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Dream Builds

Phil Szczepaniak's Mix-Wheeled Chromag Surface Ti

Words A.J. Barlas
Photos A.J. Barlas
Date May 4, 2021
Reading time
Presented By
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Dream Builds is a series that highlights two-wheeled passion projects among our fellow riders. Turning a Dream Build into a reality takes time, passion, and commitment. The folks at RideWrap want to help you protect your own Dream Build because it's an investment. If you've got a bike that fits the series, we'd love to feature it, and give you a chance to win a Tailored Protection Kit from RideWrap. You can submit your Dream Build photos in one of two ways:

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We'll pick two winning submissions and feature them on the site. The two winners will get a Tailored Protection Kit, courtesy of RideWrap.


Since my early days riding mountain bikes, I’ve had a deep desire for titanium frames but I can’t work out why. I built a DMR Trailstar circa 2001, and I spent some time ogling Ti hardtail options and their price tags. A few years later, Dan Atherton used a titanium-framed Commencal Absolut for some of his 4x racing, which got my juices flowing again. The feel of a steel frame has always appealed to me and everything about Ti sounds better. And it's hard to ignore the finish.

When Chromag released their Surface Ti, I once again had to calm an elevated heartbeat. I have no interest in trail riding on a hardtail, but the bike caught my eye regardless. It seems that glorious finish and promised Ti ride-feel was too much for Phil Szczepaniak, who traded his Chromoly framed Surface for the titanium option a couple of years ago. Since then, Phil’s done some puzzling with wheel sizes and, after initially running the bike with a ‘plump’ setup (650b 2.8-inch tires) he settled on a mix-wheel build with 2.5-inch Maxxis DH tires. Surprisingly, the bike is set up sensibly and not so surprisingly for anyone familiar with Phil, it's ridden hard, especially as his winter weapon of choice.

Phil also has a very unique setup thanks to a birth defect that affected his hands. With fewer fingers than most, his cockpit is quite different and is the result of decades of refinement. Modern technology hasn’t hurt either and Phil’s always looking for ways to further improve his controls. He certainly hasn’t let his hands stop or slow him down at all and it’s a wonder to watch him dissect technical lines that scare others.

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Mix-wheel sized, sensible running gear, a bag for food and supplies, and that Ti frame deliciousness.

A.J.: What drew you to the Chromag Surface and why the Ti option?

Phil: I love the slightly more traditional geometry of the Surface. Because I have a bigger bike for the gnarlier riding around here (Squamish, B.C.), I went with the Surface over the Rootdown/Primer or Doctahawk. I like that there is less overlap for different types of riding.

The Ti is my third Surface and what drew me to it was the almost 2 lb weight drop without sacrificing durability. I've been riding for over 25 years now, and one of my all-time favourite bikes I owned was a GT Xizang Ti, fully kitted out in M900 XTR and all the bling. So you might say the reason was nostalgic.

Have you noticed the benefits of the Ti frame over your previous chromoly steel Chromag? Can you share some of those with readers?

I was expecting it to be very similar to my steel frames which I love, but I found it to be more springy and sporty feeling than the more muted feel of steel. It was a nice surprise. And the weight difference was actually noticeable!

The bike feels great to wheel around. Everything is smooth and it almost goes without human input. Do you make a conscious effort to keep everything running super well or is it purely part selection?

Not really – I just have a basic routine of a full clean/degrease drivetrain after 3–4 rides. The DT hubs always roll great. As for the fork, I do like to run it super supple off the top with three volume spacers at 65psi. Bottom outs are rare.

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A Fox 36 Elite with FIT4 damper takes care of front wheel impacts. Phil has three volume spacers with 65psi and runs the FIT4 open "always." The fork feels great.

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With the FIT4 compression open, Phil has the fork '3 in from open on the "Firmness" setting.' His rebound is 6 in (from open).

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An RRP Mini Bolt-On fender takes care of the winter muck that the bike is often served.

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It's a neat setup that works well with forks that have threaded slots in the arch.

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A de-badged DT 350 front hub sits at the centre of the front wheel. I've felt some nice hubs before but I could swear Phil has some voodoo magic going on here because this thing almost felt motorized! I've never noticed so little drag in a DT hub.

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The rear wheel is laced together with a DT 350 as well. Phil upgraded to the 54-tooth star ratchet to better serve his desire for technical climbing challenges.

