Written by Erik Osborn Wednesday, 19 July 2006 00:00
Thanks to Bikeman.com team manager Big Al for finding me a cure: the Carver 96’er! The demo 96’er Al lent me has a sticker on the front which says “PROTOTYPE,” which made me feel like Chuck Yeager as I climbed aboard this experimental-looking bike. The 96’er has a 29-inch front wheel for smooth rolling, with a standard 26-inch rear for, presumably, less rotational weight over a 2x29. It’s also got vertical dropouts with an eccentric/adjustable bottom bracket shell for easy single-speeding. Mine was set up single speed with a rigid fork. The minimalist setup, along with the clear-coat-over aluminum finish made this demo bike look even more like some top-secret military project.
So I’m not a single speeder, and I haven’t ridden rigid since my first mountain bike races years ago. I could have been nervous about showing up for my first race of the season on this bike. Maybe I should have been nervous given the course: Camden, ME. Last year Camden was brutal: straight up the mountain, then down steeply enough that you’re off the back of the saddle and practically sitting on your back tire. This year it was the same, except that landowner issues forced them to replace the few flat spots in favor of more climb.
The forecast was for a wicked hot scorcher of a day. Before the start, the Bikeman.com team was hunkering in the partial shade of a shed while the race director reviewed the signs of heat stroke. Duly warned, we lined up and were off and into the first climb! I stood up and cranked and stayed on the bike for longer than I had planned, the rigid fork and 29-inch wheel rolling efficiently up the single track. Then some steeper sections and biker chaos in front of me forced me off in spots, but even the geared racers were off their bikes and running. My part-time trail-running legs took over here, and I picked up a few places. The simple, light Carver was hardly a hindrance to running.
Riding again, and absolutely dripping with sweat I crested the top and grabbed a cup of water. Now it was time to steel myself for the descent, which was rumored to have even more steep sections than last year. My hands were slippery with sweat, but the bike was confident and I relaxed into the task at hand. The rigid fork forced me to slow down a bit and ride cleaner than I would have on suspension, but this may have made for a faster descent anyhow. The 29-inch wheel rolled through the dips, the Avid mechanical disc brakes had plenty of power. The brakes were a bit grabby at first but once I learned the touch the control was fine.
My second time up the hill was cleaner: more on-the-bike time since the line was all mine. A picked up a few more spots, and was having a blast. When things are go well in a race, the positives feed each other. My legs felt fresh, the bike felt solid and confident, and I was smiling. The Bikeman cheering squad was great, and my girlfriend Rachel kept me watered and juiced. The second time down the descent was more fun, though I was still dealing with slippery hands. By the last lap I knew I was racing well and holding down 5th place overall, which was all the motivation I needed to get up and down the hill one more time.
Tons of thanks to Bikeman and Carver for a chance to race on this unique bike. I thought no more innovations were possible in mountain bikes, but Carver’s 96er is a great fresh idea. The 96er is especially well suited to a rigid/single setup. The big front wheel conquers obstacles just fine without suspension, and the eccentric bottom bracket begs to be used for its single-minded purpose. As a normally geared and suspended rider, I appreciated the simplicity of this bike: no suspension to bob and dive, no clattering chain and jamming gears. Chuck Yeager said “Rules are made for people who aren't willing to make up their own.” Carver’s rule-breaking design makes for a great ride.
|Carver Bikes 96'er Frame: A new generation of mountain bikes is born. The Carver Bikes 96'er is built around a 29 front wheel, a 26 rear wheel and an eccentric bottom bracket. The first production bike of its kind to offer....|
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