You Should Ride a Rigid Fork

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Feb 1, 2017

If you are a pro, you ride the fastest thing you can get. If you aren’t, then you can ride anything
that suits you.” – Keith Bontrager*

Sideways Glance

It always starts with a sideways glance. “WTF” plainly communicated with the incredulous lifting of an eyebrow. Most folks leave it at that. Some don’t. Often enough I hear “I used to ride a rigid fork, I’m glad those days are over.”

Oh yeah, how long ago was that? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that last rigid bike had a stem longer than 110mm, bars narrower than 600mm, a head angle steeper than most road bikes are running these days, and a pair of 2.1″ or smaller tires. Panaracer Smoke & Dart combo? Maybe some Scratch-and-Sniffs? WTB Velociraptors?

Bikes have improved in a lot of ways since the late 80’s and early 90’s. Yes, suspension is amazing now. But don’t forget about Geometry. Tires. Disk Brakes. Dropper Posts.

Rigid Fork . Phil Rohrer

Wide Rims; Mean Tires; Dropper Post; Wide Bars; Disk Brakes… something’s missing? Stooge Cycles designs ‘modern’ rigid bikes that can be run geared or single speed. Photo: Phil Rohrer

There are hundreds of different examples to highlight the progression but one of my favourites is Rocky Mountain’s Element lineup. You can trace its history bike by bike all the way back to 1996 right here on their website.

The Element name-plate still serves exactly the same role it had twenty years ago. Depending on the build it’s a short travel trail bike you can race or an XC race bike you can ride anywhere your skill set allows.

The point being that no one would pit a 1997 Element T.O.  against a 2017 in a single track cage match. The same applies when thinking about rigid bikes.

Rigid Fork

They were built to serve the same purpose but no one is going to pit a 1998 Element T.O. against a 2017 in a single track cage match. Rocky Mountain.

Isolation

Wait, is that a double-hardtail?” – Anonymous Rider on Mt Seymour

I’ve been accused of being a glutton for punishment, a whimsical traveler longing for a simpler time I don’t remember, and even of simply being contrary. It’s all true.

While I’ve owned and ridden a fair number of rigid bikes on the North Shore since the early two thousands, I’ve almost never ridden a rigid bike exclusively. At least not for any length of time. I’ve always owned a full suspension bike as well and generally also a suspension fork for whatever bike I run rigid.

Rigid Fork

Two of my former flames. Over time my tires have grown bigger, my stems shorter, my bars wider and higher, and I’ve moved to running dropper posts on all my bikes. I’ve also spent time on suspension forks on almost all the bikes I’ve run rigid.

My point is that I’m confident I can isolate different advances in bikes over that period of time and state unequivocally that suspension performance has progressed exponentially and so has everything else.

I can ride the Intense Primer or Santa Cruz Nomad on a technical descent one day. And have fun. And then next day I can ride a rigid bike on the same technical descent, albeit slower. And have fun. Thanks to geometry, tires, and brakes, it isn’t a matter of life-and-death but simply relative speed and comfort.

Proposition

Suspension rigs come by the dozen
That ain’t nothin’ but bike store lovin’
Rigid little thing, let me grip your handle
‘Cause mama it’s sure hard to pedal, now, hits the ground” ~Otis Redding**

Jones Plus Review. Photo: Kaz Yamamura" src="/media/original_images/JonesFullyRigidPlus_NSMB_KazYamamura-1.jpgw1600" alt="Rigid Fork" data-recalc-dims="1" />

“I was keenly aware of every deflection, every hard corner, every g-out on the trail. Yet the effect wasn’t jarring or discombobulating… the Plus was uncannily capable of being ridden hard, and inspiring confidence, in challenging terrain without the mitigating influence of suspension” – Omar Bhimji, Jones Plus Review. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Riding is believing. On my local trails saying there has been a hardtail resurgence is an understatement. On some level riding a ‘modern’ hardtail is glorious and exactly the same thing is true of a rigid fork.

It’s Simple. De-stressing. Lower maintenance. Cheaper. Direct. Skin-to-Skin.

Trade-offs? Less speed, less comfort, less saving-you-from-yourself factor.

