between chainrings more than ever I do with a triple setup. That could just be because I’m used to my old ways, but it seems as though the lower chainring doesn’t provide quite enough of a low end for fast sections and the big ring is a bit tall for some of the short steeps in my winter training grounds. Shimano do offer different XTR double combinations, but I had really expected to stay in one ‘ring or the other all of the time- and that hasn’t been the case. I bet that the gearing would be just right for a racy 29er- around here, the bigger wheels would probably make the smaller ring and wide-range cassette ideal for just about everything.
Exposure Lights’ US importers Ibex Sports have jumped on board Project 24 as well- we’re really looking forward to being obscenely well lit. Their 1200 Lumen MaXx D will be doing most of the heavy lifting with helmet-mounted support from the Joystick and Diablo. I’ve been riding the 1st generation Diablo for about a year and been blown away. With a Mark II Diablo, capable of putting out up to 900 Lumen, on the helmet and an external battery, we should be able to get 12hr at full tilt and 12hr on medium. Sweet.
Committing to spending a very long weekend on a collection of parts one has never ridden separately (let alone as a package) is pretty scary. Before this weekend of riding, I was really nervous- what if I’d cooked up some sort of high end hoopty monstrosity? Now that the Truth and I have bonded, I feel a whole lot better- and I’m looking forward to spending more time with her. With one more ‘hard’ week and two mellower weeks in the training plan, I’ll be dialing the Project 24 bike in a bit more and then heading for Tucson. Too much travel and the sickness that invariably results haven’t allowed me to prepare as well as I have in years past, but it should be a good time nonetheless. One thing is for sure: there’s absolutely nothing in this bike that should hold me back.