Posts Tagged ‘singular swift’

I think I have put enough miles into these bikes now to be able to review them objectively.

By way of introduction then, I first dipped my toe into the 29er waters with the Singular Swift and recently moved onto the Niner Sir9. Ostensibly the same type of product – steel hardtails – they are as alike as chalk and cheese. Although by no way ‘cheap’ the Singular Swift is the budget bike of the two, costing a mere £440.00 for frame and fork delivered. The Niner was getting on for twice the price frame only and to be honest, was a bit of an indulgence.

Anyone following this blog will have read about my struggles with the Swift, how I tried time after time to make it work for me and how, time after time, I failed. On reflection, the reason for this failure was down to my trying to make a 29er work as a 26 inch bike, with riser bars, too long a stem etc etc. Despite being advised by Kurt (29ermeister) to the contrary, I persisted with my attempts to make round components fit into square holes until I gave up, took his advice on board and found the hinterland of 29er joy lying spread out before me. When I got to build up the Niner, this knowledge was already in the data banks so the same struggle was avoided. This, and only this, is the reason why the preceding pages have not been filled with lamentation about the Niner not working well!

I like both of these bikes a lot, and would be hard pressed if made to choose between one or the other. The 29er format really works well for me, all I am annoyed about is that no one made me buy one years ago!

Shared characteristics – both bikes eat rough ground, they climb well (very well) they sprint well, they are real mile munchers and make riding long distances at a decent sustained pace relatively easy. The 1×9 format is ideal for all of these disciplines but I find it really hard to get either bike up to speed quite as quickly as riders on 26 inch wheel bikes particularly in short course races. The time lag is minimal but makes the difference between hanging onto the bunch and losing them. As I do not excel at this format of race anyway, I can live with it. I am not sure whether running a 2×9 (and a pair of younger legs) would sort this deficiency out but I suspect it might.

So what are the differences between them? I will go through all the technical gubbins later but, as you will see from the build details, I have tried to keep them as similar as possible, with the exception of the forks…the Swift is rigid whereas the Niner is a hardtail.

As soon as you throw your leg over the saddle you can feel just how different these bikes are. Even on the road their basic characteristics shine through. The best way I can think of describing the ‘feel’ is to draw an analogy between the bikes and cars. The Swift immediately makes you think of a stripped down, purposeful race machine, a little like a full on rally car, short on frills but workmanlike and built with a purpose in mind….going fast. The Niner feels soft, like the top of the range road going equivalent of said rally car. It just gives you the impression that it will float over anything you put in its way whereas the Swift might ping off it. The paradox is that stiff as it may be, the Swift does not beat you up and it holds a line remarkably well and, while the Niner feels more refined, it does not really go any slower. So, what else marks them apart?

The big one for me is the way they deal with singletrack; I appreciate this may a function of the different types of fork, I have had neither the time nor the inclination to swap forks over yet but I really don’t think it is all down to the fork. Once you have got your head dialled in to the way a 29er rides, and have worked out when you need to start steering, it becomes almost as natural as with a 26 inch wheel bike. Riding one of my favourite single track circuits which combines fast, flowing sections with slow, tight, technical bends is a great test. The Swift piles in to the tight stuff and delivers you out the other side carrying most of your speed intact. To achieve this, you really need to commit to the bend, trust your tyres and stay focused but keep faith and the The Force will carry you through. On the Niner you can approach the same bend with the same amount of gusto, only to find the steering is much, much slower. To get round the tight bends early steering and heavy braking is required, throw in lots of lean and a dollop of muscle, then you will force it through the turn. Once out the other side, it is like a collie puppy, eager to get up and going so you can get back up to speed pretty fast. The trouble is, getting back up to speed requires more energy than simply carrying it through, this in turn will generate a bit more fatigue and you may end up being slower by the end of an extended session. Of the two bikes, the Swift has to win on handling.