Rigid Fork

Less-Tech not Low-Tech. Disks, Dropper, and Slack Geo as the Carver meets the trees. Yes, the Garmin is ironic***. Photo: Michael Cassibry

Curious? For anyone who has an aggressive 26″ or 27″ hardtail, a rigid fork is a relatively cheap thing to try. The ground-to-crown height of a 140mm travel fork + 27″ wheel with sag is approximately the same as a 29’er rigid fork adjusted to 100mm travel and a 29″ wheel.

Running either 27+, 29″, or 29+ is recommended when you run a rigid fork. Surly is a good place to start your fork search for a combination of moderately stiff under braking, well priced and with a relatively compliant ride.

Rigid Fork

My personal rigid-rig is a stock 27″ Kona Explosif with a 29’er Waltworks rigid fork and 29+ wheel which matches the stock geo with a 27″ wheel and a 140mm fork.

Rigid Fork; Rigid Trails

There are a lot of places in North America, and I’m sure all over the world, where rigid forks aren’t strange on mountain bikes. To generalize they are locations where riders measure rides in distance instead of time. Niner sells a ton of carbon frame and rigid fork combos and I know plenty of people with sub-20lb rigid bikes happily ripping around on XC rubber.

At the risk of being discourteous, I’m not talking to those folks. I’m talking to guy with the Honzo, Chromag, Ragley, or similar.

Volker Ti frame. 66° head tube angle. 29 x 3" rubber on custom carbon rims. Photo: Vince Delaughder" src="/media/original_images/Rigid-NSMB-AndrewM-VD-1.jpgw1600" alt="Rigid Fork" data-recalc-dims="1" />

Ride ’em anywhere rigid bikes. Volker Ti frame. 66° head tube angle. 29 x 3″ rubber on custom carbon rims. Photo: Vince Delaughder

Install a rigid fork and go ride it like you didn’t. Hell, go on a regular group ride. The group will wait. The group will laugh. The group will be surprised how much you ride. Most likely none of them will be convinced to try it.

At the end of the ride there will be unfamiliar soreness. There’ll be thoughts about tire pressure and bar stiffness. Frame material! There will be a sense of how quickly a rigid bike, even a slack one, responds to inputs.

Braking is surprisingly good even with the reduced traction from a lack of suspension.

Rigid Fork

Don’t shirk; go ride the rigid fork wherever a hardtail normally takes you.

It is generally not a question of keeping up to riders with suspension. Some days it takes everything just to hang on the back; on slower more technical trails however, I am consistently surprised.

Materials

I hear a lot about the ‘vibration damping’ characteristics of carbon fiber and it certainly isn’t a quality I’d attribute to any of the carbon rigid forks I’ve ridden. Light? Yes! Stiff? F*ck Yes! More Comfortable? Umm…

For smaller tire widths on aggressive trails I think steel is the way to go. Once a bike has larger 27+, 29+, or Fatbike rubber a carbon fork is a great call to keep weight in check.

Rigid Fork

Lyle’s sweet Suzi-Q with 29×3″ Minion DHF tires and a dropper. Long and slack  (for a rigid bike) stock geo. A carbon rigid fork is light and stiff but best used in conjunction with big rubber. Photo: Ken Perras

Within the world of rigid forks there are three considerations. Weight, fore-aft stiffness under braking loads, and ride quality. Carbon forks like Niner and ENVE easily accomplish the first two. Steel forks will never touch the weight savings but can be built for great stiffness under braking while providing more flex.

SMILE…

JonesFullyRigidPlus_NSMB_KazYamamura-16

“I… showed up for a group ride on the Shore with the Plus, feeling like I’d brought a knife to a gunfight. The pace was relentless and when it came to choosing trails, no accommodation was made for my unconventional bike. I was forced to push myself not to get dropped – and to my surprise and delight, the Plus not only allowed me to keep up, but proved to be both incredibly capable and a blast to ride on the edge.” Omar Bhimji, Jones Plus Review. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Rigid Fork

Simple fun; adaptable mindset. Photo: Phil Rohrer

Old trails are new again. Easy trails are hard again. For anyone who already owns a hardtail a rigid fork is one of the cheapest**** component experiments around. Oh, and unlike that new handlebar it’s absolutely guaranteed the difference will be immediately felt.

