Thursday, August 13, 2009

36er: Death of the 29er?

For anyone who hasn't been following this lately, there have been several frame builders around the US who have been working on an even larger wheeled bike than the 29er; the 36er or 36 inch mountain bike. As you can see in the image above, even compared to a 29 inch wheeled bike, the wheels of the 36er are just massive!

For most, these are projects which simply push the edge of design; to see how far you can push the envelope before certain limiting factors don't allow you to build any bigger. I for one, will go out and say that while I think that 29ers are amazing bikes, I still see room for a larger wheeled big brother.

Will they be for everyone? No. Just like some short people will never find a 29er to suit their form (although we are now seeing many top female riders who are short riding the 29ers). However, once you do reach a certain threshold, smaller wheels, or in the case of the 36er, larger wheels might be the best answer.

Being tall at 190cm (6'3"), I am definitely on the larger wheeled side of things. I also have a strong upper body and long legs which give me a fairly high centre of gravity. While I find that the 29er is above and beyond and 26er, I still feel that I could go bigger.

One of the things I've noticed of all the 36ers built thus far is that they have all been built for an average height rider. Thus, I think the bikes do look a bit ridiculous due to the small frame, short seat tube, negative stems and bigger than life wheels. I can't help but thinking that wheels of this size built on a frame like mine, or someone way taller, would in effect, look.... well, normal.

Black Sheep Bikes makes some absolutely beautiful custom titanium bikes. Shown above is their 36er with a custom titanium truss fork, ti seatpost and bars. If I had the cash, I would definitely get them to build me up a ride (not necessarily a 36er).

There is no denying that these bikes look like an absolute blast to throw a leg over. Anyone who is lucky enough to ride one talks on about the perma-smile they get and how they feel like a kid all over again. Having wheels of this size obviously has design limitations especially on suspension. Thus, anyone who would actually want a bike with this wheel size would do so fully rigid. That being said, you would likely need no suspension whatsoever due to the super low angle of attack of the wheels. After all the years of suspsension, people would go back to full rigids. This would be similar to the fact that many people switching to 29ers are going back to hardtails after swearing off them forever once they got their first 26 inch full suspension bike. Those wheels must weigh a ton? You could never race on that thing! The current answer is that, yes, the wheels are extremely heavy and not practical at all for racing. There is a reason for this though

The only 36er rims and tires currently made are designed for unicycle use.

Thus, one wheel is designed to support the weight of the entire rider. The lightest rim and tire currently made are the following:
Nimbus Stealth Rim: 1116g
Nimbus Nightrider Tire: 1660g

In order to really get a 36er movement rolling fast, you would need rims and tires actually designed for mountain bike use. These would shave at least a third of the weight off the above setup. I would imagine that a good all-purpose aluminum disk-only rim with eyelets would be in the 700-800g range with a WTB Nano-wrapter 36er coming in around the 800g mark. These would be respectable weights; maybe not for the smooth XC race scene but for technical all-mountain riding where you keep the wheels on the ground... this just might be the next bike if your on the tall end of the spectrum.

Will the 36er actually take off as a viable option?
I think it actually will as now that we have the 29er, I think the taller riders out there see the advantages and would want an even larger wheel size. However, maybe the 36 inch wheel size is simply too large. Maybe a 32 inch wheel size would give the best reduction in endo factor, improved traction and rolling smoothness for most tall folk. Also, I have no scientific backing for this, but it seems to me that the taller (and generally heavier) you are, the more traction you require. Thus, a larger rider needs a larger volume tire, a grippier tire, needs to use lower pressure, or larger wheels in order to get the same wheel to the ground grip as someone smaller.

If the amount of grip I have is fine, why would I want larger wheels?
Well, going to a larger wheel size would allow you to run tires with less tread, run higher pressures and give you lower rolling resistance all the while giving you the same amount of traction. In the end, this may negate the effect of the additional weight (just as many 29ers claim over 26ers).

The only reason that the 36 inch wheel size is even entering the mountain bike domain is simply this; because it was already available for another application. Thus, it seems most likely that if another large wheel size is standardized in the bike industry, it just might be the 36er. I definitely think there is a market and room for it in the industry. The main issue right now though is that no one produces a true mountain bike rim and tire for the 36er. However, I see this limitation as being less than the problem that 29ers had when they first entered the marketplace as there were no full-suspension models and limited fork options. With a 36er, no one will want front or read suspension. Thus, a basic chromoly fork (easily made by most custom shops and relatively cheap) and a carbon fork option would satisfy most riders.

So, Bontrager give me a RaceLite 36er rim and WTB, give me a nano wrapter 36 and I'll jump on the train. Till then, the guys at Black Sheep will have to wait to build up my next ride!

Think all of this is complete rubbish and that a 36 inch mountain bike is a completely ridiculous idea?
My bet is that you're shorter than me.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Death of the 26 inch Hardtail

So, maybe you've heard about these 'new' 29ers or 29 inch mountain bikes. Maybe you know some people that ride them or better yet, maybe you've even had a chance to ride one. If you meet any of the above descriptions, you've likely been introduced, possibly quite fanatically, to the 29er revolution.