Finish, another important factor when buying a frame you intend to keep. I am sorry to say that the paint on the Niner looks a bit thin and it is soft – witness a chunk coming off when I dropped a 4mm allen key on it (much the same as the Reba forks) and several pin hole chips where small stones have been thrown up and onto the frame. The Swift paintwork is thick and tough, I have had a few potential (heavy duty) scratching scenarios and it seems to have shrugged off the offending objects with no ill effects. A year on, and there is hardly a mark on the Swift. Another win for Singular then.

Eccentric Bottom Brackets. The Swift has a Phil Wood EBB which looks like a huge chunk of shiny steel. Secured by two allen bolts, it is easy to adjust but I have had issues with creaking. I may have cured it now but it was very annoying (EDIT: I tracked the creak down and isolated it to slightly loose pedal bearings). The Niner has a proprietary EBB which looks much more expensive, lighter and pretty much what you would expect on a frame twice the price of the Swift. No creaking thus far, so a marginal win for the Niner.

Welds…magazines sometimes go mad about welds and the finishes thereof. Now I am no engineer but I know when I see some rubbish welding, ask the guys at Massi who bodged a repair on one of my frames a few years back! Having owned a Fuquay, I know what a good weld ought to look like but whether it is good or not is still a mystery to me. Let’s just say, the welding on both frames looks tidy and neat. The only way I am going to find out if either frame is deficient is if I manage to break it.

A bug bear for me is the seat clamp. A functional but entirely necessary piece of metal. For the record, I hate seat clamps with weedy little bolts. The Niner comes without a clamp but the Swift has a nice, sturdy one with a 6mm bolt. A massive thumbs up for this, from someone who needs clamps to do up tight and has a track record of over tightening weedy little bolts.

Cable routing works well on both bikes and I really have no comments, positive or negative, about either.

The big win for the Niner is the gear hanger. A neat aluminium hanger that can be swapped over allowing you to run geared or a single speed option (just a vertical dropout sans hanger) is a fantastic touch and I love it. The Swift has a standard hanger which is fine but not quite so flashy! Purists will point out that the EBB will allow you to run single speed on the Swift just as easily as the Niner with its little gizmo. Agreed, but it is such a nice touch, I have to give this one to Niner.

On balance, I have been nit picking. Despite the Niner being new (and therefore fantastic in every regard) the Singular edges this one. It was a very close run thing, it is not deficient in any area and surpasses the Niner in one or two important aspects. Alone, they would not be sufficient to win, the other qualities of the Niner are that good but, at half the price the Swift comes out on top every time.

I will continue to ride and enjoy both bikes but I get the feeling that they will both satisfy different requirements – the Niner will be for longer, epic type rides or maybe endurance races whereas the Swift will be the tool for short blasts of up to 30 miles.

Technical Stuff:

Singular Swift
Steel Frame (trying to find out what type of tubing)
Reynolds 520 rigid fork
1 1/8th inch steerer
Phil Woods EBB
30mm seat tube (27.2 seat post)
Disc Brake only
28.6 front mech bottom pull.
Single speed or geared.
Paint – baby blue – as tough as old boots.
Frame saver included in price
Fully prepped and ready to build.
£440 delivered (including fork).

Niner Sir9
Own EBB (Niner Biocentric) weighing in at 100g
853 Front triangle
Geared or single speed – bolt on gear hanger or vertical drop out.
Paint – Kermit Green or Root Beer (poo brown!)
30mm seat tube (27.2 seat post)
Built around an 80mm or 100 mm fork
Own brand rigid fork available at about £125
No seat clamp.

Both frames are in XL flavour.

Effective Top Tube Swift 642mm Sir9 641mm
Seat Tube Swift 550mm Sir9 546mm
Chainstay Swift 450mm Sir9 439mm
Front to centre Swift 672mm Sir9 692mm (80mm fork)
Wheelbase Swift 1158mm Sir9 1124mm
Headtube Swift 140mm Sir9 130mm
Seat Tube Angle Swift 72 degrees Sir9 74 degrees (80mm fork)
Standover Swift 863mm Sir9 832mm