You have to be happy racing yourself. And getting beaten. It is absolutely necessary to laugh. At yourself. And to Smile.

*Retrobike, March 5th, 2009.
**Mondegreen?!
***“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.”  – Oscar Wilde
****Warning: ‘High-end Rigid Bike’ is not an oxymoron. If you get hooked there is nothing “cheap” about them. Welcome to mountain biking.


When was your last full-rigid ride?

Comments

devin-kyle-mattson
0
Devin Kyle Mattson  - Feb. 16, 2017, 8:18 p.m.

Just got my WaltWorks fork for my Breadwinner GoodWater. Super stoked to try it out! He was awesome to work with too.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 18, 2017, 3:03 p.m.

Walt's works are high quality utilitarian tools in a world of bespoke bicycle artistry. I love the stuff he posts on Instagram.

I also found him easy to work with and very practical.

Post some pics when your bike is built!

Reply

matt-bradshaw
0
Matt Bradshaw  - Feb. 6, 2017, 9:42 a.m.

The explosif has inspire me to do the same with my NS eccentric. I had a spare fat bike fork an extra hub, and my buddy has a 29+ rim for me. Excited to see how it goes

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 6, 2017, 2:35 p.m.

I wasn't originally a fan of Plus tires but the latest generation of more aggressive rubber with reinforced sidewalls offer great support. If you're going to ride it hard definitely think about your choice of rubber.

ENJOY!

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matt-bradshaw
0
Matt Bradshaw  - Feb. 6, 2017, 5:15 p.m.

I was originally thinking of a bontrager chupacabra, how would you compare the ride of that to something much heavier like you minion?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 6, 2017, 5:31 p.m.

I haven't ridden the 3″ Chupacabra - hope to rectify that - but it's definitely a lightweight compared to the Minion and as much as the knobs are smaller a lot of that weight is going to come from the casing.

I know of a few guys running them elsewhere on Staches who really like them as all around rubber.

Light casing Plus tires don't seem to work locally (and I think are a reason a lot of people locally view Plus negatively -- because of witnessing the experiences of early adopters). Your experience may vary.

If you're looking for something faster/quieter rolling Maxxis is doing a reinforced version of their Rekon that should be the best of both worlds.

Reply

morgan-taylor
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Morgan Taylor  - Feb. 2, 2017, 7:54 a.m.

I rode my steel rigid bike on the North Shore with the seat all the way up yesterday, and had a blast. Cleaned all the climbs, got bucked on a few descents, laughed just as much if not more than usual. It's all about the attitude!

Reply

jason-west
0
Jason West  - Feb. 1, 2017, 7:04 p.m.

I love my chinese ebay ridged carbon bike. Freakn light and pure excelleration! Its just so fast so I feel like a rocket even though I'm probably slow as hell. My 29 pound fs bike feels like a pig in comparison. I love it!

Reply

andy-eunson
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Andy Eunson  - Feb. 1, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

My fully rigid is my cross bike. Not the same but I do ride less nasty stuff in Whistler like some Zappa trails. 40 c tires are the real limiting factor. In question that suspension lets a person ride rougher stuff better but I think geometry is just as pertinent. My old norco team issue with 80 mm of fork travel and 110 mm stem and 580 bars would be awful compared to a similar bike but with modern geo. One thing I am not convinced about are these super steep seat tubes just to get short chainstays. A few years back when 29ers first starting working well, people noted how well they climbed. Long chainstays did that.

Reply

drewm
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 6:58 p.m.

In addition to tensioning the chain one of the cool things about riding a hardtail with sliding drop-outs is the chance to experiment with CS length.

On both my Honzo and my Explosif I run the CS ~ as long as possible (gearing is the limiter) and I notice an improvement to climbing traction and also prefer my position "in" the bike descending. Neither bike is as "playful" as in the full short position.

Reply

walleater
0
walleater  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:33 p.m.

