Posts Tagged ‘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)

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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 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!