December 6, 2008

Saturday rant

I used to have a lot of respect for Dirt Rag. Well, a little, anyway. They used to review gear and actually mention that it sucked, or at least point out that a lot of the manufacturer’s claims were just standard industry hype, rather than just printing them verbatim like Bicycling or the always-awful Mountain Bike Action.

So I occasionally peruse their website (I get enough junk mail, and spend enough time reading about bikes, without subscribing… ok, I’m just a cheap bastard) and this morning I found their interview with the newly-resurrected Eastern Wood Research designer/owner Jay de Jesus. Jay makes some bold statements about the geometry and design of his frame:
“The 70.75 degree head angle is designed around the new fork offset of 46mm, we are able to achieve a frame that can be nimble and precise at trail-riding pace plus stable and comfortably flick-able at speed. This is a combination of head angle, seat angle, BB height, front center and cockpit height.”

Ah, stable and flickable! My favorite 2 meaningless, hackneyed adjectives. Is there a bike out there that *doesn’t* claim to be stable and flickable these days? Can’t we move on to something new? I submit: “We are able to achieve a frame that is firm, yet yielding . Slim, yet extravagantly voluptuous. It attacks the descents like a rogue wave of ritalin addled ninjas, and floats up the climbs on the wings of an angelic choir.”

Furthermore:

I designed it for balance. Our bikes wheelie, manual, climb, accelerate and descend very well—those are not traits that riders generally associate 29ers with. I firmly believe that we have the best handling frame out there, which is why we label it as the “World’s Most Versatile Hardtail.”

Wait, 29ers don’t “wheelie, manuel, climb, accelerate, and descend” well? Well, jeez! Silly me! I somehow didn’t realize all these years how absolutely crappy 29ers all are, for, say, going uphill. Or downhill. It’s a good thing EWR is here to fix all those darn problems, or we’d all be stuck riding in slow circles in parking lots, making futile attempts to manual and sobbing quietly.

Let’s see what the geometry actually is – maybe if I study this carefully, *my* 29ers won’t be so terrible anymore! (as reported in an earlier DR article):
* Head Tube Angle: 70.75°
* Seat Tube Angle: 73.5°
* Top Tube Length: 23.7″ (medium), 24.6″ (large)
* BB Height: 12.25″
* Chainstay Length: 17.43″

“Most versatile”, eh? Looks to me like it’s a pretty bone standard 29er geometry in the era of 46mm offset forks – 71ish degree HTA is pretty normal, as is 73.5 STA, and ~12″ BB, ~17.5″ CS. So unless a quarter of a degree of HTA is creating the world’s best handling frame, I think it should go something like this:

“Well, we built a durable frame with a cool look and nice standard unthreatening geometry. It’s got a lot of retro charm, but modern handling, and it’s made in the good old US of A. Well worth the price, we think.”

“We’ve also recently sworn off hyperbole, which we feel adds about $500 to the value of the bike.”

That’s honestly what this frame is. A good solid bike made by people who know what they’re doing (well, at least I hope they do, given how they’ve run their mouths about the darn things). Whether or not it’s worth $1500 for a non-custom steel frame is up to their customers to decide, obviously, but claiming that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread is just silly. Shame on Dirt Rag for printing this kind of uncritical tripe.