Yeah, I've pulled rear wheel back and the chainstays are a conservative 17 1/4″. I've always been a short chainstay person but I couldn't make up my mind with my custom build so went to Paragon sliders. Reminds me of my early years (circa 1924….) and a really steep rooty climb that I could get up on my cheap high tensile steel Peugeot with 18+" chainstays but never manage to get up on any of my subsequent bikes. 70 degree seat angles and 19″ chainstays for 2019 😉

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 24, 2017, 8:51 a.m.

I do this a lot on my Krampus.

I've got a set of Monkey Nuts that allow you to lengthen the CS by 14mm and still use a rear mech (albeit with a slightly modified rear mech).

It climbs a lot better with longer CS and gets more weight forward which means you don't need to consciously weight the front wheel as much.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 28, 2017, 3:13 p.m.

Where does your effective rear center end up sitting at?

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 28, 2017, 11:53 p.m.

The chainstays increase to 460mm and WB to 1200mm.  Which is massive compared to the current trend of super short stays however it still feels like it corners similar to when I have it slammed at 446mm.  

It puts more weight on the front which has allowed me to lift the bars to 41" (top of bars) with 120mm fork.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 29, 2017, 6:39 p.m.

Interesting... rubs hands together

My new single speed is somewhere around a month-and-half out and (not quite as long) unfashionably long chainstays in addition to a long front center and ~66º static HTA. Can't wait get out on it.

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 30, 2017, 5:18 a.m.

Andrew - 66HA is good.  It is about where mine is at the moment.  It was down to 65 with 140mm forks.  Send us some photos once its up and running.

kiwikonadude
0
kiwikonadude  - Feb. 1, 2017, 4:02 p.m.

Why don't you just lock out the fork on your HT to try it? I did that and it wasn't for me!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 4:58 p.m.

The other fork I ride on my Explosif is a 100mm 29'er Lefty with a full lockout. It definitely is not the same thing.

Just like not shifting isn't the same as riding a single speed.

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Feb. 1, 2017, 6:31 p.m.

I just got in from a ride where I accidentally did exactly that. Really wasn't bad, but I was still using some travel… Also I like any held my stupid 2.1 asspens can possibly get in rough terrain (I was washing out all over the place at high speed).

Reply

wacek-keepshack
-2 Tremeer023 goose8
Wacek Keepshack  - Feb. 1, 2017, 1:44 p.m.

One day I swapped a 120mm suspension fork for a rigid fork on my modern aggro HT bag of self esteem boosting bollocks in order to ride trails that I will call technical in order to further boost my self esteem. Mybe the issue were the flat pedals and it felt like… it did not feel cool. Not by a tiniest bit. Lord knows I tried to enjoy these three rides with a rigid fork. Everytime a smoother bit of trail popped up I could try to enjoy it, but then I rode into a bunch of roots and all I could think was the bizarre second name of a character from South park called Ms. Chokesondick. Weeee, ouh, oh ah uuh ooh khleee… Then I even rode Fatbike with a rigid for and no, no,no, no. Please grow a beard, wear flanel shirt on top of TLD Moto shorts and sip single origin organic coffee from stainless steel bottle with ecological bamboo cover - please do. Don't tell people that they SHOULD try it though. Why don't you try butt sex then? Maybe you are missing something in your life 😉

Reply

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Feb. 1, 2017, 6:32 p.m.

Ladies and gentlemen: Waki has arrived

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 10:42 p.m.

And how!

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Feb. 2, 2017, 4:50 p.m.

While we are at it, lose the seat, just rock the post.

Reply

wacek-keepshack
0
Wacek Keepshack  - Feb. 4, 2017, 10:29 a.m.

Which chamois cream do you use then?

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 24, 2017, 8:57 a.m.

Waki, maybe it's time to try it again now winter is here.  

I think it is probably easier coming off a HT onto rigid, also I wouldn't do it on 26" as that's just gonna hurt.  29+ is worth a go though.  Maybe it's just one of those masochistic things that come with age...

Reply

TooSteep
0
Ian St.Martin  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:56 p.m.

"My personal rigid-rig is a stock 27″ Kona Explosif with a 29’er Waltworks rigid fork and 29+ wheel which matches the stock geo with a 27″ wheel and a 140mm fork."

