GIANT XTC 29er gets some weight weenie love

The Giant XTC I just picked up is a great bike. It handles the trails solid and it’s even pretty light for a completely stock mountain bike. We tipped it in at just over 26 lbs (about 11,800 g for the metric lovers) completely stock.

Handlebars: Easton EC90 Flat bars

The first step to getting the bike set up right was cutting down the boat tiller handlebars. After a particularly nasty run in with a narrow pair of trees, a quick trip to a friend’s house yielded bars that were a little more adept at passing through those tree gateways you see all too often at the last minute on the trail.

Still, these bars were quite heavy and stock, and finding a good deal via ebay on EASTON EC70 flat bars with Carbon nanotubes (and since they used a fancy word like nano it must be really high-tech and sciencey) really sealed the deal. The nanotubes thing is supposed to make you feel confident that these bars won’t snap like dried pasta when you huck and shred through some gnar descents. At the very least, they will look super cool cruising to the coffee shop where I can pretend to be a “real mountain biker” and “impress” the cute sleeve-tattooed rayban wayfarer wearing ladies?

TOTAL WEIGHT SAVINGS: 241g-131g= 111g

Stem: KCNC Bone 100mm Stem

The next thing to go was the stem. The factory stem is great, but I had two problems with it: It had the company name “GIANT” all over it (I think the name of the company appears over 20 times on the bike already) and it was big and heavy. I opted for a KCNC Bone stem (scandium with titanium bolts) in a similar size to adjust my position on the bike.


Grips: ESI Grips

The next step was the bars and grips. The GIANT grips are sweet lock on grips: They even got a great review in this month’s bicycling magazine. The problem I had was that they were made for someone whose hands must look like Chewbacca’s. I can’t hold on to the end of the handlebar and actually reach my shifters from the edges of these things. I opted for some really nice foam grips from ESLGRIPS. Minimal weight savings, but I’m a long time user of these grips and they absorb vibration and stay sticky whether wet or dry.


Shimano SLX Gear indicator removal:

This process was the easiest. Shimano’s new “SLX” group has nifty little gear indicators. This would be cool if you’ve never thrown a leg over a 2 wheeler since before you had locked lips with anyone other than your mother, however I think most people can at least make a quick glance back if they are confused provided they aren’t drunk, suffering from an ear infection, or coming down from a 3 day methamphetamine binge. Yeah. These dorky things had to go.


OVERALL WEIGHT SAVINGS: 229g or .505 lbs

That wasn’t a bad way to cut 1/2 lb off the front of the bike. More to come…

GIANT XTC 29er 1 Riding Update: The seatpost SUCKS!

Now, I have one gripe with the XTC 29’er: The seatpost sucks. It’s absolutely awful. I’m not the only one with this problem either. Giant, please take note, the seatpost has this great fancy looking mechanism by which you can angle the seat with all sorts of clever indicators, and the parts are even anodized a fancy blue.

The problem is that when you stick a post that pivots with only one bolt holding it in place, the moment you hit a nasty change in elevation (say, going down a drop and then back up again) the saddle angles straight up into taint pounding, anus puncturing attack position. I’m honestly lucky I somehow escaped this seatpost’s failure without feeling like I’d done a month in the state penitentiary. I’m still waiting to ride this thing hard until I can get either a different seatpost from GIANT, or a Thomson, which would fix the problem once and for all. GIANT: please stick to making frames. This foray into parts making almost left me with an anal prolapse.

(update: the Thomson is on and it is WONDERFUL to be able to ride this thing again. I can now remove the local colorectal surgeon from my speed dial.)

What’s next? A new set of brakes, as the juicy 3’s work fine, but they gobble like turkeys and are a bit squishy compared to my old, trusted, and solid HAYES 9 Carbon brakes on my SANTA CRUZ BLUR (which is for sale. Hey-o!)

And after that? A new set of tubeless wheels. Currently debating the benefits of Industry nine’s 3 degree engagement versus the very time entrusted and allegedly bulletproof Chris king hubs laced to some Stan’s rims, and hopefully utilizing what would be the absolute ugliest color combination I could put on my bike. Any suggestions?

Ride Crappy Roads, Keep ‘Cross Spirit

Cyclocross season is short. When the leaves start to change colors (here in Houston they go from green to insta-dead brown) many bicycle racers put on their 3/4 length knickers and race their knobby shodden road bikes through muddy, mucky slop and get insanely dirty, much to the amusement of spectators.

There’s beer too. Did I mention that?

West End Bicycle Gallery, close to the mountain biking trails at memorial park, has been taking a few of the dedicated dirt lovers on a periodic ride which embodies the spirit of cross. The “Crappy Road Ride” rolls onto some of the rockiest roads inside the city, with plenty of quick 90 degree turns and curb hopping, and even an included stair run-up. If you wanted to try your hand at cross, but aren’t quite ready to throw down and pin numbers on your jersey (or to your skin, cos ‘crossers are TOUGH. Rawr!) this ride should give you a taste of the flavor, hold the puking please (race cross just once and you’ll know what I mean. No pre-race burritos.)

