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Great write-up Zaf. Very considered and honest, and also all too familiar (I'm sure for many of us) reading about the mental games a bike can play on you (or that our minds imagine anyway...).
Okay, so I've clocked a little over 1000km on the trails now with this bike. A lot less than I would have hoped to by now. 2018 proved to be an extremely tough year, come November I hit a wall with everything and other than commuting to work and back on my Kona, I didn't touch the bike until March. At which point, my newfound lack of fitness really battered my motivation around a bit.
As of this week, I've started to get back into training, and feeling the rhythm of it all again. Keeping things small and achievable so as not to burn out, and I'll taper up as my body re-adjusts and fitness returns. But might start writing little parts of the review.
So what better place to start than:
The BadI'll say it right here, this isn't the quiver killer I was expecting/hoping/wishing/forcing it to be. This really is a dream bike for me, and I'll love it forever and always, and the good parts about it are not just amazing, they've completely changed my perspective on how a bike should ride and feel. I also knew there would be inherent risks in jumping onto early versions of emerging technology, and that has been thoroughly proved with some of the drivetrain issues encountered along the way.
I also have to make mention that I knew it wouldn't be a bike that would thrive in Alice Springs before buying it. Every review of these things implies they really prefer the "winch and plummet" style of riding, and Alice Springs undulates and has smaller hills and you really find yourself on the power a good deal of the time. So it comes without surprise, a 145mm/160mm overbuilt Enduro sled was a bit of a monster. The weight is an odd point, as the bike genuinely doesn't feel super heavy to ride, however this is only properly masked with some fitness. The mental game of knowing the bike is about 18kg (with waterbottle and full spares in frame bag) realllllllly plays with you when you're suffering already.
Understandably, this bike really plays into the momentum game, so if you've got the legs to keep it rolling at a reasonable average speed, the active and supportive suspension will just eat trail and absolutely monster anything. The other side of that edge; is that when you're even slightly below that speed and momentum setting...the bike becomes a pig. You will sink into the travel, the front is in a different post code to the rear, you don't lean it in properly and you just feel like you're fighting it. It's in no way a Sunday cruiser, there's nothing casual about it; you either you ride it and ride it hard or it's going to turn around and crush your body and spirit.
It's a "meeting your hero" scenario. The bike had some really big fantasies to live up to prior to owning it, and it didn't meet all of them, which has been a bit humbling. It is still my favourite bike in the world, but this past year has been a big adjustment of the reality of the bike with the expectation of it in a lot of ways. Not always easy, but always worth it (story of 2018 in general).
The Gearbox has been faultless...the Gates Belt drive has been problematic. Obviously, I had the snapped belt early on in the bike's life, and then that entire ordeal with warranty, and contact, and lead times and getting a chain in just to get the bike running. That was a nightmare, although Gates did eventually come to the party (and even gave me a second belt as an apology for the issue) it took the bike off the trails for a good while and was chasing tails trying to get it sorted. It has since proven to be every bit as robust as I had originally been let to believe they were, but when it goes wrong there's no quick solution.
About a month ago, the bike developed a "whirring" noise in operation, even on a fairly light pedal load (you can hear the gears meshing in low gears when stomping pedals, this was different); a noise I erroneously had attributed to the gearbox and later found it to be the belt drive. With regards to the mental game, having a constant noise on pedaling absolutely ruined me, when I finally diagnosed and fixed it, the bike got about 20kg lighter in my mind.
The bike has sliding dropouts to adjust belt tension in neutral position, with the pulley then taking up the slack through the travel. What had happened on the introduction of this noise, is that the tensioning lock bolt had backed out, and then the dropout had slid forward on one side in the dropout about 2mm. This wasn't noticed in wheel alignment terms, but it did mean that the belt drive now had a slightly different attack angle between the cogs, and with the centre track was now causing the noise on pedalling. It wasn't until about a week later, having the bike upside down, and eyeballing the "slightly out" wheel alignment that I was able to properly diagnose and fix this. Only to find that if you run too much tension on the belt (rear dropouts too far back) you can get a similar noise under load.
While I was trying to diagnose the issue I did an oil change on the gearbox to find that it was quite light on oil (about 10mL drained). I've noted any leaks in the time using the bike, but it doesn't seem to be a cause of large concern. The entire process is very straightforward and about as complex as undoing four hex bolts, leaning the bike over a drip tray, and then filling and injecting a syringe.
When it works, it's silent and beautiful and properly maintenance free. There is a certain satisfaction in throwing the bike away dirty and knowing there's nothing to do to it. But it is a very sensitive setup that really has had a bit of any unexpected learning curve to it. Takes time and care with the setup, get it right and it's really lovely, get it the tiniest bit wrong and you'll be scratching your head with it. It's been a love/hate relationship with the belt drive, I now feel I have a handle on the intricacies of it and feeling more confident and happy with it, but's now almost 10 months into owning this, and I'm only just getting their now.
This should do for now. more to come though.
I've learnt in the last year that for the majority of stuff close to me, the aggressive xc style of bike works exceptionally well for both me and the trails (very undulating and not very rocky). It's only when I head up into the Vic North East (Bright, Falls Creek etc) that I look to the bigger bike due to the steepness, rocks and it's almost always a long ride up before you descend rather than undulating terrain.It's beautiful isn't it?!
I have just picked up a G13 for my "XC" duties, and in the process of building that and my girlfriend's bike up. Wheels won't be along until May, so expect a build thread closer to then. The Saturn's are gorgeous, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it replaced the G13 at this stage, it even looks to use a lot of the G13's tubes for that front triangle.
Palease, I’m 9 months out of a discectomy on my L4/S1, only managed to rebuild 3cm mass From what I lost off my left leg. Half the time I’m cooked from my rehab gym work and the other half I’m cooked from working.Haven't forgotten. I was so depressed at my physical state I didn't even bring a bike wiht me a fortnight ago when I was down there. Just hid my face and my shame.