By Stephen Haynes
Founded in 1999, Spot Brand bicycles out of Golden, Colorado, makes beautiful, no-nonsense bikes for going fast. When my bright green Rocker SS tester showed up at HQ I couldn’t wait to get it out and get it dirty.
I love singlespeeds. Easy maintenance, easy operation and you don’t need a background in engineering to wrap your head around what’s going on. The Rocker SS fits the bill here with a few exceptions. The Rock Shox Reba fork is anything but a simple mechanism. I had some trouble dialing in the right compression and rebound pressure for my weight but with a little tweaking I got it where I wanted it and now it performs beautifully.
Also, the Gates Carbon Belt Drive has been updated for 2011 and now features what they are calling Center Track technology. Essentially (and I’m way over-simplifying here) a line is cut down the middle of the belt notches and fits into a corresponding spline on the drive sprockets. This is meant to keep the belt from drifting off the sides of the sprockets, but I managed to do it nevertheless…
While competing in the 23rd annual Tour de Strongland I dropped the belt twice. Once about halfway through the race and again about two thirds of the way to the finish. To be fair, conditions were sloppy and I’m not a light dude, but it’s never a good time to drop your chain/belt, especially when racing. On a few other occasions I’ve had the belt slip on me as well. It makes a horrible “CLUNG!!!” sound and generally marks the end of forward momentum. Despite the setbacks, I finished mid-pack, which was much faster then my previous attempt at this race.
Tester’s Note: It should be noted that after speaking with Spot about the belt problems, I should have been walked through the belt drive set-up. I was told that a person my size (220+lbs) would likely need to increase tension in the belt to the higher end of the “Go Zone” before riding. This may have solved the skipping and dropped belt issues. I was also told that walking the belt back on to the sprockets (as one would do with a chain) after dropping the belt can damage the carbon strands running through the belt. In an attempt to remedy these problems, Spot is sending a new belt that I will dial in to an optimum starting point before continuing my test.
Belt drive hiccups aside, Everything else has been a dream. Out of the box the Rocker SS weighed in at a svelte 23 lbs (without pedals) and feels like a big, light, BMX bike. The WTB Prowler Race 29×2.1 tubless tires work well as an all around tire and only in deep mud or over snotty rocks have they faltered. The Avid Elixir brakes have been subtle but dependable and the TruVativ Stylo stem, bars, seatpost and crankset have vanished from thought while riding. The bike as a whole wants to go fast and asks that you lean back and hang on. Steering is done less form the handlebars and more from your body and is terribly fun once you get used to it.
It eats up rocks and is light enough to bunny hop over most small obstacles easily. I’ve enjoyed this first month immensely and look forward to riding the Spot Brand Rocker SS through the oncoming Western Pennsylvania Fall and Winter.
Look for my full review in Dirt Rag Issue #162. Order a subscription today.