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Maxxis Assegai DH tires front and rear. He's happy with the handling of the mix-wheel setup and runs 19–20 psi front…

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And 22 psi rear. There are no inserts and he has no desire to try them based on his experiences with others who have had them.


No inserts here. I haven't even experimented with them because I've witnessed so much trailside faffing from people that have punctured with inserts. I've also heard the installation horror stories. I feel the lower pressures with the DH casing give me enough sidewall support for my riding.
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Sturdy carcasses allow Phil to get away with lower pressures and provide additional grip.

Walk us through your wheel experimentation with the Surface Ti.

I rode this bike in plus format from day one, on Easton ARC 40s but was beating the shit out of them. I chatted with Dustin at We Are One at the time about a 40mm rim, but he was resistant at that time to even go over 30mm internal width! With his racing background, it was very hard to sway him to wider rims. After much back and forth, he finally decided to make a set of prototypes at 35mm, which I ended up running with my 2.8 tires. Later on, Dustin told me they ended up being named the Convert because of this. Ironically, Dustin is a 'convert' too because he runs the 35mm internal on the front of his bike.

Fast forward to 2020, and I tried throwing the front wheel (We Are One Union) from my big bike (Santa Cruz Megatower) to try a mullet setup and haven't looked back. I will likely build up a Convert front wheel in 29 to swap between the bikes.

For hubs, I am a huge fan of the DT Swiss 350s for reliability and just overall simplicity. I can't fault the star ratchet design.

Maxxis DH casing tires front and rear! Fill us in.

I used to run EXO front and rear for the weight savings but would always have two or three flats per season, some worse than others. Last fall I said fuck it (A.J: after another flat that resulted in much heckling from fellow riders, myself included), I'm done with EXO and went full DD or DH casing (depending on what's available) on both front and rear. So I suffer a bit more on the ups but have peace of mind for bigger rides. I also don't bother carrying a tube – just plugs. So far so good.

The current tire setup is Assegai DH Casing front/rear with MaxxGrip compound. Since this bike is used in the off-season mostly, from October to April, I find it's the smart solution for slippery everything.

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Ti bikes always appear to be finished to a high standard. Chromag isn't shy of attention to detail, so of course, they pulled it off well.

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The gloss on rough/matte finish of the Surface Ti makes it look every bit as expensive as it is.

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I'm a sucker for some weld porn…

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Here's some more…

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More again…

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Okay, the last one. Something about high quality welds is very appealing to me and Phil's Surface Ti certainly gets the heart racing. A frame like this could be hung on a wall as a beautiful art piece.

You have an interesting setup for your controls. Tell us about that.

I have weird hands, a birth defect, which makes my cockpit setups rather unique. I'm missing a few digits on each side, making my contact area much narrower on the grips. The longer levers on the MT5 brakes help with this so I don't have to cut my grips down, as I've done in the past with other brake levers.

I also suffer from grip strength issues, so these brakes are a no-brainer. The power input at the lever is so little to get so much braking power at the caliper. The modulation is also incredible and works great riding for my favourite terrain here in Squamish – steep grippy granite slabs.

I also run my dropper lever on the right-hand side because I have no way of actuating the traditional left-hand shifter side due to my left-hand deformity. I was a full adopter of 1x drivetrains way back in 2011 for this exact reason! I'm very excited about the advent of electronic droppers for obvious reasons.

Have you experimented much with your brakes (brand, style etc.) or their position?

I have used most major brands on the market, and about four years ago, Tippie recommended I try Maguras and set me up with a set. I couldn't believe the power and have been on them ever since. Disclaimer: I'm on the Magura ambassador program and do yap on the trail about how amazingly they work for me.

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At first glance, the cockpit looks like a fairly common affair for the Sea-To-Sky Corridor. But look closely and there's clearly something special happening.

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A Chromag BZA stem holds the OneUp low rise bars in place.

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But Phil's unique hands mean most of his controls are on the right side.


I run my [brake] levers slightly biased up, but close to neutral. I haven't done any additional adjustments with the angle to deal with my hands. – Phil Szczepaniak
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Phil says the long levers of the Magura brakes do a lot to help him with this setup.

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His derailleur, rear brake and dropper post are all controlled from the right.

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Phil's hands; the result of a birth defect.

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Phil demonstrates how he is able to access his controls on the right…

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And his white knuckle approach when things permit.