Build Details

Saddle and seatpost – SDG Bel Air and Thomson Elite in line post (both bikes)
Salsa Moto Pro Bars (both bikes)
Ritchey WCS 90mm stem (Swift) Salsa moto Pro 90mm Stem Sir9
Shiano LX brakes (both bikes)
LX shifter (Swift), XT shifter (Sir9)
Woodman Carbon Stubby bar ends (Swift) Tioga stuby bar ends (Sir9)
XT chainset and BB (Swift) SLX chainset and BB (Sir9)
MRP 34 tooth chainring and MRP chain device (both bikes)
SRAM chain (both bikes)
XT Rear mech – both bikes
Superleggera Hubs (Swift) DT 240 Hubs (Sir9)
Stans Crest 29er rims (both bikes)
Racing Ralph tubeless (2.25 rear and 2.4 front) both bikes
On One Carbon Rigid Fork (Swift) and Reba RLT (Sir90)


Sunday Ride

Posted: July 18, 2011 in 2011, Rides
Tags: , ,

This ride was going to be a change from usual. Miles of singletrack were on the cards as Rich and I left BCP car park and headed on out. He was riding his Anthem and I had brought along my Swift. I needed to see whether the changes that have been so effective on the mid week courses actually translated into singletrack. A gentle warmup took us down to Tightrope where it was a little bit too tight (in the early stages) for my big wheels and though I wasn’t slow, I can’t say it was fantastic. As the trail opened up in the second half the speed began to come through and I began to enjoy myself. A brief stop at the end of the trail (Rich was overheating) and we kicked off on our linking section between the red route and Santon Downham. Half was down one of our favourite bits i spotted a new (to me) spur so I took it and Rich followed. A great little roller coaster section spat us out at the bridge near the picnic area. We then headed out along the road to the start of our intended ride. Until now I had been going quite well and had discovered the two gears I was to live in for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I hit the singletrack hard and just seemed to pick up speed at will. Handling was spot on and the grip afforded by the larger contact patch was incredible. I did have a couple of front wheel washouts as I pushed too hard but stayed upright the whole time. Richard was close behind most of the time but was playing catchup most of the ride as the Swift started to display ride characteristics and speed I haven’t experienced for a long, long time. Slight pressure on the pedals was rewarded by immediate acceleration and a concentrated effort for a few seconds was enough to carry me through large ‘whoops’ with no further pedal input. Pumping these sections just resulted in more speed than I could cope with and I either had to brake or back off as the bends approached. Opting for the smoother option I backed off. Short, sharp climbs were despatched with ease and I was able to ride with ease and confidence as the bike was totally predictable allowing me to push the envelope occasionally to see what happened. Usually the result was me discovering that I had been far too conservative in the past and recalibration was required.

To cut a long story short, we finished the ride in record time averaging 12.1 mph over 8.5 miles of concentrated singletrack. Thoroughly elated, we headed over to SD and the old race courses. These were too easy as the Swift gobbled them up with ease allowing easy acceleration, the ability to carry massive amounts of speed through sections and awesome handling. I was having a blast while Rich was having trouble hanging on in some places.

all too soon this was over too and we headed back to BCP. The long road climb up to High Lodge saw my legs begin to fail and I couldn’t contest the sprint at the barriers as Rich poured on the power to cruise past me with ease. To finish off we rode past Madgett’s and followed the black route for a bit. Rich was in front and on the singletrack climb up from the orange road up to the top of the Beast I was millimetres away from his back wheel, urging him on as the Swift climbed like a demented thing. The bombhole at the top o the Beast was interesting, as climbing out proved simple with none of the effort or scrabbling for grip that I usually experience on a 26 inch wheeled bike. And so to the descent, we chose a double shocker/Lazy Boy combo and Rich just pulled away. I just did not have the same degree of control as he did (though I was riding a rigid bike….).

A quick sprint up the four bridges trail and we had finished. 28.5 miles at an average of 11.4 mph.

The difference between us was quite marked today. On the Swift I was able to get up to speed quickly and keep it over all sorts of terrain while spinning an easy gear. Rich was not far back and we were more or less well matched for speed but he was having to push a much bigger gear. At the end of the ride this left me feeling much fresher. The other advantage of the Swift was the bigger wheels…. I didn’t get my feet was wet through the puddles!