Does that mean you are running 'skinny' 27.5×2.3 tires in the back, and 29×3.0 in the front?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 1:07 p.m.

Yes, 27×2.4 DHR2 WT 3c out back… I'm looking forward to trying some of the new 2.6 rubber. Like the new Slaughter.

Reply

ito
0
ito  - Feb. 1, 2017, 9:53 a.m.

raises hand

I've been running a rigid fork on my main ride since 2003 (Karate Monkey). Haven't ridden the Shore, but I have ridden in almost every part of the US and only on dedicated shuttle trails have I felt completely out-gunned. Over the years I have gone from clipped in with skinny bars/long stem, tires, and v-brakes to flats with 7″ discs, 2.5″ tires, short stem/wide bar. The progression of just these parts on the same frame is night and day. Lately I've been thinking about a new bike, but it would likely end up being another low-tech zombie-apocalypse ride. Can't say I have any desire for 66 HA, but I'd be happy with something a little slacker than my 71.
As much as I enjoy the fully rigid ride I think a big part of my enjoyment is passing folks on the trail and hearing the dismay as they realize what just rode past them…the notoriety is worth the forearm pump.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:24 p.m.

Don't dismiss a 66 degree (or so) head angle until you've tried it (unless you have). It may sound all aggressive and weird, but it's not. Even XC race bikes are getting way slacker up there.

Reply

morgan-heater
0
Morgan Heater  - Feb. 1, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

My hard-tail is 65 degrees, and it's awesome. But that's static, with sag it's probably 67 or so? Can't really imagine riding our trails with much less.

Reply

ito
0
ito  - Feb. 1, 2017, 2:22 p.m.

I haven't tried it yet and but I am excited by the trends you've pointed out. I'll give the more progressive geometry a chance one of these days; I keep lusting over the Chromag offerings, so there is a good chance I'll end up with a more relaxed bike, eventually.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:31 p.m.

I would be interested to see if your attitude shifts after a day on the Shore.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 1:19 p.m.

Geometry is static so at least the 71-degree HTA doesn't get steeper when dropping in.

Reply

ito
0
ito  - Feb. 1, 2017, 2:14 p.m.

I don't think my attitude would change, but I might consider a different tool for the job up there.

Reply

0
49%  - Feb. 1, 2017, 9:35 a.m.

Took my steel fully rigid out on my usual loop for the first time last week. Dear god it was incredible what a performance downgrade it was, even from hardtail. Remembering it as "fun" for some reason now, and planning when to do it again.

Reply

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Feb. 2, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

I rode my steel rigid bike on the North Shore with the seat all the way up yesterday, and had a blast. Cleaned all the climbs, got bucked on a few descents, laughed just as much if not more than usual. It's all about the attitude!

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:58 a.m.

I remember my 1990 Explosif. Fully rigid, 7 spd (?) XT, short cage derailleur (oo-o!), thumbies, double strapped toe cages, Joe Murray tires, $1500 and my dad thought I had "lost my mind to pay that much for a bike". I still have the Project 2 fork… god knows why.

Reply

sandy-james-oates
0
Sandy James Oates  - Feb. 1, 2017, noon

Great memories of the same bike and setup.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

I had a Fire Mountain that I upgraded to XT Rapidfire shifting and v-brakes. I bought it in '91. Same Project Two fork. Fond memories but when it was stolen in '98 and I replaced it with a Rocky Mountain Hammer Race, I never looked back.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Feb. 2, 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Hot bike. RM HR, red and yellow? I remember drooling over the Hammer and then the Race came out. Whoa. Bachelor's degree was sucking up all my money and didn't upgrade until 2001 to a Cove Stiffee and that's still being used as a great grocery/beer getter. No Marzo up front tho… 🙁

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Feb. 1, 2017, 1:23 p.m.

Was that the red nivachrome one with the octagonal downtube?

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Feb. 2, 2017, 9:12 a.m.

