Most people spend a cold snowy evening drinking hot chocolate cuddled up with a loved one next to a fireplace watching a nameless Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, and I am no exception. Unfortunately, I don’t have any hot chocolate, I have this pathetic electric fireplace that blows fake paper flames like a Gillian’s Island campfire and I won’t bore you with stories of my floundering personal life, so I spend my nights scouring the interweb for cool and interesting cycling things to covet for the next 6 months until spring. Here are a few things that I can’t wait to try out next year:
I can remember when the mere mention of a dropper seatpost at the shop would set you up for an earful of vitriolic derision like “Learn how to descend better, loser”, “Do you want training wheels with that?” or “Is your mother learning how to mountain bike?” I personally would love to see my mom on a mountain bike so I didn’t see the point of disparaging mothers along with dropper seatposts, but I digress. We didn’t understand why any self respecting mountain biker would want one as most of us local Edmonton cyclists can clean all the technical descents, and if we were doing anything else like chairlift or shuttle access downhilling, we just rode our downhill bikes with a low saddle height and 8 inches of travel. Very few people have them locally, but reading the general reviews online, it made me understand some of the inherent benefits of a dropper seatpost, especially the remote actuated ones.
The first misconception I learned is that they are not used to help clean a decent, but to help you do them faster. Sure, having a lowered saddle will position your body with a lower center of gravity to stay in more control thus helping you with completing the downhill section, but it’s really about being able to do it faster. If you come up to a steep technical section and your saddle is at the normal pedaling height, you may have to brake a bit more because if you hit something and your center of gravity is high, you have a greater chance of going over your handlebar. With a dropper seatpost, you can attack a downhill with more speed without stopping to lower it manually.
Second, a dropper seatpost is actually an advantage to the more skillful technically sound rider. For example, if you are riding a rolling section of trail with lots of obstacles, a rider who has strong technical skill can “pump” speed into and out of the corners and smoothly “bunnyhop” over obstacles instead of hitting them and lose speed. Imagine how fast Roddi Lega can ride “Golfcourse trail aka Rollercoaster trail” if he can drop his saddle 125mm and really use his bike handling skills to go faster in the corners and “pump” harder on the rolling bumps. A hack like me probably will go slightly faster with a dropper seatpost, but not as much as a skilled cyclist like Roddi, Brad, Kurt, etc.
This is how fast Roddi can rip RollerCoaster without a Dropper Post
Third, the dropper seatpost will allow you to use larger stronger muscles on long descents during mountain multi-day races. There are some races where the descents are so long, your arms actually get tired because your weight shifts to your upper body. With a dropper seatpost, you can lower your stance on your bike so you can transfer your weight to larger and stronger muscles or at least, you can shift positions on the bike to rest muscles periodically.
Lastly, with RockShox leading the industry with their well-reviewed Reverb, the dropper seatpost seemed to have left the plagues of the past in regards to their poor performance and durability behind. Specialized, KS, Thomson and others are in the market and all seem to be producing some quality product. I am personally excited about Thomson getting involved and hopefully imbuing their meticulous engineering into their dropper seatposts as they have with their other fine cycling products.
Thomson Dropper Seatpost
Ever since the beginning of my mountain biking history, which goes back to the early 90’s, I’ve always loathed the front derailleur as it seemed archaic and poorly designed for it’s purpose. I can remember countless moments when I wanted and needed to drop from the middle ring to the granny ring, but when I turned my thumbshifter (Yes, I wrote thumbshifter you young punks!!!), the front derailleur cage just rubbed sadly against the chain without action, much like a husband getting a lapdance from his wife. Once you knew the chain wouldn’t drop, you had to concede, get off your bike, lift the rear wheel, pedal with your hands until the chain dropped to the granny ring, then you can continue with your epic cycling journey. The design of the front derailleur didn’t change much over the past 20 years as it seemed the technology hit it’s zenith in the 90’s, so what did the geniuses at SRAM decide to do? They just got rid of it.
XX1 is a single ring drivetrain with a rear cassette that has 11 cogs ranging from 10 to 42 teeth effectively making the mountain bike an 11 speeder. I don’t know why they call it XX1 as it implies that it has 21 gears; I thought they would call it XI to correspond to their 20 speed 2×10 XX nomenclature. Anyways, you can change the ring up or down 2 teeth without adding or subtracting chainlinks so you can add variability to the gearing without too much effort. Sure, I may need a 30, 32 and 34 ring collection, but apparently, the switch is simple with only 4 bolts to deal with. The idea of not having a front derailleur is exciting and monumental as this could be the beginning of a mountain bike standard. The simplicity of having just a rear derailleur and shifter opens up more possibilities like a 1×12 system and clearing space on the handlebar for other remotes like lockout and dropper seatpost.
My Beargrease is coming with XX1, and it really makes sense for winter riding as the front derailleur can freeze up or get clogged with snow and ice rendering it nonfunctional. It comes with a 28 ring which seems logical as you need the lower gears to trudge through the snow, but as a race bike, I am considering a 30 ring. Overall, I am just excited to never look down with consternation at that pathetic front derailleur again.
Enve carbon Wheelset:
This was a total ego purchase as the logic of spending $3000 on a set of wheels seems to escape most people, including me. As a mid pack Expert ABA Master racer, my pedigree deserves a $3000 bike with decent reliable parts as my weakest link is probably my “muffintop” from drinking too much beer with my fellow cyclists (or anyone to be totally honest) and my penchant for 1 hour rides and 3 hours of coffee with Paavo or Shantel. I never rode or raced with carbon wheels, and with its availability, I just thought the time for self-reward was now. With it’s gossamer weight claims and purported durability, I chose Enve XC wheels because I didn’t want to second guess my decision as this may be the last chance to purchase such a decadent piece of cycling equipment. Contrary to most people’s opinion, I despise the Enve logo/font plastered on the rims as it is reminiscent of some tacky 70’s USSR propaganda design. Thankfully, the stickers peeled off easily to display the carbon rims in their beautiful naked form. Despite my hopeful intentions of buying a set of light carbon wheels, I don’t really expect to see my racing results change much, unless you think placing 15th instead of 16th is an improvement. I just really love the way it looks on my Rocky Mountain Vertex with XX1. It’s a $3000 ornamental accent so I plan on taking plenty of pictures and posting them on facebook ad nauseam.
Enve Wheels in all their glory