Sunday, August 21, 2005

Iron Horse Hollowpoint initial impression

Warning lots of rambling below.

Initial impression are important. It's tough to throw a leg over a bike and not take that initial impression as gospel even though it really takes a few months to get a bike dialed in with stem position, handle bar height, saddle fore/aft, saddle height, shock settings, etc. and on and on.

But I must say that I am very very pleased with my initial impressions of the Hollowpoint on it's first real trail ride.

From just looking at it, the highly sloping top tube makes the top tube look shorter than it is, but it is slightly longer than my hardtail. But the slacker seat tube had me put the saddle more forward on the rails. I put the same 90mm stem that was on my hardtail just to see how it goes. The sloping top tube also seems to place the bars pretty high.

Here is the hardtail for comparison

It is heavier than the full Scandium frame I was just on. But thankfully the weight is only apparent when doing the parking lot test for weight and racking the frame. Later I'll have weights for everything from the frame, shock and lots of the components.

You can see how tight things are down by the BB

Not a whole heck of lot of room for a front derailleur. That XTR on there is going to be replaced by the stock XT cause I can't get to the cable binding bolt because of the lower linkage.

And the 100mm fork is new to me. It is a Black super so no SPV, and it is cush. Boing boing when you stand up on it. But it has a bar mounted lockout. I was riding an 80mm Black but lately for the past several weeks it has been a rigid fork/hardtail. The fork is Kona Project 2 and is suspension corrected for only 60mm. But with a rigid hardtail the BB height never changes. Regardless the new fork feels tall to me.

Not sure yet about what setting to use. The manual says that the fork lockout can also be used to set some compression damping but it sure feels just On/Off to me. The bar mounted lockout is real nice, but my grip shifters and my brake lever clamp bolt sort of get in the way a little. I can engage it pretty easily but disengaging I have to take my hand off the bar for a sec.

Discerning eyes will notice that one of the spacers is not like the others. It is from an old seat clamp, I wanted to leave a lot of steerer tube for adjustments but I didn't have any more spacers.

Went out to the pond and rode some of the Gap trails. No real long sustained climbs, but some steep stuff and some of the more technical stuff locally. It is a great place to demo a bike.

The front der. wasn't working too well so I only rode in the middle or big. Also I am feeling some real good legs so any bike was going to feel good. But this bike felt real good. Not sure if I got close to the right fit off the bat, or if it is the DW link, but this thing climbed like a rocket.

The DW Link seems like a pretty sophisticated design. I am not even going to pretend to understand how it works let alone try an explain it. It does however require some good setup to get the most from it.
DW link setup. This amount of sag I think is more than usually recommended on an XC bike.

I'm never sure how to really set sag. Sit on it, get off? Sit on it, ride on flat pavement, get off. Regardless I had more than 25% and less than 33%.

Getting the fork sag was another thing to do. The bikes seems to have a rear weight bias. So it seemed that I needed less air to get the front to sag 25%. That is 1" of sag on this fork.

The rear weight bias might because of the taller fork, but regardless, I was able to pick up the front wheel on demand. Which I LOVE. The Salsa was harder to get do that with, and I like being able to get the front to lift when I want it to.

First thing I noticed was that even though the shock does move when you look at the great thing is that it doesn't FEEL like it is moving on the flat stuff. But you can feel it soak up whatever it hits anything substantial.

Not sure how to describe the efficient feeling of it. Much better than the feeling of the Salsa I just sold. It feels like the chain is tight, and that all my energy is going from the pedals through the chain into the cogs to the wheels. Does that makes sense? It seems to just want to go forward, especially climbing.

The tall feeling of the bike is throwing off my Center of gravity feels high. I feel like I am sitting tall. I wasn't sure how much I could lean the bike into turns. So it is going to take some time to find how much lean it'll take before the tires break. Even with that tall feeling it seemed to handle great. Though I found myself steering the bars more than I would like rather than pushing/leaning. Maybe it is the cushiness of the longer travel fork. A few times I'd lean it over and it carved nice, even though initially I felt like I was going to fall over.