Nope… thinking about it, it might have been the 1991 model, all black,

Reply

+1 Andrew Major
uncle duke  - Feb. 1, 2017, 7:18 a.m.

some sexy sexy bikes here…you come near my pike and we have an issue… 😉

Reply

GladePlayboy
+1 Andrew Major
Rob Gretchen  - Feb. 1, 2017, 6:29 a.m.

Great article…. I am loving hardtail life…. although I am running front suspension… intriguing stuff.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:17 a.m.

Thanks Rob. It's at the least meant to be entertaining and at the most a call to arms for the esoteric amongst us…

…maybe it's the time we live in be in? But, from FaceBook I'm thinking the piece needs a disclaimer (other than the KB quote up top) that the 'Rigid Fork Lobby' did not pay me for pushing this new trend on everyone!

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

Entertaining it is…. but not for everyone it seems. I respect that, but at the same time it is pretty gratifying to clean a gnarly line on your hardtail… different strokes for different folks…

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 1, 2017, 5:48 a.m.

I tried my HT with a rigid fork and then with a suspension fork…I'm back on the rigid fork. The rigid front end is lighter and easier to loft. Ultimately it's the rigid rear that's what limits how fast I go not the front so I don't feel particularly held back with the rigid fork.

I use that bike mostly for bikepacking. Everytime I take it out on our trails I come back wishing I had taken out a FS bike.

I started riding rigid MTBs because that's all there were. I guess I got that out of my system because I am not nostalgic for those times.

Reply

skyler
+1 Andrew Major
Skyler  - Feb. 1, 2017, 10:38 p.m.

Presumably you're referring to your Krampus. I've done the same on mine, but I not for the reason you've listed. I feel that bike was designed around a rigid for with only half measures made toward suspension correction. It just climbed terribly with front suspension. The seat angle is too slack for an A-C any longer than the stock rigid fork… Love it rigid though!

Reply

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Feb. 2, 2017, 7:50 a.m.

The 483mm fork on the Krampus is a decent swap for a 100mm fork. I feel like the one you put on was longer, wasn't it a 120 or 130 from a Sherpa?

Reply

skyler
0
Skyler  - Feb. 2, 2017, 8:13 a.m.

It was a 100mm 29+ Magnum. But, since it has loads of clearance for big tires, the a-c is definitely longer than on a regular 29er fork.

Reply

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Feb. 2, 2017, 8:35 a.m.

That makes sense. Looks like that fork has a 530 AC, so yeah, I can see it. I usually can't get a seat tube slack enough on a bike that I'm going to pedal a ton, so 72.5 doesn't sound so bad!

Reply

fartymarty
+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Nov. 24, 2017, 9:02 a.m.

I put a -2 degree HS in my Krampus and it is great with 120mm up front.  I also had the rigid forks and -2 HS in and its awesome.  The seat angle is steeper than stock and HA is 67.5.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - July 17, 2018, 10:23 p.m.

I'm also on a legacy Krampus and have just dropped my Pike to 100mm (with Debonair air spring).  The geo is more like with the rigid fork (which I also like for climbing).

Reply

philip-rohrer
0
Philip Rohrer  - Feb. 1, 2017, 4:15 a.m.

Great article! I've been riding MTB for almost 30 years, and have taken advantage of most of the new tech as it comes out: front suspension, rear suspension, disk brakes, carbon. My bars have also gotten wider and taller, geo slacker, and the myriad of wheel/tire sizes. After all the advancements in frame material, suspension and drivetrains, I sometimes laugh that my newest bike is a steel rigid singlespeed. It's not my only bike, and I enjoy riding the same trails differently on different bikes. There's no question that riding a rigid singlespeed will improve fitness, line choice and speed which can transfer to your suspended bike.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 7:37 a.m.

Would love to see a complete photoset of that Stooge, Philip. That's a great looking bike.

Reply

philip-rohrer
0
Philip Rohrer  - Feb. 1, 2017, 11:21 a.m.

Here's some more. Set up 27.5×3 now, but it is designed to take a 29×2.5 out back and 29+ up front. Aventuron is the US distributor, great folks to work with. Set me up with the nice orange Hope bits and had the wheels built, I pulled everything else of my previous SS.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:31 p.m.