To conclude then, lowering the forks, ditching the risers for flat bars and using an in line post has put much more weight on the front end of the bike. In turn this has resulted in a total transformation as it has become a superb handling speed machine. The question Rich asked, and which hadn’t really occurred to me, is this: ‘if the bike behaves so much better with lower forks etc, why do Singular supply the bike with tall, noodly forks?’ I guess I’ll have to ask Sam that one.

There was no tune of the ride this time… my soundtrack was me, shouting to myself….go faster, faster, faster.

The official view from the Singular Team.

What they don’t tell you is that I did it on a Swift too…..some of the time. I kicked off on a Santa Cruz and quickly switched to the Swift. It coped with the mud far better and was easier to ride….when riding was possible. I had to quit after an embarrassingly short time (4 laps I think) as my lights blinked out on the Beast. There was plenty of power in the battery but the switch got waterlogged and that was it.

With D2D being even later in the year this year, the chances of precipitation have increased dramatically and this video really reminds me of all the reasons not to enter. Not only does the race destroy the trails, but it just is no fun to ride in appalling conditions.

I understand that Timber will be getting involved in trail repair this year so if there is more mega damage, at least there will be a decent and committed team to sort out the mess.

Regular readers may well have followed the highs and lows of my often tempestuous affair with the Singular Swift. I have loved and hated it in equal measure but I have kept faith. There have been many false dawns where I have been convinced that the latest upgrade has improved it so much it simply could not get any better. Well I may have finally reached the end of the road. I have lost track of which version this is but this could be it.

Since building the bike up for the first time I have constantly been cajoled into losing the riser bars and lowering the front end. Well, the over tall and somewhat noodly steel forks that came with the frame have gone, consigned to the parts bin. They were replaced by On One carbon forks which lowered the front end dramatically. Last week I made the decision to lose the risers and I fitted a pair of (flat) 660mm Salsa Moto Bars which come with a 5 degree rake.

When I set off on Saturday’s long ride the first mile or so was one of reorientation. Despite being the same width as my risers, the bars felt narrow and made me think of the current trend of proto messenger fixie style bars. After a while though it began to feel normal but I was much lower over the front end than before, startlingly so!

Bowling along the road sections I sort of got used to it and by the time we hit the first offroad trail, I was pretty much dialled in. As it was to be a long ride I refrained from any massive exertions but, low bars or not, the chalky road out of Culford was still tough. You can fly along it on a susser, put up with it on a HT but on a rigid (or worse – a CX bike) it is purgatory. The frequency and depth of the holes and undulations seem designed to make riding hard. This bit aside, when we finished this road of grief the bike came alive again.

Once we hit Thetford Forest and bimbled onto the Red Route (Duck and Cover) I had an entirely new problem with the bike. Now the weight was so far forward it had prodigious amounts of grip so I became very confident, very quickly. My new, lower, position seemed to let me put more power down but, and here is the strange thing, I was able to do so in what seemed to be the ideal gear. Big enough to get the bike up to speed and flying yet low enough to make me feel that I could do it all day. It was a very strange effect and not one I have experienced on a bike for many years. So where’s the problem? Loads of speed, a ‘sweet spot’ gear and flowing singletrack…what’s not to like? I was going too fast and found myself tempted into lines I ought not to have taken and which could only end in trouble. Result…I overcooked several corners but fortunately, missed trees, roots and trail goblins lurking in the undergrowth. I reigned back my enthusiasm and began to enjoy the almost effortless ride.

By the time we hit BCP I knew there was one more upgrade I needed, an item I once discarded as being for old skool riders or novices…bar ends. I just needed a few more hand positions, particularly on climbs out of bombholes etc. If I get to like these bars as much as I think then they may yet be upgraded to the carbon version.

The ride home was tough, I was getting battered (not like a piece of cod) and carbon forks notwithstanding, my arms and back were in trouble. Maybe 10 miles from home and I needed a rest so we coasted to a halt under the welcome shade of some scrawny bit of shrub. Rich suggested I lose some of the pressure in my tyres, something I have resisted for ages, being of the long held opinion that more pressure is a good thing, less pressure is bad. A hiss here, a hiss there and a little bit of pumping and the bike was set for the rest of the return leg. Amazing… it felt like a soft tail and the aches and pains in my upper body faded away to be replaced by tired legs. A quick burst of Torq gel and I was energised enough to get home easily enough.