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On the left, his front brake sits alone.

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"I'm very excited about the advent of electronic droppers for obvious reasons."

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OneUp's grips take care of his hands.

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The ridges certainly help when things get rough.

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My first Dream Build shoot that involved a King component. With a Ti frame, it's a must have.

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The new OneUp Threadless EDC carrier holds the tool, pliers, plugs and quick link.

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Phil stores spare brake pads ("Maguras fit!"), spare cleat bolts, and other little emergency items in the OneUp pump.


The frame bag is to hold an extra pair of gloves for winter and wet weather rides, and snacks! – Phil Szczepaniak
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Phil also carries extras in this little frame bag, to make sure he's got everything covered on those cold winter rides.

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Phil runs his brake levers slightly higher than neutral but not by much.

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He's not picky about his bar roll but runs it slightly back from neutral.

Is the slight offset (rotation) between the left and right grip part of that?

That is likely pilot error! No special details there.

I didn't realize RideWrap did a chainstay protector. How are you liking that?

For some strange reason, I never had chainstay protection on the Chromag until recently. The material on the RideWrap protection is pretty interesting and thick, almost like a damper.

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The drivetrain is an 11-speed Shimano XT, with some tweaks.

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The 11-speed derailleur has been modified with the OneUp Shark cage.

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And the cassette maxes out at a 47-tooth OneUp sprocket.

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Phil recently added the Ride Wrap chainstay protector to the bike but for the first couple of years ran it bare, which was as noisy as you may be able to imagine.

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A set of SRAM XX1 cranks take care of power transfer. Phil has the stock SRAM bottom bracket connecting them to the frame but says he'll update to something else when it's time to replace it.

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The OneUp Chain Guide in orange keeps the chain in place. Being on a hardtail in Squamish, the guide is dealt its fair share of abuse.

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A hammered set of Shimano XTR pedals keep Phil's feet attached to the bike.


To me, riding a technical trail on sight for the first time is usually the most enjoyable. [I'm] Also a fan of cleaning and sessioning technical climbs, and finding new uphill challenges, which seems to be a lost art. – Phil Szczepaniak
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Magura MT5 brakes help Phil with stopping duties. His rear brake is mounted on another Canadian brand's brake adapter; North Shore Billet.

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He runs a 180mm rotor in the rear.

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Out front, Phil uses a 203mm rotor, also mounted to a NSBillet brake adapter.

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His bike is also a victim to the rise of integrated tools.

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Magura's four-piston brakes feature unique, independant pads for each piston. This allows Phil to store spares inside his OneUp Pump.

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A 180mm OneUp Dropper Post provides him with the range of clearance he needs, just barely. It's secured in place with a 9Point8 clamp.

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Phil's a member of the anti-chamois crowd too and is comfortable with the Chromag Trailstar saddle.

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The only internally routed cable is the dropper post's.

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She's a beaut.

Phil's Chromag Surface Ti Specs

Brand/Model Notes
Frame: Chromag Surface Ti w/ RideWrap Chainstay Armor Size Large
Shock: 2.5-inch Maxxis DH rubber
Fork: Fox 36 Elite FIT4 29 (170mm) 65psi w/ 3 spacers. FIT4 "always open" 3 from open on "Firmness" setting. R: 6 (from open)
Brakes: Magura MT5 4 piston 203mm rotor front, 180mm rear
Wheels: We Are One Convert rear & We Are One Union front Both wheels built on DT 350 hubs. The rear hub has the upgraded 54T star ratchet. "The more engagement the better, as I enjoy technical climbs, and ratchet quite a bit during them."
Tires: Maxxis Assegai 29 x 2.5 front and Assegai 27.5 x 2.5 DH front tire tires front and rear. 19–20 psi front, 22 psi rear
Drivetrain: Shimano XT 11-speed w/ OneUp Switch Chainring OneUp Shark cage on derailleur and OneUp 47T sprocket
Cranks: SRAM XX1 Carbon 170mm length
Chainguide: OneUp Chain Guide Orange
Bar & Stem: Chromag BZA 35mm stem and OneUp 35mm "low rise bars." The built-in flex is great for my hands, and even more so for a hardtail!
Grips: OneUp
Pedals: Shimano XT Well used and abused
Seatpost: Oneup V2 Dropper and remote 180mm drop
Saddle: Chromag Trailmaster Orange
Extras: OneUp EDC in the headtube, OneUp pump. NSBillet brake adaptors front and rear, RideWrap Chainstay protection OneUp pump internals store spare brake pads (Maguras fit!), spare cleat bolts, and other little emergency items.
Weight: N/A "No clue!"
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Say hi to Phil!