Nice. Very shortly, we'll have photo galleries available again. Looking forward to seeing peoples' uploaded bike shots.

Reply

zigak
0
ZigaK  - Feb. 1, 2017, 3:39 a.m.

97′ vs 07′ RM element:
self flagellating Luddite: creaking bb, backpedaling in the largest cog, top end speed, low end speed, durability of the drivetrain
sensible veteran view: the 07′ is a few % better than 97′ except when it's time to brake in the wet

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 7:38 a.m.

But the 2010 Element changed things pretty drastically…

Reply

zigak
0
ZigaK  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:01 a.m.

ups, was thinking of 17′, 07′ doesn't have any of those negatives

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 1, 2017, 12:32 p.m.

The '17 is more than just a few % better, my friend, whether you measure using outright speed alone, or include feel, comfort, durability, braking, shifting….

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zigak
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ZigaK  - Feb. 2, 2017, 12:52 a.m.

Feel is too subjective.
I agree with you on braking.
Shifting I'd say has not changed much, I was able to shift under full load on my 91 khs with 8sp xt the same way as on my current bike.
Durability, I'd say that most of the components were more durable back in the day, especially drivetrain components and bottom brackets.
Tires are much better than 20 years ago.
Speed would be an interesting comparison. Take both bikes around a xc loop, time it, take avg hr and normalize it. i'd say it's not more than a few %. As you can't do a double blind test it would be great if there would be at least 2 testers, one with your attitude and one with mine.
And if you're after comfort, well … 🙂

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drewm
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DrewM  - Feb. 2, 2017, 7:15 a.m.

"XC Trail" is subjective too… as with so many comments (distance of rides, KM per drivetrain) I can't divorce the "North Shore" from NSMB.

I think what Pete and I are both saying is around here a current Element would absolutely destroy the old bikes.

There are lots of places in the world where the performance difference would be measurably smaller.

That's great but there is no point in debating it since we're obviously looking at completely different usages.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Feb. 2, 2017, 11:08 a.m.

Very good point about trails in question. On a smoother, less technical trail I agree the difference would be a lot smaller.

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drewm
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DrewM  - Feb. 1, 2017, 8:08 a.m.

Ha. I think you need to get a few hours in on a 90's FS bike in technical trails. It's actually scary compared to current bikes.

The geometry alone is more than a few % improvement. Suspension (traction and support) brakes, tires, frame durability, weight…

… or maybe you just need to go full rigid!

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zigak
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ZigaK  - Feb. 2, 2017, 12:40 a.m.

I'm a big fan of underbiking, and regularly ride the trails such as the one in the picture captioned less tech not low tech, with my full rigid a.k.a. road bike

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drewm
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DrewM  - Feb. 2, 2017, 7:17 a.m.

Please see my comment re. Element vs. Element. We're obviously talking about very different trail networks.

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maximum-radness
+1 Andrew Major
Maximum Radness  - Dec. 1, 2017, 10:03 p.m.

I love all the comments/haters/lovers! 

I got an ice cream truck, and just couldn't seem to get over there not being a fox fork for 26x4.8 tires. sooooo i just rode the piss out of it. got divorced and had to sell all the fancy carbon wunderbikens and ended up riding the 4.8 minions rigid with a steel fork and 203 hope brakes. the fucking bike ripped. hauled freight on rocky mountain single track that sucked all around. went deep. hucked. got bucked. got a bluto eventually and while awesome and nice for tha hands: kinda missed the rigid prowess. now that she is dressed up with 50mm Rabbit holes and 29x3.00 minions, with a dremeled arch on the bluto, i think i might try the rigid fork. i think this idea is like clips vs. flats, and hardtail vs. enduro bike, and DH racing vs. trail riding..... its good to make adjustments and try new things, but more importantly its healthy for your riding habits, skills, and all the feelings. after riding this bike all summer, i got a closeout suspension bike that i previously hated and was so shocked at how good suspension felt. i was tuned into the nuance of wheel movement and could really feel what the bike was doing.... god these fucking bikes are all brilliant.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Feb. 25, 2019, 8:14 p.m.

