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Quiver Contentment

Two Bikes and He's Happy?

Words by Jon Harris.
July 22nd, 2014

“But what about a 650b downhill bike?” was Pete’s incredulous response. “You don’t have a downhill bike so how can you claim to be content?” Given that I was calling into question the n+1 ethos, the idea that a real, fully engaged mountain biker will only be happy with one more bike than they currently own, I understood his consternation. How could I, an ordained bike nut, have reached enlightenment? How could I be happy with these two mountain bikes when I’ve never come close to satisfaction before?

For the unenlightened n+1 is the optimal number of bikes you need, with n being equal to the number of bikes you currently own -Ed.

For the unenlightened, n+1 is the optimal number of bikes you need, with n being equal to the number of bikes you currently own -Ed.

It is unnerving. Seriously… This isn’t normal for me. I’ve been the guy who opens an mtb mag, bypasses the pretty pictures, and flips directly to the reviews. My greed for new parts and the latest technology has been monumental. I was a self-professed gear tart. As a mechanical engineer I have a thirst for technology, widgets and gadgets that has rarely been satisfied. In fact I’ve often been reckless and impulsive in my quest for the newest and shiniest.

Jon getting up to blur speed in Squamish for Todd Hellinga's smart phone.

Jon getting up to blur speed on Bike 1 in Squamish for Todd Hellinga’s smart phone.

I drank the 29er Koolaid a few years back and my plan was to get a Transition Trans Am hardtail. I headed in to test ride that bike but at the same time rode the new Transition Bandit – also a two nine. I went all in on the Bandit and my trusty two six Trek Remedy was quickly listed on the classifieds just one year after a big overhaul, including an expensive new paint job by Toxic Harold.

After less than a season of testing the rowdiness limits of big wheels on the North Shore, I read about the new Santa Cruz Tall Boy LTC. There wasn’t a bad word being written about this bike. It promised to be lively, light, stiff, carbon, sleek, swoopy, and carbon. Did I mention carbon? I resisted looking at it in person for as long as possible until I ended up in Steed Cycles for some cables. The Tallboy LTC demo bike was sat there and stupidly I took it out for a ride that weekend. It was love at first run down Bottletop. I was hitting little gaps and hits with more pop and energy and the bike was a beast uphill with tonnes of traction. Less than a week later the Transition (not even a year old) was sold and the Santa Cruz came home with me. Given this history, my newfound domestic satisfaction has caught me off guard.

Bike #1- 2012 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC (large frame in Carbon/orange) that started out with the stock XT build. Upgrades are relatively extensive. The cockpit was replaced with a Turbine stem and SixC bar. I fitted a Rock Shox Reverb, topped with a Syncros carbon railed saddle. Stock wheels were tossed for a set of Enve AM 29er rims laced to DT 240 hubs. The Fox 34 (which ended up on my other bike) was replaced with a 150 mm travel Pike Solo Air. A OneUp 42t cog and Rad cage gives the drivetrain a 1X hop up combined with a wolf tooth 30t chain ring. The final touch is an offset shock bush to slack the bike out a little. Sits at about 27lbs.

Bike #1- 2012 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc (large frame in Carbon/orange) that started out with the stock XT build. Upgrades are relatively extensive. The cockpit was replaced with a Turbine stem and SixC bar. I fitted a Rock Shox Reverb, topped with a Syncros carbon railed saddle. Stock wheels were tossed for a set of Enve AM 29er rims laced to DT 240 hubs. The Fox 34 (which ended up on my other bike) was replaced with a 150 mm travel Pike Solo Air. A OneUp 42t cog and Rad cage gives the drivetrain a 1X hop up combined with a wolf tooth 30t chain ring. The final touch is an offset shock bush to slack the bike out a little. Sits at about 27lbs.

This may set off some alarms in the bike industry. What if this contentment is contagious? The machine is driven by the new, improved, optimised, lighter, faster… The descriptors go on and the business banks on us becoming dissatisfied with bikes the marketing people convinced us we couldn’t live without just a year earlier.

I’m not sure what the future holds but right now my two mountain bikes are supremely dialed. I enjoy riding both of them equally and that has killed my lust for a replacement. And really I should be content. Both bikes have a little bike jewelry but what pleases me most is that each is a truly versatile ride. But I’ve had Swiss Army bikes before but my lust was undiminished. What the hell is going on? How after all these years have I gotten to this point?