Phil Szczepaniak

  • Height: 6'
  • Weight: 175lbs
  • Inseam: 31"
  • Riding Style: The more technical and steep the better. Slow, steep, pick it apart janky trails are my favourite. [I'm] Not a huge fan of flow trails. I usually don't ride trails on repeat to keep things fresh and interesting. To me, riding a technical trail on-sight for the first time is usually the most enjoyable. [I'm] Also a fan of cleaning and sessioning technical climbs, and finding new uphill challenges, which seems to be a lost art.
  • Bar roll: Not super finicky about this – I would say slightly back from neutral.
  • Job: 3D Technical Animator

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Comments

MTBohana
+6 papa44 Cr4w Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Tremeer023 Lynx .
MTBohana  - May 4, 2021, 1:57 a.m.

I wish titanium frames caught on and not carbon fiber. I love seeing welds on bikes. The smooth look on carbon frames looks ugly. Plus, titanium is such a better material for mountain bikes. To bad it's to hard to work with. Man, I wish I could have a full suspension enduro rig made out of titanium.

Reply

hongeorge
+1 MTBohana
hongeorge  - May 4, 2021, 3:05 a.m.

Reply

hongeorge
+3 Cr4w Vik Banerjee Lynx .
hongeorge  - May 4, 2021, 3:01 a.m.

I'm inpressed by anyone who can pedal two Assegais up a hill - I find one on the front super draggy

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+1 Muesliman
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 8:30 a.m.

The crazy thing is they didn't seem to be holding this back when I was mucking about for the shoot. I'm sure a faster rolling tire would be bonkers on this bike if rolling speed were a priority.

Reply

Muesliman
+1 AJ Barlas
Muesliman  - May 4, 2021, 9 a.m.

A fast rolling rear tire would make it a rocket. Currently running a Nobby Nic rear and Minion DHF front on a Vendetta X2

Reply

DanLees1978
+2 Pete Roggeman Muesliman
Dan Lees  - May 4, 2021, 3:21 a.m.

Lovely bike!  He gets bonus points for matching fork decals, to saddle, to chain guide and to tyre logos.

As someone with somewhat mismatched hands but  (I am missing my little finger on my left hand along with a good chunk of the palm) I find his cockpit set up interesting.

I run my brakes the normal UK way (rear on left) but have pondered with swapping them.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 8:31 a.m.

Have you done anything specific with your setup to help account for your mismatched hands, Dan?

Reply

DanLees1978
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
Dan Lees  - May 5, 2021, 3:39 a.m.

Not massively, as you can see from the pics below my situation isn't that bad to be honest.

Left brake lever is slightly more outboard than the right as my left index finger is slightly further outboard.

I'm really fussy about grips, like abnormally fussy.

I don't get on with lock on grips that have an outer clamp as the outer clamp pushes on a nerve in the outer bit of my left palm that would normally be safely tucked away. 

Race Face Half Nelsons seem to be the best (but not perfect) , currently trying SDG Thrice and they are OK-ish,  but the outer flange is a bit too hard so will revert back to Half Nelsons,  I probably wouldn't have bought the Thrice grips in person, but getting to a good bike shop is problematic where I live.  DMR Death Grip are on my "to try" list.

Maximum static grip strength (say on a barbell) isn't massively different maybe 5% or so, but on the bars the difference is multiplied when i have my index finger is covering the brakes as I'm down to thumb, middle and ring fingers to grip the bar.  That being said I have only ever had my left hand completely blown off the bars once and that was on a bike path where I wasn't looking where i was going and rode into a brick! Well done me.

If there is an issue is that sometimes i have to grip the bars harder on my left hand and it stops me relaxing and i end up riding "tight".

Left:

Right for reference:

Reply

phil-szczepaniak
0
Phil Szczepaniak  - May 5, 2021, 8 a.m.

Thanks for sharing! I know what you mean, about clamping strength. That's the challenge I have on longer descents... even though it has one more finger than my right hand, I have a useless finger that is basically in the way. So with one finger on the brake lever, I only have two fingers remaining for clamping the bar (over, under). So I guess 1 digit short of what you are describing.