You see, people who ride these 'big wheeled bikes' not only love to ride them, but they love to tell all their fellow 'small wheeled bike riders' about how much better they climb, how much better traction they have, how you hold your momentem better through the rough stuff and so on.

I for one, am one of those people.

Being a strongly built tall guy, I finally retired my 26 inch wheeled 'circus bike' in 2008 and have not looked back. My level of riding instantly rose to another level as the 'endo' factor of my previous circus bike all but disappeared and I finally had the traction I needed for those tougher than tough climbs. I had read about all the praise before the conversion but was still utterly shocked at just how much better these big-wheeled bikes were.

Well, hold it right there, most people say. If these bikes are really so good, why are most people still riding 26ers and even more so, why are all the top XC riders still not using them? These are very valid questions indeed. For some answers to these questions, Richard Cunningham of Mountain Bike Action recently put out an article in the most recent edition to help shed some light on the situation and predicts, along with Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes, that the 26 inch wheeled hardtail will be dead on the cross-country sceen and the 29er is here to stay. It is funny now watching all of the major bike companies jumping on the train before they miss out like Santa Cruz who said that they would never ever build a 29 inch bike...

I would highly recommend giving the article a read which can be accessed from the Niner website, or following the direct link here.

There was also another interesting article posted on VeloNews that I would highly recommend.

Happy Reading!


Monday, August 03, 2009

Body Odour: How to control it WITHOUT deodorants OR anti-perspirants


I used to think so.

Being an already sweaty person that usually performs at least one form of physical exercise everyday is a recipe that used to kill me in the body odour department. No matter how many showers I took or what type of deodorant I tried, nothing seemed to work.

I tried the whole spectrum of deodorant options: wet roll-on, powder white stick, spray-on, and the some of the extreme liquid gel which contain super micro body odour destroying particles. I don't like the strong scents provided in some deodorants but was willing to try everything. The verdict? The strong scents seemed to work for a few minutes, but in a short time, my the body odour would overcome any deodorant that I threw at it.

I also tried many kinds of anti-perspirants despite the fact that they contain potentially harmful compounds like aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium on top of the fact that they supposedly make you stop sweating. This protective layer just seemed to make me want to sweat more and gave me streaks of white anti-perspirant laden sweat running down my arms and body. I still perspired and body odour was still there.

It seemed like whatever I would put under my arms would actually make me sweat more and would never work. For awhile even the best method I found was not putting anything on at all and simply changing shirts frequently (yes, I would actually bring an extra shirt with me!).

This all changed when I tried out a product that has been used for centuries in different areas of the world. It is the cheapest body odour product that you can buy for the use and is very, very effective.

The solution I found is in a product made by Crystal; a simply mineral salt stick.

A salt stick to get rid of my never ending woes of body odour? Yes, I was skeptical at first but after over three years of constant use, I can tell you first hand that a salt crystal is simply the best body odour product that you can use, period.

So, how does a salt crystal do the job that no other extreme, high-tech, hyped-up product can do? It's simple; eliminate the bacteria. Make an environment in your armpit that bacteria don't like and they won't flourish.

It is simple really. Since underarm body odour is caused by the combination of both bacteria and sweat, if you eliminate one of them, then your problem is solved. We've already seen that if you try to control or eliminate sweat, it is simply a losing battle. Deodorants and anti-perspirants are like the United States War on Drugs; you can try to mask the problem or try to shut down imports but regardless of what you do, people still sweat.

While the Crystal product is actually labelled as a deodorant stick, it technically doesn't deodorize anything. From the Crystal website,

"we believe our products are actually un-odorants, preventing odor, rather than deodorants which just cover it up."

While there are other companies that produce a similar mineral salt stick, this is simply the one that has been made available to me. Crystal makes several different models such as the solid rock salt, a roll-on, and a spray on in un-scented and scented formats. All of the products simply use mineral salts as their base; either as a rock or dissolved in water. The best bang-for-the-buck is easily the solid rock salt (as shown in the photo above). I've tried the roll-on, which works well, but it only lasts for several months. Even with mulitple use everyday, I think you could easily get five years out of the rock salt which makes it the most economical body odour product out there.

This product just simply works. I put it on everytime after I have a shower or bath whether it be in the morning or evening. This keeps a constant layer of protection that is never irritating and allows me to sweat freely when doing exercise. In fact, I never really know it's even there except for the fact that even after exercise, my armpits do NOT smell! This is quite the feeling after years of having issues and embarassing moments due to body odour.

So, if you suffer from underarm body odour or simply want to get away from anti-perspirants or the masking properties of deodorant products out there, you should seriously consider going for the salt stick. In fact, don't consider it, just do it!


If anyone else out there disagrees with me or has had a similar experience, give me some feedback in the comments.