Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rockhopper Updated. Several Times.

Regular reader(s) might recall I picked up a '98 Rockhopper off CL this summer for just $50:

After fixing the various drivetrain issues, I rode it around more or less stock for a bit, but then I decided to try it as a neighborhood cruiser:

For some reason--maybe due to "comfort bike" factor of a suspension fork on a city bike, this build didn't really gel for me. That's when things got a bit more interesting. I enjoyed the way the frame rode, but wanted a bit more off road capability than the noodly Indy fork could provide. News flash: twenty year old elastomer forks don't work that well. Digging into my parts bin, I figured a non suspension corrected, high offset fork from a Singular Gryphon might make it into a workable 69er:

I had a long stem to make up for the relatively short top tube, and of course I had to keep the very 90s riser bar stiffener:

I love the concept of a 69er: take a readily available 26" frame, giving you short chainstays for maneuverability, and a big wheel up front to tackle obstacles and smooth out the ride. It's like every motocross bike out there. It looks great on paper. I've tried this before, with an old Trek 8500, with all the frame compliance of a softball bat:

Besides the rough frame, the big wheel slacked out the front end too much. The handling was too dull for me, though the kids today might like it.

Then a Voodoo Bizango:

The Voodoo worked better, since it was designed around a 100mm fork, so the big wheel changed the front end geo less. And it was orange, and steel. Kind of miss this one... but I moved onto trying a 69er on my Breezer:

and even my ERB:

None of these made me want to turn in my 29er. I must not be big on learning, because after four failed attempts, I was still willing to try out the RH as a 69er. My hope was the shorter, quicker fork would level out the handling:

Alas, it was not to be. The handling wasn't any good, and there was a distinct feeling of the front wheel gliding over a bump that the rear wheel would then slam into. Halfway through one painful lap of Alum, I stopped to swap to a shorter 100mm stem. That helped the handling some, but it didn't do anything for the disjointed ride. This miserable ride quashed my plans to make into a drop bar, mulleted, 69er, but hmmm... the drop bar got me thinking:

Despite the lack of gravel roads anywhere near me, I built up my cheapskate version of BQ's Enduro Allroad bike:

Fat 26" slicks, though they're relatively ploddy WTB tires, not wonderful Compass Rat Trap Passes:

A cheap Nashbar 'cross/touring fork was about the right length, had a lot of steerer tube, but meant I had to go disc on the front wheel. I put out a WTB ad and found a $15 wheel on my local CL, though it was bolt on:

For my initial build, I was too lazy to run new derailer cables, so I mounted the cheap thumbies as bar ends shifters:

I hoped this would be a neat hack, but it didn't prove out: the bulky clamp took up too much of the limited space at the ends of my Midge bars, and the cables interfered with my grip position. I settled on another weird hack instead:

I had to mount a stubby handle bar under my regular bar, in order to mount my basket, so I just stuck the shifters there. They work OK, but I don't think this will take over as The Best Shifter Place Ever anytime soon.

A carboard and duct tape mudflap on my plastic fenders is the crowning touch of my cheapo build:

And... it all works. It's a really fun bike to ride, even without any Cascade mountain passes to explore. I later added some interrupter brake levers to give me a nice, upright position for riding with the kids, but I can still get down low on the hooks and jam along. Relatively speaking.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with my no-longer-$50 Rockhopper, though I can't help thinking how this would ride it were based on an old Litespeed 26er frame, with those RTP tires...

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