By Maurice Tierney
Look up Joe Breeze and you’ll find one of the originators of mountain biking. The man is credited with building the first 10 purpose-built mountain bikes in the world. And while the Breezer brand has been around for 35 years, Breeze has spent the last decade or so making the transportation bikes that make the world a better place. But since Breezer’s acquisition by Advanced Sports, Inc. a couple years ago, Breeze is now free to get back into designing some sweet mountain bikes. Good for us.
Me, I was looking for a hardtail to conquer some of the extensive climbing around the West Coast office. What better choice than a bike that was born here?
Out of the box
Born here yes, but constructed in Taiwan with the latest in carbon fiber frame making technology. So much for the idea of Breeze making me a bike in his Marin County garage.
One thing I like about carbon fiber is its sculptability. You can design some real purty shapes into a bike frame. The Breezer’s shape looks like a steel or aluminum frame with the hard edges smoothed out. The tubes flow together well, and the colors and graphics are right. But there are some details that separate the Cloud 9 frame from the rest of the molds.
Most noticeable are the Breeze-in rear dropouts. Breeze did not invent these, but he has been a proponent of them. Minimal dropout material means that the seatstays can be longer, and subsequently absorb more shock for a smoother ride. This theory is also enhanced by the (Marketspeak alert) “Apex Force Transfer” caliper mounting, which puts the rear brake caliper on the chainstay instead of the seatstay. This is good because the chainstay is a more solid tube and the seatstay gets to be thinner and even more compliant.
But the heart of the frame is the bottom bracket junction. Key is the choice of the BB92 press-in bottom bracket, which allowed Breeze to draw up a design with short, 439mm chainstays and still allow room for the front derailleur and a wide knobby tire. You’ll also notice that the non-drive chainstay is a lot thicker than the drive side, or should I say the drive side is thinner to allow good chainline and fit everything together. Then there’s the direct mount front derailleur, allowing for a curved seat tube. Last but not least? A tapered head tube for front-end rigidity.
This carbon fiber frame is a really nice example of what can be done with the stuff. But further inspection reveals what it takes to keep a complete carbon bike under $3,000. Lesser parts than you’d find on say, a $3,000 steel or aluminum bike. While the drivetrain is a nice mix of Shimano XT and SLX 10-speed, the fork is a lower end Rock Shox Recon, sans thru-axle. (This rider vowed not to go back to conventional QRs after so much time riding modern thru-axled forks). The cockpit is composed of ASI’s housebranded Oval parts. Nothing wrong with the stuff, but the narrow saddle had to go for something wider, and the standard riser handlebar was swapped for something more alternative: first a Jones bar, and then a 26"-wide Groovy Luv Handles handlebar with a 21.5˚bend. Google that.
I have about 225 miles on this test sled; the last 11 of which were a techy toodle through the Tamarancho Boy Scout Camp, near Joe Breeze’s home in Fairfax, CA. The Cloud 9 has seen it all: long climbs, fast descents, tight switchbacks and rocks. I gotta say, my overall impression of this bike has been very positive. I did many thousands of feet of climbing on this bike; this hardtail put the power down.
Descending was great too, no fear of speed here as stability was good. I really felt the frame absorbed shock well, especially at 30 mph fire road speeds, and it didn’t hurt to have the big wheels helping smooth out the stutters either. The Recon fork was adequate yet noisy upon rebound. On long descents the M575 brakes reached their limits, sending my hands into a death grip and putting the fear of a higher being into my 230lbs. body. Probably fine for a lighter person.
In tight singletrack, the Cloud 9 handled as well as anything. The 71˚ head angle and fork offset of 45mm are again, pretty standard numbers for a 29er—they work well and bring no surprises. Tight switchbacks were rolled through quickly, always a good test of a bike’s turning ability, and the Breezer tackled obstacles with flying colors.
On the carvy stuff the Cloud 9 flowed like water from turn to turn. The 12” bottom bracket height put me in a nicely balanced place— carvy handling without too many pedal strikes.
But again, in gnarly slow speed rock sections the limits of the parts spec were felt, as the fork’s conventional quick release was just not up to the task in this day and age. Oh well…
I really like this bike. I feel it has lot to offer. Ride quality, good looks, and a legacy going back to the beginnings of the sport. But honestly, for my money, I’m going to look for a steel or aluminum frame with a better parts selection rather than face upgrades down the road. Breezer is promising an upgraded fork for 2012 so keep a lookout.
- Age: 53
- Height: 6’4"
- Weight: 230lbs.
- Inseam: 34"
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $2,999
- Weight: 26.7lbs.
- Sizes available: S, M, L (tested), XL
- Contact: www.breezerbikes.com