Getting down in the jungle of Rotorua, NZ.

Getting down in the jungle of Rotorua, NZ.

Back to Pete’s dh bike contention; sure they are fun to ride but really, when I look at the rides that really stoke my fire, a downhill bike hasn’t factored in. There was a time when I was in the line for the lift at Whistler lusting over the newest rigs around me. The thing was that my friends no longer opt for a day of guilty pleasure in the park, so I often ended up there in the single’s line. It isn’t fun ripping it up without some buds to share beer and war stories with at the end of the day. I now have bikes that mesh with my buddies’ bikes. The glow of recapping narrowly missing a tree and then two-wheel drifting into the flat turn after is a big part of why I ride.

Bike #2 - Chromag Surface (large frame in pewter) built with a Sram XX1/XO1 mix for propulsion and XO brakes for stopping. The original fork from my Tallboy, the Fox 34 ended up on this bike. I could not go with anything but a Chromag cockpit with the BZA bar and stem and a KS LEV supports a Chromag saddle. Wheels are Hope EVO 2 hubs laced to Stans Flow rims and currently wrapped in WTB rubber. A solid lifer bike for the stable.

Bike #2 – Chromag Surface (large frame in pewter, hand built in B.C. by Chris Dekerf) built with a Sram XX1/XO1 mix for propulsion and XO brakes for stopping. The original fork from my Tallboy, the Fox 34 ended up on this bike. I could not go with anything but a Chromag cockpit with the BZA bar and stem and a KS LEV supports a Chromag saddle. Wheels are Hope EVO 2 hubs laced to Stans Flow rims and currently wrapped in WTB rubber. A solid lifer bike for the stable.

Another factor is self knowledge from years of riding experience. I know what type of rides are going to give me the buzz, that high I crave. As mountain biking has matured so have I and trails where I earn my turns with a good climb rewarded with a wicked view before plunging down; those fuel my fire and polish my soul.

The people in the bike business deserve kudos for the next factor. Bikes are more capable and
versatile than ever. I don’t think the true quiver killer has been perfected and I doubt it will be. Thankfully my two bikes cover a lot of ground with a 5” travel 29er and a 29er hardtail. Both allow me to shred within an inch of disaster and leave me with a duff-eating grin at the end of the ride. Finally, I’m a sucker for beauty and both of my rides look badass. Add it all up and, against the odds, I’m a happy camper.


 

Have you settled down as well? Do you think Jon is cured of n+1? How many bikes does it take to make you happy?

  • Cr4w

    I ride best when I’m really dialled in with my bike. If I have too many bikes and am switching too often then I’m not really settled. I currently have a DH bike for park and shuttles and an E29 for everything else and this is really all I need. I lust after new bikes and parts but new stuff also means a whole new block of rides devoted to dialling in that new thing to get really familiar with it. There’s something to be said about shredding on what you already know and love.

    • James Brant

      i have 2 bikes i’m really happy with but sometimes wonder if, like Craw states, i’d be better off getting my chops dialed on the one steed. most my mates have 1 and i go back and forth. mostly though i do like the choice and different builds and travel, depending on trails and mood. no ideal, but 2 bikes is pretty cool and i’ll be keeping it that way for the foreseeable future.

      • Cr4w

        Having 2 is nice when one goes does down for a few days for some significant work.

      • Jonathan Harris

        This is definitely a good benefit. Also having similar enough bike so parts can be swapped is handy.

  • Marco

    I too am a long-time n+1 sufferer who has succumbed to the new “optimal quiver” theory. One tricked out SC Bronson (Enve, 160 Pike, XO-1, Havoc 35) and a 150mm Kona Explosif steel hardtail w OneUp conversion pretty much covers 95% of the riding I’m doing, and I don’t see many gaps to fill with new shiny bits and bikes being released. Do I really need a DH or 7″ freeride bike for the 5 days a year I’m in the bike park? Or am I secretly worried getting such a bike will force me to hit those big jump lines I currently ignore for my “all mountain” experience? Questions to ponder while, after 25 years of this, I wonder “can it really get any better?”