If you’re going to come along, bring a mountain bike, or cyclocross bike preferably. I just finished riding the course on my GIANT XTC 29’er and had an absolute blast. I kept the FOX fork on full lock for that nice bumpy gravel massage.

Follow the ride on facebook.

-Photos by Blaine Grove

The Fred Dilemma: Cyclists love shiny things

"Fred Oswald, who commutes by bicycle...said he has no trouble sharing the road with vehicles" BECAUSE HE IS CLEARLY VISIBLE FROM OUTER SPACE (via

Companies convince us that we continually need to buy the latest product. It’s essential to them to convince  us that whatever amazing product they came out with last year is now obsolete and useless and that what you really need is their newest product.

We all know that guy. You might BE that guy for your group of friends, while simultaneously knowing a handful of those guys who are WAY MORE “that guy” than you are and thus justifying your being a total consumer whore.

In the world of cycling, there is a term, “Fred,” for “that guy” who seems to be more obsessed with bike gadgets than he is about riding his bike. I’m here with a confession: I am, kind of, totally, “that guy.” I’m obsessed with the latest gadgets. I want them, despite never being able to afford them, and am absolutely in love with them. Wikipedia has this to say about us:

“Recently, particularly in the US, a Fred is more often somebody with higher quality and more expensive gear than his or her talent would warrant. For example, a Fred could be guy with little cycling experience who watches the highlights of a few Tour de France stages, then goes to a bike store and buys a Trek carbon fiber Madone in Team Discovery colors, along with Team Discovery shorts and jersey, and then rides it on a cycling path at 15 mph (25 km/h)”

-via Wikipedia

While, a year ago, I was touting the superiority of a mechanical system such as the new Campagnolo 11-speed Super Record, I am now obsessing over electronic shifting from the new Di2 Dura-Ace. These days, I’m eagerly tracking the development of this system for those of us who crave a bit more mud in our diet: Electronic shifting XTR. It’s coming, and it’s going to be awesome. You are all going to hate it, just like you hated Di2, and then you will love it because it will win you over once it trickles down into the affordable spectrum, which for a true Fred is just below the price level of “I just won the lottery and am buying one of everything Seven makes.”

steampunk bicycle
via polyvore

It seems like an obsession with gadget over substance is truly taking over the sport. On one hand I’m glad because someone has to spend a lot of money to make cycling look “cool” and “cutting edge” when all you’re really doing is getting yourself around town on a machine that has existed since the early 1800′s and remains unchanged from the “safety bicycle” introduced in the 1900’s. All I ask is we bring back a few other cool things from the 19th century and dump a little money into making those look cutting edge: steampunk fashion, for example. (I’m eagerly awaiting my velo-mounted blunderbuss from you, Rivendell.)

Is the constant flow of new technology helping cycling reach mainstream? For me, I see a lot of guys who used to obsess over getting more HP out of their honda civic starting to get pulled into cycling. Anyone willing to dump $15k into a honda civic obviously has money to add to the growing industry, so maybe it’s good for us as a whole.

Then again, these are the same guys who made honda civics one of the top stolen cars in the US, so hopefully that new lock I just bought is good enough to stave off prying hands.

If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. I’ll be outside fiddling with my Garmin 305 GPS, wearing my Catlike Whisper and trying out that new flavor of accelerade hydro in my Rapha t-shirt. See you guys in my helmet mounted mirror!

(Feel free to use the comments to make extreme fun of me. I deserve it because I was recently crushed by a group of men in their 50’s on steel frames and one on a Cannondale Lefty MTB while I was on my full “crabon” Tarmac with Reynolds wheels. It’s not my fault, my normal wheels had a flat. I swear.)

Weekend update: GIANT XTC1 29’er is here: Murphy’s Law means rain all weekend


We did a review a few weeks back on the GIANT XTC 1 29’er. We gave it a good review. In fact, I liked it so much I decided I had to bring one home.

Some financial piddling later, I brought home my new baby, and sure enough the heavens opened up and poured down rain on all the trails in Texas.

I am NOT amused. Actually, I’m really muddy. No I didn’t rut up the trails. The streets were just covered in nasty water and puddles with pollen (tree semen) floating on the top. Joy.


CENSUS MTB Video: Why do we ride

CENSUS Mountain Biking – 7D from Trunk Films on Vimeo.

Why do we ride? For many of us, it is a double life; a secret identity and life which we have. While we sit throughout our week in our offices, workshops or retail shops we tolerate the mundane hours knowing that after we return home we are someone else. Marx’s views of capitalism included an essential representation of each individual by their mode of production, or job: You are what you do for a living. Cyclists have proven him wrong. We have transcended the boundaries to commune with nature and the path that we choose on our own.

When others return home to their television sets, passing by the restful leisure time of the weekend until they return to work, we spend each moment planning and dreaming of that end of the week ride, agonizing over clearing that root-covered section, or shaving a few tenths off your favorite climb or sprint.

We are not merely what we do for a living. Our day jobs, family life, political affiliations and personal affairs vanish once we put on our shoes, shorts, jerseys and helmets: We are cyclists, and we work to live, and live to ride.