So what had I learned? Flat bars on a 29er are so much better (thanks Kurt!) and running less pressure not only works (thanks Stovey) but can make your life easier (thanks Richard). My 29er now looks very much like all the others out there but at least ow I know why! It is because it works!

This really has been a labour of love. In my 25 years of cycling, this has to have been the hardest bike to set up….ever. OK, let’s qualify that, it has to be the hardest bike to set up, that I have really wanted to devote time and attention to. Other frames have come and gone, promises made and unfulfilled only to be shown the ‘exit’ way before their allotted time. So why have I spent extra time and effort on the Swift, why didn’t it go the way of the Scandal, the Soul, the Surly (hey, there’s a theme here) or any of the Massi’s that have adorned my garage/shed over the years? On the one hand, moving to another platform (29er) meant that the wheels were not transferrable to another bike but mainly it is because unlike the others, this frame was good enough to give me tantalising glimpses of its’ nature even when I had all but written it off. Those fleeting zephyrs of excitement, of promise had me pretty much hooked from the start and the rest, as they say, is history.

So what was wrong in the first place? I couldn’t get my position sorted, I couldn’t get the gearing right, it felt heavy, unwieldy and ponderous, it felt slow, it handled ‘slow’, it didn’t accelerate and finally it was uncomfortable. So what was it that made me persevere? Even when things were at their worst I had moments where the ride was sublime notwithstanding the underlying issues. I could see the promised land, I just couldn’t get there.

I tried the bike as a singlespeed but I just couldn’t find the right gear. After years of running singlespeeds on 26 inch wheeled bikes, I knew what I was looking for but it just wasn’t there; under geared or over geared – those were my options;  the magic gear, the good all round compromise,remained elusive. I decided to run gears and settled on 1×9. It made things better but still the same problem, the gearing just didn’t work to my satisfaction.

I decided to move on and look elsewhere and having found on and off road joy on a new CX bike, I decided to copy the settings down to the last millimetre – the logic being that they used the same size wheels, the frames were similar -ish and they both had to do a similar job. A lot of juggling ensued but I failed time and time again until I bit the bullet and got myself an inline post. I was moved forward over the bars a bit and power output was immediately improved but the bike still felt strangely heavy. It worked well in singletrack and was a (qualified) delight on fire roads but it was just such hard work. Some of the trails I ride are tight singletrack, you can’t carry much speed through so it is a case of sprint, brake, sprint, brake etc etc (for up to an hour with little respite) and if you are going to keep up with the others you need to work damned hard. Not natural terrain (in my opinion) for a 29er and by the time we get back to long fire road sections I am usually knackered.

It was about this time that I bought new wheels for my Superlight. Going tubeless made a massive difference even to that bike. Getting up to speed was easier, keeping speed required less effort and it had to be the answer. I ordered a pair of Crest rims and waited for them to be imported. Meanwhile, cue more frustrating fettling with tiny, incremental improvements. Protracted email correspondence with Sam at Singular must have tried his patience but he stuck with me, making suggestions here and there but ultimately, I was waiting for the new wheels.

At last the day arrived when I picked up the new hoops but I was ill and they had to stay in the shed, with the bike, a while longer. The first ride on the new setup showed promise, lots of promise and I suddenly ‘got’ what the bike was all about but it still wasn’t ‘sweet’. I was restricted to using maybe 3 gears out of the possible 9 and was still getting left behind. A small, local, race proved that I needed to think about the gearing a bit more. I wanted to have the whole block available, to have a setup which didn’t see me struggling for speed in too big a gear while equally, allowing me to ride in the easier gears without bobbing up and down like a manic ‘jack-in-the-box’. The solution was to ditch the 34 tooth chainring and move up to a 36.

A few minor adjustments to position etc and I was there, my journey was at an end and the Swift was ready to show me the full range of its talents. The killer upgrade, as Sam had suggested all along was the wheels. Light wheels are an absolute must and they were the main key to unlocking the secrets of this enigmatic bike, light wheels and a tubeless set up – that is my recommendation.