I'm sad I missed this comment. Would love to see a picture of this bike - it sounds RAD.

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ericjayowsley
+1 Andrew Major
ericjayowsley  - March 22, 2019, 11:43 a.m.

Resurrecting this thread and thanking Andrew Major and others in advance for your thoughts. I've been working my way toward simpler bikes. With each step, I find the fun factor increases, as I enjoy the climbs more and the descents just as much, although in a different way. On my rigid 2017 Karate Monkey with Niner carbon fork, shod with chunky 29x2.6 tires, I have yet to find something I can't climb as well or better than on any other bike I've owned. Coming down, I'm slower and I have to think more, but I ultimately feel safer and more engaged in the process. For me, speed, while fun, is the thing that has led to more injuries over the years than the capability of the bike. I totally get that a capable bike can allow for more safety at higher speeds, but I've found that I will seek the edge of that comfort zone on any bike, and given a choice, I'll take slower speed crashes over more catastrophic wipeouts. All in all, riding my bike rigid gives me that connected feel nearly everyone touts as an attribute of rigid bikes.

I love my bike, but I find myself looking at more rigid-specific frames -- non-suspension-corrected geometry. What do you all think is the optimal headtube angle and fork length for a purpose-built rigid bike? My Karate Monkey came with a 483mm, 47mm offset fork and 69-degree head angle but is capable of taking a suspension fork up to 140mm. That's a huge range and makes me think the rigid spec is not optimized. With the long front center on that bike and relatively short chainstays, I think the 68.5-degree headtube angle with my slightly longer (490 A2C) carbon fork is pretty good, but a little light on both climbs and in maintaining traction in downhill corners. For my next bike, I'm considering a rigid-specific design with longer chainstays and a 71-degree head angle. Seems like the next step in the progression I've been following for the last 5 years, but I am worried this might be one step too far -- that I might hit the point at which the descents stop being as fun even accounting for their quirky challenge.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - April 12, 2019, 4:13 p.m.

It's funny. It seems everyone I know who is into rigid mountain biking has a unique experience. Look at Skyler and Vic's Krampus takes. When it comes to tires, travel, and etc I always assume a rider is going to know what works best for them on their terrain (what I have to say about a tire on the North Shore is not universally applicable to Sedona). 

I like long bikes and my rigid bike is no exception. It makes almost every other hardtail I've ridden lately seem to steep (HTA) because at <66° it has a slacker static head angle and those bikes sag steeper from there. The wheelbase is right around 1200mm where it's currently sitting on the sliders. I have no problem climbing it up steep punchy singletrack including tight switchbacks and it only occasionally requires extra English in tight switchbacks when descending. Climbing traction is excellent. 

In steep chutes and riding through rough terrain the bus is way more stable and capable than the four or five 'modern' rigid bikes I've owned which have all been much steeper and shorter (for example the Units above). I'm not much of a trials rider anyways so I'm happy to take stability over hopability. 

When folks talk about 415mm stays, 69° static HTA, and trying to keep the wheelbase short I just scratch my head - but my bike is optimized for rigid riding around here and I can't say what works places I haven't ridden.

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fartymarty
+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - April 15, 2019, 4:40 a.m.

Eric,  I'm on a first gen Krampus with rigid forks (and single speed) and installed a Works -2 headset.  It drops the HA to 67.5 and the BB to about 305mm and it rides quite nicely.  For reference the HA with 120mm Pikes is about 66.5 which is nice on the downs and manageable on the ups.  I'm in Surrey UK so the hills are not particularly big (100m climbs are about the max locally) and downhills are not overly challenging on HT or FS bike. 

If I were building a rigid specific custom I would be looking around 66 HA and a longer front end but keep the same 446mm CS which gives the bike its stability.  If I were looking to make it challenging I would reduce the tyre size from 2.6s (SE5) to say 2.3 and less agressive rather than altering the geo.  IMO geo keeps the bike "safe" on the really steeper stuff.

Andrew makes a good point about your bike being suited to your local terrain.  If for arguments sake I lived somewhere with big / fast terrain there is no way I would be riding rigid as it would beat you up too much.  Where as for techy slow single track its fine.

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