Just what is a 29" inch mountain bike? It’s a mountain bike designed to use 700c rims. When you install WTB’s 700c Nanoraptor mountain tire, the tire’s outside diameter measures 29".
By Karl Rosengarth
There are a handful of frame builders breaking new ground, making 29" wheeled mountain bikes. Carl Schlemowitz of Vicious Cycles is one such builder, and the Motivator is his offering. Just what is a 29" inch mountain bike? It’s a mountain bike designed to use 700c rims. When you install WTB’s 700c Nanoraptor mountain tire, the tire’s outside diameter measures 29" (compared to a 26" for a "normal" mountain tire). So far, the Nanoraptor is the only 700c mountain tire in production, but any 700c cyclocross or road tire would also fit. The emergence of 29" mountain bikes is another story altogether-for that you can read the accompanying article .
"How does it ride?" Oh yeah, I’ve heard that question about 40 thousand times over the past six weeks of riding the Motivator. "It rides like a bike," has been my consistent retort. But I suppose, you don’t want my flippancy-just the facts, right? Well, if the Motivator could talk, I’d think she’d say: "You just keep on pedaling, and I’ll get us through anything. And I don’t need any stinking suspension fork, thank you very much. My big old wheels eat babyheads for breakfast and gobble up roots for lunch. Momentum is my middle name, just get me going, and I’ll keep on rolling. Don’t be afraid of my size, I’m just a big ole bike that’s looking for a little fun." I’d have to agree.
Yep, get the Motivator up to speed, and she rolls. At speed, the increased angular momentum and larger diameter of the wheels makes you feel like a juggernaut. This bike loves open trails, where brakes are an afterthought. At the end of every ride I had a smile on my face. My one-word review: fun.
I suppose your crabby physics professor would remind you that the price to pay for this tremendous rolling momentum is the extra effort required to get the larger-diameter wheels rolling in the first place. True-no free lunch, and all that jazz. Another tradeoff worth noting: the Motivator wasn’t as nimble as 26" bikes at slower speeds, through tight and twisty stuff. It turned a bit slowly, perhaps due to the gyroscopic effect of the larger wheels and the long chainstay (17.25"). And the big front wheel sometimes caused toe overlap in slow, tight turns. While this never sacrificed my control, it was slightly annoying and worth mentioning. Also worth mentioning: the Motivator was a very stable ride-zero crashes in six weeks is a perfect record.
What about obstacles and trails riding? I’d call that one a mixed bag. Rolling over big logs was pretty easy-just wheelie the front over and let the big rear wheel slam as you shift your weight forward and push forward on the bars. Piece of cake. However, I did have a bit of a problem bunny hopping and flicking the bike laterally. I can’t explain it. At 24 lb. 2oz. The Motivator is over two pounds lighter that my normal ride. The bike just felt bulky and hard to muscle into the air for this 5’9" tall, 150 pound rider. It could have been mental (who, me?). Sometimes a six week test period isn’t long enough to "become one with the bike" in all aspects of trail riding. One final nit to pick: removing either wheel meant slightly deflating the tire to get the big Nanoraptors to clear the brake pads (slightly annoying).
I’ll leave you with one final ride impression worth noting: I’ve never ridden a dual rigid bike that handled bumpy trails as well as the Motivator. The Vicious Cycles chromoly fork combined with the large-diameter, large-volume WTB Nanoraptor tires produced a true tracking front end with ample "pneumatic" suspension. And the sweet mix of chromoly tubing (see below) produced a frame that sucked up just enough shock to make riding dual rigid a pleasant experience. While I enjoy riding dual rigid, I’ll be the first to admit that dual rigid has its limitations. Fortunately, White Brothers has stepped into the 29" picture with their CX-1, a 29 inch compatible suspension fork (see accompanying article).
Vicious Cycles lists the frame geometry on my medium (nominally 18") frame as follows: 71/73 head/seat angles, 17.25" chainstay (I measured 17.4"), 22.75" effective top tube and 12" high bottom bracket. Out of curiosity, I made a few additional measurements: 41.9" wheelbase and 29.5" standover. The Motivator has the same wheelbase and head/seat angles as my 26" Chameleon, but has a longer chainstay, shorter top tube, taller standover and higher bottom bracket-to give you a quick comparison to a standard mountain bike.
Carl Schlemowitz, the framebuilder, told me that each tube in the tubeset was hand picked for the best ride characteristics: Tange Prestige triple butted top tube, Reynolds 853 double butted down tube (my prototype was actually straight gauge), Columbus bulge butted seat tube, straight gauge chromoly (aircraft tubing) seat/chain stays, externally butted and machined head tube. Carl also noted that he used Ritchey offset forged dropouts and his very own, nifty 304 stainless steel bottle opener (mounted on the underside of the left chainstay). Hey, if you think beer and bikes don’t mix, you’re jumping to conclusions-it opens soft drink bottles, too. You can score a motivator frame for $1100, a chromoly fork for $225 or both for $1300. The price includes your choice of a single paint color. The Motivator is available in M, L, XL and custom sizes. You can go nuts and get a multi-color fade job for $75 per color. Call Carl to discuss custom paint fees.
Contact: Vicious Cycles, 111 Horsenden Road, New Paltz, NY 12561; 914.255.3320; www.viciouscycles.com.