If you have read about the rolling and bump munching capabilities of 29er wheels, believe it, it is all true. Sections where 26 inch wheels struggle are eaten up for breakfast, they don’t become magically impact free zones but you just roll through them much more easily than before. While there are times when I wish I had a suspension fork, on the whole it really isn’t necessary. Rolling ‘moguls’ as found in Thetford, become easier to ride, just select your biggest gear and just flow through them without the saddle trying to become a permanent part of your rear end! Railing round the berms literally feels as though you are on rails and minimal skipping out inspires confidence like nothing else I have ridden before. Fire roads are gobbled up with ease but it does take noticeably longer to get to the top end. Once there though, engage cruise control and sit back… enjoy the ride!

There are a couple of other characteristics that warrant their own paragraph. Sand and sandy climbing: I am not a good climber and my sand riding technique is pretty dire; combine the two (you have to in Thetford during the summer months) and it is a rough approximation of my own personal hell. Sandy sections however, are despatched with aplomb; you still have to work at them but you will find more speed than on a standard mountain bike. At worst, it lets you jump on your (faster) riding mates’ wheels and sit there resting while they make all the effort or you can rub salt in the wound and ease yourself away. Climbing generally seems to be easier as well, I can ride the local climbs in a bigger gear  without expending quite as much effort as I used to…result! The frame is plenty stiff enough but it has that strange springy feeling you only really find with steel frames. In these days of uber stiff aluminium or carbon frames, steel is often unappreciated. Maybe it is an acquired taste but as someone who grew up on steel bikes, I know when it feels right and believe me, this frame feels spot on. Another characteristic – once you have got the bike set up just right is the comfort and as an addendum to that, its’ mile munching capability. If you are in pain, every yard seems to be a drag, every mile a lifetime and you just don’t enjoy yourself. Get it right and you can ride for ages; I don’t care that this bike is a rigid, it just rides through and along stuff with ease, it isn’t the armchair comfort of a well sorted full susser, but it is the next best thing. My only criticism is that after 20 miles or so the EBB starts creaking and I can’t stop it!

I don’t know enough about tube profiles, comparative designs, etc nor do I care overly about weight to spend time discussing them – I’ll leave that to ‘proper’ journos. All I can say is that you really owe it to yourself to have a ride on one of these. Ignore the Luddites who complain of ‘clown wheels’ and ‘bikes that look like gates’, they have no idea what they are talking about.

The Swift is a clean, uncluttered bike and it will charm you with its ways. Getting a bike out for a ride is not going to be easy any more…Swift, susser or CX? I tell you what, I am going to enjoy choosing.

The moral of this story has to be ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’. I suffered all the way along this build but it was worth it in the end.

The build then:

Pablo Esco Bars.

Yeti Lock On grips

Shimano LX Brakes

1 x Shimano LX 9 speed shifter

Ritchey Pro 100m Stem

Cane Creek S-3 Headset

Shimano XT HT2 chainset and bottom bracket

MRP 36 Tooth chainring

Thomson Elite in line post

SDG Bel Air Saddle

Shimano SLX 11 – 34 cassette

SRAM PC 951 chain

XT Rear Mech

Shimano M959 Pedals

KCNC Razor Rotors

Superstar Superleggera Hubs

Crest 29er rims

DT Spokes

Racing Ralph 2.4 (front) and 2.25 Rear.

EDIT: this bike now sports On One carbon forks. A much improved riding experience because I found the standard forks too tall. I understand Singular have since reduced the fork height and the net result is pretty much the same as I have achieved here.

There is more about the Swift elsewhere in this blog, specifically a comparison with a Niner Sir9 – my ‘other bike’.