  • Jason F

    Similar story for me as well! I went from 3-4 mountain bikes being the ideal to a single one. I am happy to say I have not narrowed my types of riding down at all, either–the new breed of 6″ bikes are simply capable enough to do it. Also, going down to a single bike afforded me the ability to not cut any corners in the build, so I’m on a Knolly Chilcotin with XX1 and full compliment of my favourite parts. It’s at home on Whistler’s park trails, Squamish’s epics, and the local shore rips.

    My second bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker which is equally versatile, being as happy to do beach runs as it would be doing world tours. It is built tough enough to survive an apocalypse, and as a result it’s actually heavier than my Knolly! Two bikes, and I can ride downhill, enduro, all mountain, trail, cross country, road, gravel, cyclocross, and just about anything else I want to.

  • Bryce

    I have 2 bikes pretty similar to Craw – big travel (but pedalable) 26″ bike and a light 29er trail bike

    I’ll prolly get a slew of hate for asking this but… whats the point of that HT? What does it do better than the TBLTC? Other than pumptracks. I dont get the HT love, other than the retroness.

    • Jonathan Harris

      The Chromag Surface is one of the most grin inducing bikes I have ridden. Sure I might not go as fast, sure I am more physically beaten up at the end of a ride… But nothing makes you think about how you ride and what lines you pick like a hardtail. I am sure it makes me ride my fully faster when I get back on it.

    • GettingOlderGoingSlower

      I replaced a Trek Fuel with a Transition TransAm 29er and the TransAm is heavier, slower (as proven by strava), harder to ride up technical climbs, and less able to pull me through when I get sketchy going down. But it’s also given me more enjoyment per mile than most bikes I have ever owned.

      Biking doesn’t make sense, spending thousands of dollars to ride in dirt circles is almost impossible to justify on any real logical level. But riding in dirt circles is also one of my greatest passions in life, and doing it on a HT doesn’t need to make any more, or less sense than doing it on a FS. I’m not racing, I’m just riding. The term “faster” or “better” is almost meaningless, I’m just looking for whatever maximizes my fun.

  • Mdouven

    I also have lowered count in the past 2 years. I have not been on a full on DH bike in 2 years. I’m currently on a tricked out stumpy evo 29 which pretty much does it all and a road bike. Life is great. I often look at what is coming out and once I take the stumpy down a trail I cant really think of anything else I would want or need.

  • UTZach

    As one who has owned a Tallboy LT and currently owns a Chromag Surface I fully support your choice of bikes. They are probably my two favorite bikes out of countless bikes I’ve owned and ridden.

    • Jonathan Harris

      Thanks man, as you can tell I am pretty happy with both of those bikes right now. :)

  • Mike MacKinnon

    i currently have 2 rides , a mini-dh/park bike and a all mountain trail bike , the trail bike a is a 26″ Kona Process that is a absolute blast to ride , climbs really well and rips down the hills , my other ride is a 26″ Kona Entourage with a 888 up front , this is more of a toy now as my trailbike works so much better for my weekly riding desires . we just had a park day yesterday and my son choose to ride his Kona Process 153 over his Stab and he had a absolute ball and had no regrets . as bikes progress i can see more and more riders downsizing their stables .

    as for the authors choose of rides i,d be very happy if those where my only rides as well :)

  • forever young

    Don’t read nsmb much. This article is why. I am best to leave this site to all the old men. Thank god for pinkbike.

  • megrim

    John, great article!! I have a 2 bike rule at my house; I can have pretty much anything I want as long as there’s only 2. I still think I’m pretty lucky and more than 2 bikes would be hard to ride enough to make it worth it. I just picked up a new Nomad and it feels like the bike was built for me. I’m blown away at how much fun it is (both up and down). So I’m looking to get my other bike at the same level of fun. I have a quick question about your Tallboy LT. The bike looks pretty cool, but it looks a little steep. Do you know what your HA ended up at after the taller fork and off set bushings? Where did you pick up the bushings/reducers? Thanks!!

    Mike

    • Jonathan Harris

      Using my crude iPhone based angle of dangle finder the head angle is close around 68 degrees. On paper I’d say a little slacker would be nice but in use it feels as slack as is needed.

  • dirtbeard

    so bike 1 isn’t the girl with the tshirt on.hmmmm