But even with that tall feeling I did hit the pedals on some stuff. I did that with the Salsa too but rarely with the hardtail. At first I was questioning going with the 100mm fork, but if I had gone with an 80 it would have been even lower.

I think the thing that really amazed me was what happened when I put the fork in lockout mode. I knew that for standing climbing it would be good, but I had no clue how well it would climb while seated with the lockout on. It was like this turbo kicked, and I could feel the bike just surge forward when the lockout engaged.

It surprised me because I've always felt that climbing anything but pavement and dead smooth trail that some small bump compliance was good in the fork. And that things like SPV actually messed up climbing offroad. But with the fork locked it actually climbed super on even some mildly technical stuff. I think the rearward weight bias combined with the taller fork made it super easy to pick up the fork just a hair as needed to clean roots/rocks.

The times when locking the fork out did not work were when it got too technical where hitting the rocks/roots with the fork would cause too much momentum to be lost, and when it got too steep to keep the front end down. When the fork did hit a root/rock the shock got transmitted right through the frame and into the rear shock causing it to compress and then lose all momentum. But if I cleared the root/rock, then the rear just rolled over it.

Standing up with the lockout was good too. The rear just stuck on the ground and rolled. I try to emulate the pros/experts and stand up, but it never works for me. On the hardtail the rear just spins out or bounces, making standing up a mistake. The only exceptions are for me anyway are pavement and dead smooth track. With the full suspension the rear followed the trail, did not spin out and did not bounce me around.

Of course on pavement or smooth track the rear suspension does slow you down.

The traction was just awesome. I was just waiting for the rear to break even when scooched way far forward or floating over the nose of the saddle, but it rarely did.

I did notice that the chain seemed to slap around much more than other bikes. I kept thinking that I'd forgotten to put it in the big ring on the downhills. Also sometimes there is this delayed reaction to pedaling. Where I'll be pedaling but it takes a sec for the chain to engage. Not sure how to explain it. I remember reading that this suspension is tied to the chain tension.

I'd stop often to see how much travel I was using, and I'd every time I'd only have like 25mm left of travel which is probably what the bottom out bumper is. So I was using up all the travel but it still pedaled well. I'm not sure if I have the settings too low. Some people say that you should only use full travel a few times on an entire ride. With the Salsa, I always had like 1/2" or more of travel left to use, even after some major downhills. I'd only get full travel if I'd have the shock set for downhill cushiness only, and in that setting it never pedalled well.

The trail was wet and the rocks were slippery. My tech skills and confidence were not there, and because I just wasn't sure how the bike would move under me and feel, I didn't ride some stuff I knew I could. The wish is always that the new bike is going to make you feel god like, but that will take time and is much more in my head than in the bike.

So lots still to do in terms of dialing in the shock settings, fork settings, fit, etc. And a little learning on how to move with the bike and steer/push/lean etc. But for right now I am really really stoked. On an extended downhill, I just felt like I was able to work with the bike, and compress/ uncompress and flow with it.

And considering that I sold the Salsa for more than I bought it for (even though scraped hell a paint off the chainstay with chainsuck), and that I got this used for $400 for the frame/shock I'm pretty happy. There is some real good value in this frame.

More to come as I get more time in the saddle.


At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

where did you score that frame for $400?? Nice score by the way.

What size is that frame - and yep they do have long TTs and they do ride kind of high.

Love your Brew!!! That bike looks fast!

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the write-up

One more setting to play with, IH says to run the SPV chamber in the shock at it's minimum. But try taking it up some and all bob will be gone. Of course you will sacrifice some cush.

I too have the high seat feel. I got a straight post, 90mm stem and am looking for some higher risers and I should be good.

I have an SPV fork and am envious of the lock-out. Sounds like fun.

Mr. P


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