This leads to me having a spectacular 'hand flying off the bar' situation 2-3 times a season. On longer descents I deathgrip the bar and only use rear brake (right hand is way stronger and more developed) in sections I know I can get away with it.  I also take breaks on longer sustained descents for my own safety.

Do you have issues with jumps/drops? When I'm in the air I'm always fully deathgrip both sides, and then once wheels hit the ground I grab for brake levers. Results in a braking lag that makes some drops to turns impossible for me.

Reply

DanLees1978
0
Dan Lees  - May 5, 2021, 9:11 a.m.

No worries! 

Do you have issues with jumps/drops? When I'm in the air I'm always fully deathgrip both sides, and then once wheels hit the ground I grab for brake levers. Results in a braking lag that makes some drops to turns impossible for me.

I have used a similar technique but only on really long descents where I can feel my left hand getting tired and my grip starting to go, places like the French/Swiss Alps, Bike Park Wales or WBP, for the relatively short Downhills we tend to have in the UK it tends to not be an issue.  

I have also noticed that arm pump is worse on my left side too, probably as I'm asking the forearm muscles that remain to generate more force/do more work with less. I seem to have very little of a Flexor Carpi Ulnaris - and why would I?  I suspect the Depuytrens Contracture I have on that hand too probably doesn't help.

I have just made the jump from an old (so old it has a QR rear) Chromag Rootdown to a Banshee Prime (160mm front and 135mm rear) and it'll be interesting to see if it makes a much of a difference for me, certainly seems to help the rest of my aching joints.

I didn't mention it in my initial post but I'm also the worlds fussiest glove purchaser/user.  My riding buddies Alan and Aaron have hands a similar size to me and have received a fair pairs of barely used gloves.

Gloves have to have:

-  a velcro cuff to accommodate the lower volume round the left wrist 

- no armour at all as I tuck the little finger material inside the palm to take up some of the extra space in the palm section if that makes sense?  

- Palms cannot stretch or the left one will end up a overly baggy mess in short order.  

- Sizing has to be tight AF on the right to fit OK on the left. 

Winter gloves are even trickier as my hands run hot like the rest of me but if my left hand gets cold it's game over as all the scar tissue from the operations goes all stiff.

100% Brisker or Ridefit and Dakine Syncline are current favourites. Fox used to be good but then they changed the palm material.  I tend to buy a couple of sets once I find something I like.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - May 5, 2021, 6:16 p.m.

Have you ever had a glove you like modified to remove the extra finger and potentially create a better fit? I think Phil does this with his? He at least has before.

DanLees1978
0
Dan Lees  - May 6, 2021, 2:03 a.m.

Have you ever had a glove you like modified to remove the extra finger and potentially create a better fit? I think Phil does this with his? He at least has before.

Not since my mum used tailor my woolen gloves for school!

For a long while it wasn't an issue as I just bought Fox Ranger gloves and did the finger tuck thing. 

Maybe I'll see about alteration places in my area.

phil-szczepaniak
0
Phil Szczepaniak  - May 6, 2021, 1:50 p.m.

I have been lazy with altering my gloves so people see flapping fingers on the end of my handlebars! But yes there is a tailor in Squamish that usually takes care of 'glove edits' for me. haha

andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - May 6, 2021, 2:27 p.m.

@Dan Lees. You could try the Chromag Format grips. They are a super tacky, single lock ring (which could be improved by making it have a flat outer surface) grip with a hard end cap (good for when smashing trees or crashing). 

I ride without gloves and I am super fussy about grips too (large palms and short digits) as I need to run a smaller diameter grip but still want it to dampen the rider but provide insane levels of grip when my hands are wet with sweat, water or snow.

They are almost the perfect grip.

Reply

DanLees1978
0
Dan Lees  - May 7, 2021, 6:33 a.m.

They do look good!

Reply

papa44
0
papa44  - May 4, 2021, 4:19 a.m.

I have a hideously outdated (I kid) chromag surface that’s non boost that I also had to drill for a stealth dropper, but I love it so much my wife has it rather than sell it on. I replaced it with a production privee shan gt but man oh man if I had the money I’d go for the ti, unlike Phil I never rode the Xizang but I dreamed of owning it. Great bike check love it.

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AJ_Barlas
+1 papa44
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 8:32 a.m.

