Written by Dave Barr Friday, 17 April 2009 01:00
Tester: Dave Barr, Team Bikeman.com Rider, Certified Bikeman Product Tester
Conditions: Roots, rocks and race courses across New England.
This is a combination product review / race report. I just completed my first race on a new custom Carver Ti 96er. What an incredible bike!! So for the review…
Background… Last year I decided it was time to get off the aluminum. I wanted to (finally…at last) have the titanium hard-tail of my dreams. Aluminum frames have been beating on me for long enough now. And besides that, it always seems that the stiff, rough ride of an Alu frame throws me off my lines in technical sections and descents (especially noticeable when pushing my limits in races.) Maybe Ti could be the answer? Could this mysterious element make me a better rider?
Being a 29er convert, I wanted to test out the Carver 96er idea before actually going the extra mile to have anything custom built in Ti. 29ers are great, but I have noticed, on a lot of twisty New England singletrack terrain, I sometimes struggle with re-acceleration. This might not be a problem for others, but for my riding style (or lack thereof) it was something I did notice. Since the rear 26” wheel of a 96er is supposed to eliminate this problem, I decided it would be worthwhile to purchase the relatively low cost aluminum Carver frame first to test out this 96er concept. Then sell it on ebay if I decided to get it in Ti…or if I still wanted to go full 29er.
My first impression of the regular aluminum Carver was…WOW! This is a really fast bike. The evidence: I have a local (~35 minute) MTB time trial course that I train on weekly using a stopwatch. Last summer when I got the aluminum Carver, I had already ridden this course 15-20 times. So every turn and corner was ingrained in my mind (after a while, it’s hard to cut your time by very much). It is really more my way to get a high intensity midweek workout, while still maintaining the technical aspects of being on a mountain bike. Bottom line: the maiden voyage on the Aluminum Carver, I shaved 1 ½ minutes off my personal best time. This is significant, as my times on this course were always within 20 – 30 seconds from week to week at mid-season fitness. All-of-a-sudden 1.5 minutes?! In some cases…the right equipment really does make the difference. With this, I was convinced a Ti version of the 96er was definitely in my future.
The new rig… So, after a wintertime ebay blow-out of several “bike things” in my basement, I had Davis draw up a custom Ti version of the 96er. This bike would essentially be a size large, but with an effective top tube that measures 1” longer. I did this to fit my longer than normal reach (for my height.). I’ve always had to use big ‘ol 130 mm stems, and such, to accommodate my lanky reach. This tends to make bikes “endo prone” (as I’ve too often discovered the hard way).
I also had him make the head tube about ¾” shorter. In my opinion, having a 29” wheel up front always tends to make your hand position feel like it is too high. Notice how so many 29er people run stems upside down and use flat bars, etc. And racing single-speed you need to stand on a lot of power climbs, so having the bars feeling too high is very annoying. My idea of having a shorter head tube was to allow me more adjustability in lowering the hand position height. (you can always just use spacers to raise the hand position if needed.)
The result was amazing. The Ti 96er with these adjustments made (just for me) were cause for pure “singletrack nirvana”! The combination of the Titanium and the 29” wheel up front make the bike almost feel like it has full suspension. Yet, built as a single-speed with a fairly modest group of components it weighs-in at 23 lbs. (it is a big bike and I’m a pretty big guy…so 23 lbs is good) In fact, the Ti 96er feels so plush I don’t even have to use my Thudbuster suspension seat post anymore. I had sworn by that thing for all my previous hard-tails. It’s nice to lose that extra ½ lb of weight and the pedal-bob too.
First race… So after two rides I took the Ti 96er to enter the race at the Root66 series Bunnyhop brook dam in Middlebury, CT. As stated in previous race reports from my Bikeman.com teammates, this was a complete mud-fest of a race. It rained all throughout; and the course got slicker and slicker as the laps wore on. I can report that the Ti 96er handled the course beautifully and was (thankfully) so light when I had to run with it up the muddy hills in the latter part of the race. My race went well for the first one of the season. I ended up 2nd in the Cat1 single speed category; and managed to ride past a lot of geared Cat1 racers as well. I look forward to many more rides and races this year mounted upon this trusty new Carver Ti 96er.
|Carver Bikes Titanium 96'er Frame: Love the 96'er geometry, but looking for the compliant ride and durability of Titanium? Introducing the Ti 96'er, a 3/2.5 Seamless Aerospace Titanium frame weighing only 3.2lbs. The Carver Bikes 96'er is built around a 29 front wheel, and a 26 rear wheel. A revolutionary design that is changing the way we...|
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