The remedial work on my Swift has begun. While I can see the potential of this bike and have moments of almost sublime riding on it, it has always just failed to deliver. Talking to Sam Alison*, the man behind Singular, I have ordered new rims to lighten up the rotating mass. I’ll be running Crest rims, tubeless, when they arrive and with any luck it will help with acceleration and make the bike less ‘hard work’. Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, this weekend it occurred to me that in many ways, the Swift shared an awful lot of features commons to my crosser. Now, readers of this blog will know how much I am in love with my cross bike which is fast, comfortable and simply a joy to ride. Well, I thought it might be prudent to set the Swift up as close as possible to the Jake. Looking at the two bikes there seemed to be little difference and I was all set for incremental adjustments of maybe a couple of mil, this way or that. In the event the first measurement threw up a massive difference in reach of just shy of 4cm. I have been using a Thomson layback seatpost on the Swift and an inline FSA post on the crosser. As the latter seems like a greyhound straining at the leash when I ride it, and the Swift a little like a middle aged labrador – willing to get up to speed but just give me a little time ok? – it seems like a good idea to move the saddle forward so I can get power down quicker. To this end, a nice shiny Thomson inline seatpost has just arrived, courtesy of those nice people at Merlin Cycles who may not seem to have the most comprehensive range of stock on the planet but what they do have is well priced and it is delivered uber quickly. anyway, this is part one in the remedial project. Next on the list is a shorter stem, coming down from 100mm to… erm… something shorter than 100mm is the plan. I just don’t know how much shorter yet so watch out! If I know you, I’ll be on the scrounge to borrow maybe a 90mm, 80mm or 70mm stem any time now!

Also on the wish list is a nice new pair of Swift coloured carbon forks but I have been told to hold my breath on this one. I am therefore gently turning blue while stuff goes on behind the scenes.

*Sam Alison – all round nice guy or so it seems. He is very helpful and really cares about his product.

* Re my Swift being like a labrador – it is atypical because I know other people with Swifts who ride like ballistic missiles so it is all down to setup, not an intrinsic fault of the bike.

Thoughts on 29ers

Posted: February 14, 2011 in 2011, General
Tags: , ,

If you navigate to the beginning of this blog you will see that I have a Singular Swift 29er. It is a steel bike with rigid forks and is currently in 1 x 9 mode. For its’ size, it is comparatively light and is kitted out with decent, mid range components. A nice bike but nothing really bling, it does a job of work but has yet to really inspire me. Now this is strange as the Swift is widely regarded as an excellent machine with no obvious flaws so why is it so vanilla in my hands?

Let me explain what I mean. The bike is slow to accelerate, it does not really get on well in tight single track (see previous) and climbing is a real chore. I can be sitting on someone’s wheel approaching a climb (I’m not fit enough to be off the front at the moment!) and I can guarantee that despite my best efforts I just have to watch them ride away from me. It is highly frustrating and despite me telling myself that I am getting a really good training effect from the extra effort I have to put in, frankly I could do with a little more speed and a lot less grunt. On the good side, once up to speed, the Swift eats bumpy trail for breakfast, flowing single track is a real blast and if you can put up with the fact that it demands extra upper body effort to throw the machine around the bends, it is highly rewarding. Once it gets tight and you scrub off the speed though, you loose ground by the furlong.

Some of the issues are a function of the wheel size and the slowness to get up to speed is well documented. I thought I had sorted this out by selecting arguably the best light weight race tyre on the market (Schwalbe Racing Ralph) in 2.25 flavour. Heavy tubes may have negated any weight saving here so I have decided to make a big change to the revolving weight. I will be ditching my DT X470 rims in favour of a pair of ZTR Crest rims, saving 100g a wheel. I will also be changing to tubeless to save even more weight and hopefully fundamentally alter the acceleration characteristics of the bike. I’ll keep my Superstar Superleggera hubs which have proved durable enough.

Anyone thinking of building their first 29er needs to spend a lot of time thinking about wheels. Too heavy and you’ll suffer (though you might fly when you get back on your road bike or standard 26er). Too light… don’t be silly, there’s no such thing as too light is there? I’ll let you know how I get on with the new wheels though I’ll have to wait until April before the rims are available.

EDIT: Look elsewhere in the blog for more recent posts and after a lot of tweaking the Swift has changed significantly. It is fast, handles well and is a real joy to ride. The original problems have been sorted and now the only limiting factor is me!