How's that PP Shan GT compare to your Surface? You should submit them for the reader's Dream Builds contest…

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papa44
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papa44  - May 5, 2021, 1:30 p.m.

Yeah good shout I might get some photos over. It’s surprising how similar both ride although I haven’t had the Shan in the alps yet, where I’m expecting it’s differences to become apparent, for better or worse

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mrbrett
+3 Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Phil Szczepaniak
mrbrett  - May 4, 2021, 7:38 a.m.

Those 11-47 Oneup/XT cassettes worked great. I ran one for years - good bail out gear, no giant jumps BTW gearing steps. Kinda wish there were 12s options closer to that range rather than 50/51/52t.

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hongeorge
+3 AJ Barlas Cr4w gubbinalia
hongeorge  - May 4, 2021, 9:33 a.m.

Shimano do a 10-45 12sp casssette in XT and XTR

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cooperquinn
+2 Phil Szczepaniak Cr4w
Cooper Quinn  - May 4, 2021, 8:01 a.m.

But where does he store potato?

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AJ_Barlas
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AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 8:33 a.m.

In his pocket. :)

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cooperquinn
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
Cooper Quinn  - May 4, 2021, 11 a.m.

That's where the fancy coffee goes, AJ.

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phil-szczepaniak
+1 Pete Roggeman
Phil Szczepaniak  - May 4, 2021, 12:20 p.m.

AJ didn't look inside the EDC setup... perfect place for a little 'potato juice'...

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AJ_Barlas
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 4:27 p.m.

Didn't I? ;)

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craw
+5 Pete Roggeman AJ Barlas Phil Szczepaniak Mammal Velocipedestrian
Cr4w  - May 4, 2021, 8:03 a.m.

Always upvote ti. If you were coming up in the 90s it's like a badge of the times to have a ti fixation. I certainly do.

Interesting tire choice and no inserts. Makes sense. I wonder just how long I'm going to have to go without issue to stop carrying a tube or a chain tool. I've used mine zero times in the last 2-3 years. I'll probably carry them forever, another mindset relic from the 90s I guess.

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xy9ine
+3 AJ Barlas Phil Szczepaniak Cr4w
Perry Schebel  - May 4, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

yeah, ti was SO hot back in the 90's. local frames from rocky, kona, norco, cove, rektek (i believe most, if not all of these were contract built by sandvik in WA). merlin was super lusty as well. couldn't afford the price of admission at the time, so never actually owned a ti bike, but they still hold a nostalgic appeal to me.

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phil-szczepaniak
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Phil Szczepaniak  - May 4, 2021, 8:56 a.m.

Rektek! There's a throwback. Thanks for that!

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craw
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Cr4w  - May 4, 2021, 9 a.m.

I'd almost consider having a Merlin decal made with the old serif font and put it on my current ti bike.

edit. https://www.merlinbikes.com/shop/merlin-decal-325

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AJ_Barlas
+3 Phil Szczepaniak Mammal Velocipedestrian
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

It's not a bad mindset relic to hold onto. At the very least you can help a friend in need. My last one went to Phil and it was what cemented his decision to move to DH tires. Unfortunately, that tube I gave him had been on my bike too long and developed a hole. But it made for some funny antics in the depths of the woods on a cold winter afternoon.

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craw
+1 Muesliman
Cr4w  - May 4, 2021, 9:03 a.m.

I still travel with a pack and my spare tube lives in a little compartment I forget is even there. And my chain tool lives in my EDC so may as well bring it! 

I remember a few years back getting a flat with a Huck Norris insert and having to pull that gooey mess out so I could stuff the tube back in. That wasn't super pleasant, but as a pack wearer I just tucked it away. All of this becomes more challenging if you're strapping everything to your frame.

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samnation
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
samnation  - May 4, 2021, 8:44 a.m.

Very Nice bike Phil, I'm interested in the positive reviews that seem to be following Magura brakes around these days!

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ferginthewoods
+1 Muesliman
Adam Ferguson  - May 4, 2021, 9:19 a.m.

curious if he's noticed anything he likes or dislikes with the big changes to the head/seat angles c/o running a pretty long travel fork in addition to the mullet setup.

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phil-szczepaniak
+1 Muesliman
Phil Szczepaniak  - May 4, 2021, 4:51 p.m.

