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Thoughts on my upgraded Fuel after first ride.

Friday, February 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

She ran like a dream!

She ran like a dream!

Yesterday I took my Fuel EX 8 with all the newly upgraded parts (lots of pictures and details in yesterday’s blog) out for her first real ride. Today I’m going to post some detailed thoughts about the upgrades and yesterday’s ride.

I’ll start off by saying that many of the tasks I had to perform to install these upgrades were new to me. Essentially my entire bike was stripped down and rebuilt–everything from the bottom bracket to the cockpit controls and from the entire drivetrain to the stem had be removed, re-installed and properly set up. I’m pleased, proud and relieved(!) to report that I was 100% successful with my efforts. Simply put, the bike ran beautifully in every respect.

It’s a great feeling to know I can perform practically all bike repairs, maintenance, upgrades and adjustments in my home bike shop. Not only am I saving a huge amount of time and money by doing my own work, I know the job will be done right every time.

Let’s kick things off talking about the post-upgrade weight difference.

Total weight savings of 727 grams (1.60 pounds).

Total weight savings of 727 grams (1.60 pounds).

Because I’m a nerd, I created a simple spreadsheet that allowed me to precisely track the weight differences between the old and new parts (these are actual weights of the parts, and not the weights reported by the manufactures). As you can see, the net weight savings was 727 grams (about 1.60 pounds). This is not as much weight loss as I’d hoped for. While there were small weight gains with the replacement stem, grips and bottom bracket, the elephant in the room is clearly the tires. The WTB Velociraptor tires are wonderful at getting me through the sugar sand and over wet roots, but at well over 700 grams per tire they are very, very heavy. I simply must find an alternative–preferably something under 500 grams per tire. If I can find a tire that gets me 85% of the performance of the ‘raptors I can live with that. Saving another pound (454 grams) or more of pure rotational weight would be HUGE.

The trail conditions yesterday were excellent! We had torrential rains on Wednesday, and so the sugar sand was packed down. The trails were running very fast, but there were lots of downed trees and limbs across the trail… I got a lot of bunny hop practice in. 🙂

This was my first ride running tubeless tires, and so I’d like to talk about that for a second. I can’t say I noticed much difference in how the tires rolled down the trail, however–thanks to my ability to run lower tire pressures without fear of pinch flats–I definitely noticed a huge difference in how well my bike cornered. I ran 26 PSI in the front and 31 PSI in the rear, and that felt good to me. I may try lowering the rear tire to 30 or 29 PSI next ride. Here’s the cool thing: I measured the tire pressure before and after the ride and I didn’t lose even a single pound of air pressure in either tire! I rode 20 miles over some pretty rough terrain, took a lot of fast corners and did a lot of bunny hopping, and so I’m feeling very confident in the reliability of my new tubeless system.

Moving on to the XO drivetrain. In a word: WOW!

First of all, I love the 2×10 setup. I have no idea why Trek (or anyone else) is still putting 3×10 on their mountain bikes, it’s pointless. 3×10 has way too many gear overlaps and is needlessly complicated. I’m running 26-39 gearing in the front and 11-36 in the back, and it was just perfect. I shifted all around and used every gear, and the system performed flawlessly.

I love the SRAM “chunk” at each gear change! Gear changes are smooth, but you know when you’ve switched gears. Also, there was no chain rub/cross chaining even when I was on the big ring in the front and the big ring on the back–try to get away with that with your 3×10.

I purposely shifted under heavy load several times, and gear changes were still flawless.

At one point I stopped for a break and the cassette and jockey wheel were completely wrapped up in brush and small twigs, but it was still shifting perfectly. Very nice.

Not a single missed or even lagged shift the entire ride.

My old SLX shifters were thumb shifters, and so the SRAM XO thumb shifters felt very natural to me right out of the box. One of the advantages that the XO shifters has over X9 shifters is that the paddles can be adjusted. Turns out I needed that functionality to get things dialed in to my liking, so I’m glad I went XO.

The stock stem on the Fuel EX 8 is a 90mm Bontrager, and I decided to go with a shorter (70mm) Truvativ stem for the rebuild. I didn’t like it. Unfortunately my bike is a little undersized for my liking (I have an 18.5″ frame, and I really wish I’d gone with a 19.5″), and the shorter stem just make me feel cramped and uncomfortable. I’ve decided to go the opposite direction, and I’ll be swapping the Truvativ 70mm stem out for a 110mm Thompson Elite. This should open things up a bit. I also may replace my 20mm setback seatpost with a 25mm or 30mm setback if I still find that I need a little more room.

Between the fast trails, my lighter body weight, my bike’s lighter weight and my ever-improving conditioning I broke my timed run personal record to the fishbowl by more than a full minute! This is not the original 4.5 mile timed run that I was doing, this is a new 3 mile route that avoids trails not marked for bike use. My old best was 17m18s, and yesterday I completed the run in 15m42s!

I think once I find some lighter tires I’ll be in a whole new ballpark speed-wise.

Needless to say, I’m very happy with all the upgrades. 🙂

John Stone Fitness Comments

21 Responses to “Thoughts on my upgraded Fuel after first ride.”
  1. Glad to hear that John. Just looking at the weight of your rim/tire combination I agree there is some bulk there. I weighed mine out separately before my bike build, I got 1586 grams for the front and rear American Classic AM Tubeless wheels (with rim strips and rear skewer) and 1300 grams for the Conti MK2’s (2.2 rear/2.4 front), I figure 100 grams for the 2oz of sealant per tire has me at 2986 grams for my wheels/tires. Thats 1584 grams lighter or about 3 lbs! But I’m thinking you may have weighed your wheels with the rotors still on? OEM wheels can be really heavy, I think we just found your next upgrade. You should give those Michelin tires a try.

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  2. Congrats on beating your best time. What was your fastest time on your old bike? I know nothing about mountain biking, but I was Just wondering how big the difference is between your current lighter bike with the modifications vs. your much heavier old bike.

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    • Ah, ignore me, I was mistaken about the weight of the Dusters. I think the 26″ Duster wheelset (with hubs and spokes) comes in just shy of 1100 grams per wheel. So yeah, those AC wheels (even the AM wheels) would make a huge difference!

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  3. Nice review of the SRAM XO group set, I have been thinking of upgrading my 3×9 Shimano SLX/XT group set to a 2×10 XT785 group set, but now after your review I may consider SRAM also.

    I just also got new XT780 pedals (338g) and a new XT770 cassette (260g) which will save me about 300g in total.

    Have you ever been thinking about grip shifts?

    my friend got grips shifts with SRAM X9 and that is a really smooth way to shift I think.

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    • I thought the SLX stuff shifted very well, and I have no complaints about Shimano drivetrain components. I simply prefer the more solid, chunky feel of SRAM shifts over the smoother Shimano shifts.

      Reliability remains to be seen, but many people I know who run X9/XO/XX stuff say they go ages without needing to make an adjustment. Hopefully I’ll have a similar experience.

      Grip shifts are not in my immediate future, no. But I’d love to try them!

      Good luck with your upgrades. 🙂

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    • Good catch. That weight is wrong. As I mentioned, the cassette was inadvertently left out of the main shipment, and when it arrived the next morning I was in a hurry to get it mounted so I could go ride. I forgot to weigh it in my rush. 🙁 That 180g weight was a placeholder, as I was originally going to go with the 1099 (until I saw the price… my god).

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