Surprisingly, I haven't noticed really any negative things about it. The STA was steep to begin with, so no issues there. This Surface version was originally designed around 29 / 27+ so I was a bit timid to go 27.5 regular (2.5) rear, mostly concerned with crank strikes (170mm).  Nada. The setup was super confidence inspiring and I was comfortable descending most things in Squamish I'd do on my Mega(Tower).

Then, after a month or so I thought why not up the travel to 170. Only then did I notice some wallowing on the steepest of grunty climbs. I feel it's worth the small tradeoff for a little bit more plushness up front.

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ferginthewoods
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
Adam Ferguson  - May 5, 2021, 10:51 a.m.

Thanks for the reply Phil, I went mullet on my Rootdown over the winter as part of running a rigid fork experiment and now I'm back with the Lyrik on the front still running the mullet with no real perceived issues.  Another question which frame bag is that?

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phil-szczepaniak
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Phil Szczepaniak  - May 5, 2021, 1:17 p.m.

Alpine Threadworks ! they make great stuff!

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wishiwereriding
+1 AJ Barlas
John Keiffer  - May 4, 2021, 9:32 a.m.

Awesome riders bike Phil. Thanks for sharing your ride, choices, and individual necessary adaptations.

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MuscogeeMasher
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MuscogeeMasher  - May 4, 2021, 9:40 a.m.

Super cool and very interesting.

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cerealkilla_
+1 Muesliman
jdt  - May 4, 2021, 10:26 a.m.

Phil can climb pretty well already ....this bike just makes it ridiculous.

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AJ_Barlas
+2 Phil Szczepaniak Muesliman
AJ Barlas  - May 4, 2021, 4:29 p.m.

He is a tech climbing maestro. Always impresses the bejesus out of me.

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blaklabl
+2 AJ Barlas Muesliman
blaklabl  - May 4, 2021, 3:35 p.m.

Nothing to add from a bike perspective (other than I am also a modern-geo titanium hardtail guy and love your setup), but one of the best bosses and nicest humans I ever had the pleasure to know in my career had the same birth defect.  Ectrodactyly?  I have never seen nor met anyone else that has had it until this article.  Really digging your ride and the cockpit adjustments to work for you!  Thank you so much for sharing your bike with us.

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phil-szczepaniak
+1 blaklabl
Phil Szczepaniak  - May 4, 2021, 4:56 p.m.

Cool name! I've never really looked into what it's called or anything! I feel like my ideal setup would be AXS but with a three button paddle on the RHS... upshift, downshift, dropper.

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craw
+1 AJ Barlas
Cr4w  - May 4, 2021, 5:35 p.m.

I bet someone could combine the two remotes into one right-sided shifter. Or stack them somehow. Please do an update if you figure this out!

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Jankslayer
+1 AJ Barlas
Cody Canning  - May 4, 2021, 11:26 p.m.

I own a Surface Ti, it’s the best. Does all the trails in the most fun way possible.

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Jotegir
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Lu Kz  - May 5, 2021, 10:54 a.m.

TI Chromag and an Optic? Mans got taste.

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phil-szczepaniak
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Phil Szczepaniak  - May 5, 2021, 1:29 p.m.

The Optic is my wife's bike, she's getting along with it pretty well so far!

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Jotegir
+1 Phil Szczepaniak
Lu Kz  - May 5, 2021, 3:58 p.m.

Ok fine. Couples got taste.

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Lynx
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Lynx .  - May 12, 2021, 3:58 a.m.

First up DAYAMN, that bike is super sweet, but then again, like the owner, I have a lust for Ti since I started riding MTBs in 2004 and a guy had a sweet Ti HT - unfortunately 2 sizes too small to nick :-D I have since lusted after owning a custom Ti, but just can't afford one yet, so have settled for a nice, basic steel Monkey, then Unit. Reading Phil's comment on the ride vs his steel version of the same bike, certainly does not help my wanting of Ti since I prefer full rigid.

To Phil, as someone who has quite a bit of experience with 11spd Shimano (built and worked on quite a few bikes with it), I can tell you that you picked the absolute worst shifter you possibly could in the XT, somehow Shimano absolutely shit the bed with it, it's super stiff and hard to push, I'd highly recommend either going to an XTR or SLX. I only just moved my Unit to 11spd Shimano and didn't have XTR $$, but no way in hell was I going with an XT shifter, so went SLX even though I lost the double push feature, it's so much smoother and easier to shift with it, but not quite as precise.

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